Courtesy of Tampa International Airport

Get your tissues ready.

December 22, 2015

Far too often travel news is depressing, with headlines involving lost planes, increasing airline fees, terrible traffic, and violations of passenger rights. But travel also brings people together in a way few other activities can. Here’s a look back at some of the most heartwarming travel stories of 2015:

Lost Toy Tiger Goes on an Incredible Airport Adventure

Back in June, six-year-old Owen Lake misplaced his stuffed tiger in the Tampa International Airport. Instead of setting the stuffed animal on a desk to wait for his family, Tony D’Auito—the airport’s operations manager—decided to take Hobbes on a vacation of his own. The photo series that followed is nothing short of a tear-jerker. See more photos of the journey, here.

Flights to Nowhere

If you're a frequent traveler, it's easy to forgot how magical the concept of air travel can seem. Earlier this year, former aircraft engineer Bahadur Chand Gupta reminded us of the wonder of airplanes with his "Flight to Nowhere" program in Haryana, India. Gupta turned a now-defunct Airbus A300 into an opportunity for kids to experience a simulated flight and even sit in the cockpit without leaving the ground—or paying for an expensive ticket. More on the program, right this way.

The Airlines Give Back

While Twitter feeds are full of holiday travel nightmares this time of year, the airlines are hardly Grinches. This month, United flew children with serious health concerns to the "North Pole" for a party complete with face painting, snacks, and a band, WestJet performed 12,000 mini-miracles (think handing out hot chocolate, giving free flights to deserving families, and stocking the shelves of food pantries) in over 90 destinations, and Santa himself boarded two KLM flights to pass out sweet treats from around the world. 

Meet America's Airport Therapy Dogs

Did you know that many airports have therapy dogs on-hand to help ease passengers' travel anxiety? Get to know a few of the four-legged airport employees, here.

A Dying Dog Travels the World

When the internet heard word of Poly—a pit bull with a heart condition and only months to live—people from all over jumped at the chance to give the pup a virtual trip around the world. Travelers printed out pictures of the dog à la Flat Stanley, taking the cut outs to destinations as far flung as Venice and London. For more photos of the Flat Polly project, click here.

Flight Attendant Makes Flying Fun by Passing Secret Notes

If there's anyone who truly understands the stresses of flying, it's a flight attendant. Taylor Tippett, a Washington D.C.-based member of the American Airlines crew, took service to the next level this year by leaving little notes of encouragement to unsuspecting travelers. Watch a clip about her project, here.

Delta to "Consider" 8-Year-Old's Way of Locating Missing Airplanes

While watching a show called "Why Planes Disappear" about the Malaysia Airways flight, eight-year-old Benjamin Jensen came up with a new way to locate missing planes using a complex system of neon balloons, reinforced rubber, and an RF transmitter. He sent his thoughts off to Delta, who sent back a package with model airplanes, pens and pencils, and a letter from senior vice president of safety and security John Laughter, who promised to share the idea with his team. Get the details, here.

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