Therapy dog programme reinstated by Orlando International Airport

After suspending the service due to COVID-19, Orlando International has deemed it the right time to welcome the therapy dogs back to the terminal.

Therapy dog programme reinstated by Orlando International Airport

Credit: Orlando International Airport

The MCO Paw Pilots, a therapy dog programme first launched at Orlando International Airport (MCO) in 2019, has returned after a yearlong break as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The customer service initiative, which was suspended to ensure fewer opportunities for crowds to gather within the airport’s North Terminal, was designed to offer some comfort to the travelling public.

When it first started, the programme included nine certified therapy dogs that roamed the terminal to provide travellers with the chance to decompress, as volunteer schedules allowed. The recent reboot of the programme includes the return of crowd favourite Annabel, a golden retriever.

Participating dogs have been certified therapy dogs for at least two years, and they must pass in-person screenings and in-terminal practices before being invited to work at Orlando International.

“It was our hope to bring back the MCO Paw Pilots as soon as it was safe to do so, while the community continues to fight the public health crisis,” says Brian Engle, Director of Customer Experience at the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA). “We’re so glad the timing feels right to resume this customer service initiative in an updated way that provides enhanced safety measures for the dogs, their handlers and our passengers.”

To be sure that the programme complies with ongoing public safety efforts and social distancing guidelines, the MCO Paw Pilots will be stationed near concessions across from the North Terminal food court. There is no set schedule for the dogs, as schedules are contingent upon the availability of volunteers.

Anyone wishing to visit the dogs will be asked to appropriately line up in a stanchioned-off area while waiting their turn. Customer service staff will provide hand sanitiser for each guest in line before they’re able to greet the handler and the dog. Hand sanitiser will also be available upon exiting. In accordance with current federal mandates, masks must be worn at all times.

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