Animals

Stress-busting pups at Vancouver Int’l Airport

There’s been a blossoming of programs that bring dogs (and, in some cases pigs and miniature horses) into airport terminals to interact with passengers as an antidote to the the stress of travel.

The animals are cute, passengers’ reactions are heartwarming and even some of the program names – such as Denver International Airports’ CATS program (Canine Airport Therapy Program) are adorable.

Now comes LASI (an homage to the TV dog Lassie) – which in this case stand stands for Less Airport Stress Initiative – at Vancouver International Airport.

The program will brings Ambassador Dogs from the city’s St. John Ambulance’s Therapy Dog Program into the terminal to help passengers manage the anxiety associated with traveling, work and general stress.

Seven dogs are part of the LASI team (Molly, Bailey, Mira, Norman, Grover, Kermode and Soda) and they will be onsite Mondays through Fridays, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m, wearing branded bandanas and accompanied by a dog handler and a YVR Green Coat Volunteer.

 

The buzz about Victoria Harbour Airport

You can take a ferry between Seattle, Washington and Victoria, British Columbia, but it’s much faster – and far more thrilling  –  to take a seaplane and land at Victoria Harbour Airport (YWH), a floating seaplane airport that is home to Harbour Air and Kenmore Air.

To mark the first anniversary of the floating terminal, Harbour Air, which serves 9 destinations in British Columbia, put a colony of honey bees (four beehives containing about 10,00 bees) and 50 solar panels on the airport’s one-acre green roof.

A screen inside the terminal will let passengers see how much electricity the solar panels are generating and a ‘bee cam’ offers a live feed of what the bees are doing.

The airport beehives – which airline officials think may be the world’s first floating hives – are already generating honey and by fall Harbour Honey should be available for purchase in the terminal’s coffee area. Sweet!

 

Animals at the airport – why so many?

Airports are going to the dogs – and to the pigs.

More than 30 airports around the country now have regular programs that bring certified pet therapy dogs and their handlers into the terminals to mingle with passengers and help ease the stress of traveling.

And during 2016, some airport pet therapy teams broadened their membership beyond dogs.

Last summer, when passengers were encountering excessively long lines at security checkpoints at many airports around the country, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport began welcoming miniature therapy horses and their handlers to visit several times a month.

And as the winter holiday travel season went into high gear, two airports announced that pigs were joining their pet therapy teams.

LiLou, a Juliana-breed pig, joined San Francisco International Airport’s Wag Brigade.

And a pot-bellied pig named Bacon Bits is now part of Albany International Airport’s Canine Ambassador program.

More animals in the air

Of course, not all the animals you see in airport terminals these days are just there to be petted.

According to the American Pet Products Association, there are around 77 million pet dogs and 85 million pet cats in the United States — and a growing number of their owners take them along when they travel by air.

And when they fly as carry-on passengers in the cabin, those pets need to have tickets.

On Alaska Airlines and JetBlue, the domestic fee for a pet in the cabin is $100 each way. On American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, its $125 each way. Frontier Airlines charges $75 each way, and on Southwest the fee is $95 each way.

In some cases, more than one small pet can travel in a pet carrier (and avoid an extra fee), but some airlines will tack on an extra fee if there’s a stopover of more than four hours.

Emotional support animals

The costs to take a pet on a plane can add up, which may be part of the reason an increasing number of passengers are claiming that their animals aren’t just pets but official service or “emotional support” animals which, by law, get to fly for free.

Like Frontier Airlines, which had an issue earlier this year with a passenger’s emotional support marmoset, each airline website lists very specific conditions under which they will accept service animals or therapeutic/emotional support animals on their plane.

An official identification card and/or a written statement from a mental health professional is usually required, but many websites make it easy for pet owners to acquire ‘fake’ documentation — for a fee.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a duck or a mini horse, as long as a passenger has the correct paperwork, they’re allowed to fly with an emotional support animal and nobody can say anything about it,” said veteran flight attendant Heather Poole, author of Cruising Attitude.

Poole says it’s not a flight attendant’s job to determine which passengers are flying with true support animals or which ones have simply secured paperwork to avoid paying a fee for their pet to fly, but “I can spot a fake emotional support animal a mile away,” said Poole. “It’s usually growling or barking at other support animals. That, or it’s dressed nicer than its owner.”

2017 may bring changes — or at least some clarification — in how airlines and passengers define service or emotional support animals.

While noting that its ACCESS Advisory Committee was unable to reach agreement on updated rules regarding service animals, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently said it intends to draft its own rules.

“The guide dog and animal training groups all agree this is a problem, so does the community,” said Eric Lipp of the Open Doors Organization. “One solution floated is to have a national registry and certification for service animals so they are given ID. The DOT could also fine a passenger and make big news. That would help, but who wants to do that?”

(A slightly different version of my story about animals in airports and on airplanes first appeared on NBC News Travel.)

Best new airport amenities from 2016

People love to complain about all the time they must spend in airports on their way to someplace else.

But, more and more, many airports have turned into darn fine places to hang out in thanks to the addition of art and history exhibits, appealing restaurants and shops and a wide array of welcome amenities.

During 2015, for example, many airports worked out their differences with ride-hailing services such as Lyft, Uber and Wingz and added lactation stations for nursing mothers.

This week and next, StuckatTheAirport.com will run down some of the best new amenities airports added during 2016.

Today: animals at the airport

During 2016, indoor pet potties popped up at hundreds of airports thanks to a Department of Transportation ruling that requires airports to create at least one relief area on the sterile side of each terminal to accommodate service animals.  Traveling pets and the many working dogs at airports get to use the pet lavs without going back out through security as well.

And while it’s no longer rare to have teams of certified pet-therapy dogs and their handlers roaming terminals to engage with passengers and ease the stress of travel, this year several airports welcomed their first non-canine team members.

Miniature therapy horses from Seven Oaks Farm now visit Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport two or three times a month and both San Francisco International Airport and New York’s Albany International Airport have certified therapy pigs on their teams.

 

 

 

Snake on a plane; moose in a rental car lot

venomous-snake-stows-away-in-passenger-cabin-of-aeromexico-flight

I can barely stand to look at this photo or the video in the Tweet below, let alone imagine being on a plane where a giant snake – possibly a venomous green viper 5 feet long – drops down from the overhead bins into the seats below, but this actually happened on an Aeromexico flight from Torreon to Mexico City on Sunday.

According to UPI, the plane was given priority landing clearance in Mexico City and animal control officers came on board to remove the serpent.

In other news… the Connecticut State Police reported that on Monday they were called in to help redirect a moose that somehow got stuck in the Enterprise Rent-A-Car parking lot at Bradley International Airport.

moose-at-bradley-airport

“File this under ‘things they don’t tell you about in the academy'” says the Connecticut State Police Facebook post about the incident.