United adds comfort dogs at O’Hare to soothe holiday travelers’ stress

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CHICAGO – With just a few days left to go before Christmas, the airport is buzzing. Seven million passengers are expected to pass through the United Airlines terminal alone! That’s why the carrier is providing a little comfort and joy for stressed out holiday travelers.

It’s the holidays at O’Hare, and whether you’re traveling near or far, the airport isn’t exactly a peaceful oasis this time of year. To help ease the stress, United brought comfort dogs on board – and stationed them throughout the terminal to greet weary travelers.

It was a welcome diversion for Lynette and Hannah Jackson. "It was such a good surprise," said Lynette. "We miss our dogs at home and to see these beauties it was so wonderful. And just to sit on the floor with the dogs, it’s such a good feeling."

"This is a very busy travel period," said Charlie Hobart, a United Airlines spokesman. “ We know that customers, even the most seasoned traveler, may feel a little stressed, so these animals are here to provide a little bit of comfort.”

Just like airline pilots, comfort dogs log 2,000 training hours before they’re put to work.

“I’m kind of scared of planes so it kind of calmed me down so I’m not going to be scared for the next flight,” said Hannah Jackson.

Said Kathleen Lasco: “It’s a delightful treat. I travel a great deal and did for business, and it just is a completely different experience when you come in and see the people with their dogs.”

The United Paws program is running at seven different airports this season. The comfort dogs we met are from Lutheran Church Charities and will be at the airport through December 23. Customers who snap photos with them and post their images on Instagram or Twitter may win free roundtrip tickets from United.