United Airlines Is Deploying Dogs to Comfort Anxious Travelers

United via Facebook
United via Facebook / United via Facebook

Heading to the airport? Dreading the chaos of sitting in traffic, standing in a long line to check your luggage, stripping down for the TSA, and possibly getting delayed by a snowstorm? United feels your pain, which is why the airline is offering stress relief—in the form of dogs.

United Paws, a program the company describes as being "designed to deliver smiles to customers," is unleashing more than 200 professionally trained comfort dogs to visit with holiday travelers at airports in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark and Washington/Dulles. The dog squad arrived on December 21st and will continue greeting customers through this afternoon, between 9 a.m. and noon, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. So if you’re in any of these areas, just look for the handlers walking around with their cute pooches in tow. If you see heads turning and hear awws abounding, they’re probably headed toward you.

"Research shows that just petting a dog releases oxytocin, the hormone associated with bonding and affection, and also decreases levels of stress, helps us breathe easier and lowers our blood pressure,” says veterinary consultant Dr. Walter Woolf, via United. “I've experienced this recently and think this is a wonderful idea for holiday travelers.”

Dr. Woolf’s words do ring true. The airline first introduced this program last year, and decided to bring it back after a successful debut. Travelers lucky enough to meet members of United's team of comfort pooches—like the folks below—are sharing photos via Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #UnitedPaws.