Air travel, whether for business or pleasure has become a regular part of millions of Americans' lives and so has the hassle and stress that flying through crowded US airports poses to travelers. From the mad dash for parking at the airport to the long lines at security checkpoints to navigating long crowded airport concourses air travel is not for the faint of heart. Despite nearly a trillion dollars expected to be spent on airport construction and expansion projects over the next 10 years, things are going to get worse before they get better as the numbers of flights and passengers continue to increase, further straining airports' capacity. More than 2.7 million passengers fly every day and airports are likely to see up to a 25% increase in passenger volume from late November through early January. This means that stress levels are turned up for both airport staff and travelers during the holiday season.
Some airports are taking steps to help manage stressful holiday travel. Tulsa International Airport recently launched a therapy dog program, dubbed the "Welcome Waggin." Over 30 dogs rotate through the airport's terminals and concourses with the mission of interacting with travelers to help ease travel tension and improve the overall airport experience. Other airports have put similar programs in place— Denver's Canine Airport Therapy Squad or "CATS" is made up of over 100 dogs, one cat of more than 40 different breeds that greet passengers in blue plaid "Pet Me" vests.
Pittsburgh International Airport and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport are amongst the first airports that are relying on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to reduce the stress of the holiday rush. Developed by Zensors, a Carnegie Mellon University startup, airports can provide travelers with real-time wait estimates at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints to give passengers an idea of how much time they can expect to wait in the security queue. Passengers can access security wait times on airport websites before they leave home and allowing them to manage their time and diffuse "will I miss my flight" worries.