Puppies Take Flight as American Airlines Volunteers Transport Assistance Dogs
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While Delta is busy kicking puppies off flights, American Airlines is actively welcoming them on board — at least as part of its Puppies in Flight program. The long-running AA program uses employee volunteers to transport puppies to Assistance Dogs International accredited trainers or to take older trainees on familiarization flights.
In 2018, 400 American Airlines employee volunteers transported 181 puppies across 54 different airports in the US and Canada. Three of the puppers that took to the skies this year were Aaron, Enzo and Miami — all of which were h*ckin’ good models before their flight.
But, it’s not just puppies that go on these flights. Older “graduate dogs” are taken on test flights for the “opportunity to get familiar with the sights and sounds of air travel” as part of their final training before being assigned a human. Aptly-named Loyalty here even got to fly in first class from New York LaGuardia (LGA) to West Palm Beach (PBI).
According to training materials, all volunteers carry a support bag, which contains a toy, food, water bowl, documentation and “cleanup supplies.” After all, they’re still puppies.
Volunteers are recommended to request a bulkhead seat and to walk the puppy plenty before the flight, as “a tired puppy is a good puppy.” A tired puppy is also an adorable puppy, such as Andy, who flew from San Francisco (SFO) to Charlotte (CLT) in October. He was jetting off to Saint Francis Service Dogs in Roanoke, VA, to start his training:
As you can see from the photos so far, many of the dogs that fly as part of the program are Labradors and Golden Retrievers, but dogs can range from Toy Poodles to Great Danes. While most are headed to training or running test flights, some dogs are headed to retirement after serving as a service dog.
Sadly for those looking for a puppy fix, it’s unlikely you’ll have a service dog on your flight. As the world’s largest airline, American Airlines operates approximately 6,700 flights per day and averages only one puppy flight every other day. Instead, you might want to check out these dog-filled volunteer vacations, or fly through one of these nine airports with therapy dogs.
Featured image of Rudy before his flight from New York LaGuardia (LGA) to Tampa (TPA). All images provided by American Airlines.
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