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Not long after Delta Airlines set the dates for its historic move from one side of Los Angeles International Airport to the other, Heidi Huebner received a visit from airline representatives.
Delta needed dogs.
Huebner, program director for Pets Unstressing Passengers at LAX, said the dogs and their handlers would be ready.
“It’s great because the airlines understand what an asset (the dogs) are. It’s more than just being, ‘Oh they’re so cute,’” she said. “I like that we have this where they reach out to me if there is a need.”
During the massive shuffle of airlines that began Friday night, she and her 65-person army of volunteer handlers and their trained therapy dogs have helped keep passengers keep calm, if not happy at times. The airline, and several others, added the dogs to their litany of amenities this weekend while 15 carriers relocated within the airport as Delta took up its new home in Terminals 2 and 3. Travelers could also make use of a pop-up spa and free massages, as well as free snacks and drinks during the weekend.
• PHOTOS: Therapy dogs help de-stress passengers at LAX
Sunday morning, about a dozen dogs and handlers roamed the airport.
Huebner said they generally stay spread out around the terminals, but sometimes she’ll get a call from airport personnel looking for dogs in a particular area to stave off passenger unhappiness.
And this weekend was no different.
On Saturday, only half of Air Canada’s reservation terminals were up and running after the airline moved to its new locale in Terminal 6 on Friday night. Then, two of the working terminals went offline, and Heubner received a call from airline employees looking for help to keep passengers placated despite rapidly lengthening lines, she said.
Tiffany Butcher and her 6-year-old French Bulldog Serjio have been on duty throughout the airline moves. Passengers show visible relief when they simply see one of the dogs in the terminal, she said.
“You see a lot of people who walk up tense and then they’ll start to pet him and then they start to say, ‘You don’t know how much I needed this today,’” she said.
• RELATED: In LAX’s big move, Delta’s the largest player
By most accounts, the largest leg of the airline relocation project ran smoothly. A massive information campaign in the days and weeks leading up to the move kept passengers in the loop, and several green-vested Delta employees said the operation went off with a minimal issues.
Still, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Some passengers Sunday said they received wrong information that left them on the opposite side of the airport from their plane.
Stephen Vanelst was waiting outside Terminal 2 for a neon green van to transport him and several other passengers in the wrong spot. An email from Delta sent him and others astray, and he was trying not to worry about his flight to Tokyo leaving without him on it, he said.
“I’m trying not to think about it,” he said.
• RELATED: Amid massive move, LAX reports smooth sailing
The LAX shake-up isn’t over yet. The largest move went off Friday night into early Saturday morning, but several more airlines will head to new digs this week. Sunday night, Avianca, Interjet and Spirit airlines will make their jump to new terminals, and Tuesday Air Canada, Jetblue, and Hawaiian, as well as international flights operated by Southwest, will finish their relocations at the airport.
Airport officials recommend checking in with airlines directly ahead of flights to find the correct terminal, and arriving at the airport with plenty of time in case things change.