Pre-flight puppy cuddles now available at Sydney airport
TRAVELLERS will be able to experience a small dose of the life-transforming effect of Assistance Dogs twice weekly while checking in for flights at Sydney Airport.
At the American Airlines check-in, assistance dogs will be waiting for cuddles, pats and even a boop on the snoot as part of the emBark program at the international terminal.
The initiative, a partnership between American Airlines and Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA) is an Australian first.
It is hoped customer interactions with the dogs will inspire them to support the ADA's work and the services it provides to people with physical disabilities, PTSD and autism.
Russ Fortson, American's Asia Pacific managing director, said they had already seen first-hand the relief, comfort and smiles the dogs can give customers.
"Each Tuesday and Thursday that the emBark program runs, the atmosphere at check-in is noticeably lighter and more relaxed. If these inspiring dogs can accomplish this during short interactions with our customers, imagine the positive impact they can have on the daily lives of the people who need them," he said.
The initiative benefits the young assistance dogs, acting as their final test before being placed with their new owners. The airport gives them the chance to socialise, learn about lifts, escalators and other aspects of travel which they will experience in their future career.
Richard Lord, Assistance Dogs Australia CEO, said while the dogs were volunteering for the emBark program it cost around $35,000 and takes two years to train a fully qualified assistance dog.
"By collaborating with American Airlines to create emBark, we hope some travellers will be moved to support our work," Mr Lord said.
American Airlines has supported Assistance Dogs International (of which ADA is an affiliate), with its Puppies in Flight program since 1999.