Türkiye | Dogs to relax passengers at Istanbul airport

(Istanbul) Better than a cuddly toy: Kuki, 6 years old, and Alita, one and a half years old, wrigglingly welcome anxious passengers at Istanbul airport, one of the busiest in the world.

Generally positioned just before police checks, five dogs held on a leash by their masters take turns to bring relaxation and comfort to travelers who are in a hurry, tense or distressed at having had to leave their loved ones.

Ali Bahtiyari, a young Iranian who is making his first trip abroad, admits his surprise when he came across the cheerful Kuki, a brown Lagotto Romagnolo with thick curly fur, and Alita, a black and white border collie with lively eyes.


“I just spent a few days in Istanbul, I walked a lot and I’m exhausted. But seeing these dogs boosted my endorphins and I’m not tired at all anymore! », smiles the young thirty-year-old while caressing the two friends before catching his flight back to Tehran.

For two months since the experience was launched, the dogs and their companions have been roaming different sites of the mega-airport which welcomed more than 76 million passengers last year.

“We launched this therapy dog ​​project to offer our customers a better travel experience and reduce their flight-related stress, if they experience any,” Volkan Arslan, veterinarian and project coordinator, told AFP. .

Adapted hours

The five dogs, including Kuki and Alita, underwent rigorous training before patrolling domestic and international terminals. They will soon be joined by two new four-legged companions who are completing their preparatory training.

  • Kuki



  • Alita




Everyone works five days a week, three hours a day at most, but schedules are adjusted to their needs.

“Alita is very energetic and loves spending time with travelers, so we can stretch her schedule,” continues Mr. Arslan.

“On the other hand, Kuki needs to rest and doesn’t like effort, so we are lightening her schedule.”

For Kuki’s trainer, Ismail Seyhan, schedules vary depending on the state of health and psychology of the dogs: “he who works today rests the next day.”

Hastily returning to passport control, Fatima Bouzerda suddenly changes direction and stops at the sight of Kuki.

” This is the first time that i see this. I have heard of cat cafes, but never in an airport,” says the Parisian traveler while playing with the dog.

“It’s so adorable, it relieves stress.”


Customer reactions are all positive, assures Abdulkadir Demirtas, customer manager at Istanbul airport.

“My favorite part is seeing children and families who are initially hesitant to approach dogs and then start playing with them within seconds.”

“We’re happy about that and it’s really the desired result.”

Volkan Gul, Alita’s trainer, remembers one passenger in tears: “I told her she could pet the dog, which she did. And she started smiling.”

In the United States, dozens of airports have so-called therapy dogs, which appeared after the attacks of September 11, 2001, with the mission of relaxing passengers anxious about air travel.

Besides airports, therapy or assistance dogs are also trained to interact with people in hospitals, libraries and schools. And according to Volkan Arslan, his people are already making a difference in this very busy Istanbul airport.

“It’s very motivating. We have passengers who suffer not only from the stress of flying, but also from dog phobia. With us, they take the first step to overcome it.”

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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