No, these alligators are not meant to provide emotional support or relieve some stress before your flight.
But just like some airports have dogs and cats — or a pig — to pet or take a picture with, you can now do that with a gator at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).
Every Friday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., travelers can take an #MSYGatorSelfie at a booth by Bag Belt 6 in Baggage Claim, according to a Facebook post from the airport. The gator selfies started last week. NOLA reports that gators will not be available during some holidays, or on Black Friday.
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And yes, the gators are real. And alive.
The selfie station is a partnership between the MSY airport and the Audubon Nature Institute, according to the post.
It will provide “an up-close, hands-on experience with one of the most recognizable inhabitants of Louisiana’s wetlands,” said Katie Smith, spokeswoman for the Audubon Institute, according to NOLA. The alligator is the Louisiana State Reptile.
Travelers who are “brave enough” will be also allowed to “gently touch” the gators at the airport, USA Today reported.
“These baby alligators are probably between a year and 3 years old and can be anywhere from 1 to 3 feet long,” MSY spokeswoman Erin Burns said, according to USA Today. “The Audubon Nature Institute will bring one or two baby gators each week. These animals are used to being handled and they get regular breaks.”
The gators should be there on most Fridays “indefinitely,” USA Today reports, but the booth will relocate to the new airport terminal when it opens in May.
This program is part of “the airport’s ongoing efforts to enhance its passenger experience,” according to NBC.
The alligator-encounter opportunity comes at a time when other airports are providing dogs, cats and even a pig for traveler stress relief.
Thirty airports across the U.S. offer a therapy dog program to “enhance the overall passenger experience,” according to the San Diego International airport. Through the program, dogs and their human handlers “roam the terminals and provide stress relief and comfort to passengers who would like to interact with them.”
Each dog meets about 200 travelers during a 2-hour shift, the airport says.
The DEN CATS (Canine Airport Therapy Squad) — made up of 100 dogs and one cat — at the Denver International Airport is the “largest airport therapy animal program in the country,” according to its website.
“You’ll encounter them throughout the airport, sporting their distinctive blue plaid ‘Pet Me’ vests,” the airport says. “Hug, pet, and take pictures with DEN’s affectionate comfort crew!”
And in San Francisco, LiLou the pet pig is part of a “Pet Me!” team at the international airport. You might even find her in a “tutu and hair bow,” according to the Los Angeles Times.