This story I wrote for NBC News is getting lots of lookers; no doubt because the words “circus” and “TSA” appear close together. Staff at Denver Airport initially told me they were handing out “suckers” in addition to Peppermint Patties and Hershey’s Kisses, but clarified that “lollipops” was really what they meant. Because just imagine what the comments would look like if the terms “circus”, “TSA” and “suckers” were all in the same story….”
With mounting delays around the country being blamed on Transportation Security Administration cutbacks and increased passenger traffic, airports are turning to musical performers and free sweets to keep travelers’ tempers in check.
And some airports are getting a little more creative.
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is now inviting miniature therapy horses and their handlers from the non-profit Seven Oaks Farms Miniature Therapy Horses program in Hamilton, Ohio to visit the terminals several times a month.
“Animals help reduce stress and anxiety levels and put smiles on people’s faces,” said Mindy Kershner, a spokeswoman for the airport.
“Unlike service animals, who are working and should not be touched, therapy animals can be patted and hugged.”
And while many other airports have therapy dog programs in the terminals, “We figured this is Kentucky, after all, so we need horses,” Kershner said.
San Diego International Airport is bringing in the clowns.
As part of a performing arts residency program, Fern Street Circus will be offering performances, rehearsals and workshops in the airport over the next eight months.
“They are creating content inspired by the traveler experience, so they will constantly be visible, trying out new ideas and interacting with passengers,” said airport spokesman Jonathan Heller. “We certainly think they will be at the checkpoints often, as people waiting in line are a great audience for them!”
Sea-Tac Airport is expanding its popular post-security music program to the pre-security areas, and dipping into its coffers to hire extra staff workers to help TSA with some checkpoint duties, such as bin loading and unloading.
The airport in Atlanta is adding extra music performers in the areas before security, and bringing on more staff members to answers travelers’ questions.
During very busy checkpoint wait times, the team will also be handing out snacks and beverages to passengers in line.
“Passengers in the world’s most traveled airport should not be surprised if they find themselves welcomed, offered a bottled water and provided information by ATL’s general manager,” said airport spokesman Andy Gobeil.
At Denver International Airport, the customer service team now occasionally hands out water, Hershey’s Kisses, Peppermint Patties and lollipops to passengers waiting on long lines.
“We can’t participate in security-related procedures,” said DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery, “but we are talking with the TSA about how we can creatively use airport staff for things like bin management and other non-security tasks.”
(Read the full story here.)