Assistance Dogs To Help Anxious Flyers At Sydney Airport

Let's face it, flying can be a bit ruff.

In an Australian first, airport assistance dogs will be available to help ease the stress of travelling from Sydney International Airport.

Launched by American Airlines, the emBark program is being run in collaboration with Assistance Dogs Australia to give airline passengers an opportunity to have a quick cuddle and pat with a furry friend before checking in for their flight.

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Image: provided

The Labradors and Golden Retrievers are trained to help people with disabilities, post-traumatic stress and autism, however their ability to lower tension and anxiety in everyday travelers will be tested over the two-month pilot program.

After detecting a passenger's anxiety, the dogs will move in for a cuddle or a pat.

The pups are in position at the American Airlines check-in desk on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and organisers hope the initiative will raise awareness of the work of assistance dogs.

“American’s team at SYD has seen firsthand the smiles, relief and confidence emBark can give our customers while they check in for their flights,” said Russ Fortson, American’s Managing Director for Asia Pacific.

"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.”

Image: provided

Assistance Dogs Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that trains Labradors and Golden Retrievers to assist people with disabilities.

While dogs are placed with clients free of charge, it costs in excess of $35,000 to train and place each dog, CEO of Assistance Dogs Australia Richard Lord said.

“Our remarkable Assistance Dogs provide improved health, confidence and independence to individuals who need them,” he said.

"By collaborating with American Airlines to create emBark, we hope some travellers will be moved to support our work.”

Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert welcomed the program, saying it will make a "positive difference" for many of the passengers who pass through the terminal doors.

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