Brisbane Airport calls in therapy dogs to ease traveller worries

by Ruth Hogan

Brisbane Airport has introduced therapy dogs at its domestic terminal as part of a trial aimed at reducing preflight anxiety for travellers.

The trial sees canine ambassadors from Therapy and Support Animals Australia offer support and comfort while passengers wait to board their flights.

“Therapy dogs are in use in a growing number of airports around the world to calm nerves and help people de-stress. Who doesn’t love a puppy?” said Brisbane Airport Corporation Head of Communications and Brand Marketing, Sarah Whyte.

The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Whyte.

“Not only have we had really positive feedback from travellers but also our airport staff and airline crew too. We’ve had an amazing response so far,” she said.

“There was the FIFO worker who hadn’t patted his dog for a month. We met a family who had recently lost their father who just wanted puppy cuddles. And a lady who had recently lost her own dog. In each of these cases, it was the conversation and connection that took place around the therapy animal that made all the difference.”

Dog trainer Nikki Bignell, a former Queensland Police Service dog handler, says the comfort of a dog can have powerful effects.

“We know that airports can be very stressful environments for some people so we’re trailing therapy dogs to help reduce anxiety and stress for travellers and of course staff.

“Petting a therapy animal releases endorphins making people feel better, diminishing feelings of pain, depression and loneliness.”