Travelling with man’s best friend at BNA
When planning a trip, a packing list will likely include clothes, toiletries, electronics and more. But for many, including those who plan to board a commercial aircraft, that list also has items necessary for travelling with a pet or service animal. Kym Gerlock, former Director, Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility at Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority (BNA), tells International Airport Review how the airport’s recent expansion project of the terminal and campus was designed for the benefit of not only passengers, but in-flight dogs, and travelling animals too.
According to Condor Ferries travel company, it’s estimated that more than two million domestic animals board commercial aircraft each year. And according to the same research, 78 per cent of owners and their four-legged friends are travelling together. Clearly, air travel with animals – primarily dogs – is a priority for many passengers and a must for those with service animals. To ensure a positive experience for these passengers, it’s vital for airports to focus on their special needs and provide amenities to enhance their trip.
At Nashville International Airport (BNA) we’re doing just that. Like many airports, BNA has long been home to outdoor ‘service animal relief areas’ (SARAs). Two such areas, designed to provide relief and water, are located curbside on the departures level of the airport. For more than 10 years, these areas have allowed travellers to give their dog a chance for a bathroom break and a sip before boarding.
To ensure a positive experience for these passengers, it’s vital for airports to focus on their special needs and provide amenities to enhance their trip. At Nashville International Airport we’re doing just that”
Opportunities for growth
Passenger volume at BNA has continued to increase during the past several years and set records for eight consecutive years until the pandemic. As such, in 2017 BNA broke ground on a massive expansion and renovation project for the terminal and campus to address this growing trend. In addition to meeting passengers’ needs, a component of the $1.4 billion project, known as BNA Vision, was designed with in-flight dogs in mind.
BNA Vision provided an excellent opportunity to reinforce the airport’s commitment to a welcoming customer experience. This meant a variety of new amenities for travellers and their pets and has resulted in the following:
- A dedicated outdoor dog park, located in a pedestrian plaza on the top floor of a new terminal parking garage. This oasis provides green space to travelling pets and pet parents complete with a seesaw, hydration station, and waste stations
- An indoor SARA located in the new Concourse D post-security. This attractive area is equipped with a faux fire hydrant, hydration, and waste stations. Not only does this area assist animals before they board, but it also helps decrease the need for animal-related maintenance in the concourse
- Two renovated curbside relief areas, each equipped with a decorative fire hydrant, hydration, and waste station
- Enhanced visual wayfinding signage throughout the airport to make locating pet-friendly amenities easier for travellers
- Whimsical custom pet-themed murals or ‘Pet Selfie Spots’ where passengers can stop and snap a photo with their pet to document their trip to, and from, Music City USA.
With these spaces installed, pet parents will have options before and after the security checkpoint, ensuring a more comfortable airport experience for travellers and their pets and service animals.
Gaining recognition as a pet-friendly designation
This commitment to providing a pet-friendly airport hasn’t gone unnoticed. Mars Petcare, a Tennessee-based manufacturer of confectionery, pet food and other food products and a provider of animal care services, partnered with BNA to assess several features and assist with enhancing the programme. The company recently began an Airport Certification through its BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™ programme and named Nashville International Airport as the first to attain the new pet-friendly designation.
“As travellers seek pet-friendly travel experiences, BNA is proud to partner with Mars Petcare to further enhance our offerings,” says Doug Kreulen, Airport President and CEO.
“We’re proud to earn the distinction of the first airport to be certified through their BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™ programme and hope to pave the way for other airports to join in this effort.”
The goal of Nashville International Airport is to accommodate passengers in a welcoming environment that is inclusive to individuals’ travel needs and expectations”
To celebrate the certification and officially launch the outdoor dog park, BNA and Mars Petcare held a ribbon-cutting attending by a variety of guests, including a representative from the Tennessee Association of Guide Dog Users.
The goal of Nashville International Airport is to accommodate passengers in a welcoming environment that is inclusive to individuals’ travel needs and expectations. The new amenities introduced at BNA in recent years are a testimony to our determination in meeting this goal, bolstering our commitment to ensuring passengers travelling with a pet or service animal, have a positive experience.
Kym Gerlock is former Director, Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility at Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority (BNA).