The cute and fluffy have returned to Orlando International Airport (MCO). The MCO Paw Pilots, a therapy dog program first launched at 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 North Terminal, was designed to offer some comfort to the traveling public. When it first started, the program included nine certified therapy dogs that roamed the terminal to provide travelers the chance to decompress and get some doggy kisses, as volunteer schedules allowed.
Today’s reboot of the program includes the return of crowd favorite 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 MCO.
“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. “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 the program 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 sanitizer for each guest in line before they’re able to greet the handler and the dog. Hand sanitizer also will be available upon exiting. In accordance with current federal mandates, masks must be worn at all times.