Are you looking to fly with your emotional support animal? Luckily, you can still travel with your animal but the Department of Transportation has changed and updated some rules.
As of now, a number of airlines have changed their policies and now, most of them do not recognize emotional support animals differently from a pet, in terms of charges and pet fees. The department has also introduced new policies and tightened the rules about which animals are allowed to fly on the plane.
Following the new DOT guidelines, all of these, and a number of other, airlines have updated their policies regarding emotional support animals.
The airlines have lauded the department’s decision and are looking forward to making the new changes. These changes are a result of numerous complaints against the passengers that bring their poorly trained and behaved animals on flights.
In many cases, the passengers brought animals like pigs, ducks, and monkeys that are difficult to handle and could be dangerous for other passengers.
The new rules and policies went into effect in the mid of January and the airlines are moving towards adopting those policies. American Airlines stated that they would only allow well-trained and behaved service animals and pets on flights.
As per United’s new policy, it will allow trained service animals only while other animals, therapy and emotional support animals, would be treated as pets.
What does all this mean for the travelers and emotional support animal owners? We have answered some commonly asked questions below.
1. What are the updated DOT policies about animals in planes?
As per the updated department of transportation policies, the flights are no longer obliged to accept emotional support animals. The ESAs are no longer considered ‘special animals’ but pets only. Due to this, the owners have to pay the pet fee and the animal will have to travel in the carrier and the plane’s cargo.
Only service animals are allowed to travel in the cabin and only dogs are recognized as service animals. The dog should be disciplined and must be seated at the foot of its owner. In case it is too large, it could travel in the cargo or the owner could explore other available options.
2. Can I fly with my miniature horse service animal?
Unfortunately no, DOT has recognized only dogs as service animals. Many commenters have proposed the department allow miniature horses as service animals but there are many others who suggest against it. Horses are livestock and could not be trained like dogs, making them a less suitable flight companion.
Moreover, horses have hooves and it could damage the aircraft. Considering these potential risks, DOT has decided to opt against allowing them as service animals.
3. Why has the department made the respective changes in its policies?
The main reason behind doing it is to revise the department’s Air Carrier Access Act and other important reasons including;
The department received numerous complaints against the service animals from and on behalf of the passengers.
An uncertain definition and explanation of what defines a ‘service animal’.
Repeated requests of allowing weird animals as service and emotional support animals on planes.
Repeated and increased cases of people trying to pose their animals as service animals to avoid pet fees.
Increased accidents in the flights caused due to emotional support animals.
To answer all of these concerns, the department made some extensive changes to its policies regarding animals on flights.
4. What are the updated policies of the airlines?
Different airlines have updated their policies differently. Below, we have added the policies of the airlines that have made the respective changes.
The airline will only accept dogs as service animals.
The animal should be controlled by the handler at all times.
The behavior of the animal will be assessed at the airport and could be rejected on the basis of vicious and wild behavior.
Service animals still in training will not be allowed on the plane.
No animal will not be allowed to occupy the seat.
The animal must remain on the floor or, if small enough, in the lap of the owner.
The person has to submit the required documents at least 48 hours before departure.
Only small dogs and cats are allowed to travel as pets.
For complete information, read through the JetBlue airlines’ policies page.
Emotional support animals are not accepted as special animals but pets.
Those who wish to travel with their ESA follow the same procedure of traveling with a pet.
Only domestic animals like small dogs and cats, and household birds and rabbits are accepted.
No health certificate is required except for the animals traveling with guests to USVI.
Only rabies vaccination is required.
Exotic pets like reptiles and rodents are not allowed.
The animal must remain in the carrier throughout the flight.
The animal must be well-behaved and safe to travel on the plane.
The combined weight of the animals and the carrier must not be more than 40 pounds.
Read Spirit Airlines’ official policies page for complete and further information.
No emotional support animals will be accepted now.
Trained and well-behaved service animals will be allowed to travel for free.
The size of the animals should not be more than the size of the person’s set or personal space.
The person must keep the animal leashed and in the carrier at all times.
No animal will be allowed to occupy another seat or the tray table.
ESAs that assist a mentally disabled person is accepted on the flight.
Dogs, cats, and miniature horses are accepted as ESAs.
Each person is allowed to have a single pet.
The person must complete the required documentation.
For more information, check Alaska Airlines’ complete policies on this page.
From February 1, 2021, the airline allows trained service animals to travel in the cabin.
The person who wishes to travel with an animal has to submit the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Service Animal Air Transportation form before the flight.
The animal must be leashed or in the carrier at all times.
The kennel must fit under the seat of the person and the animal will not be allowed to sit on another seat.
Final approval for the animal will not be given until the animal is assessed at the airport.
For more about the updated policies, check American Airlines’ official policy page.
The airline no longer accepts emotional support animals as special animals.
Therapy animals are not considered service animals and must follow the regime for traveling with pets.
Only dogs are considered service animals and should be over 4 months of age and trained to perform the task.
The animal should be well behaved and small enough to fit under the seat or at the foot of the handler.
The person must bring the updated vaccination records of the animal.
For more about their policies, read the complete United policies page.
Frontier airlines have an expensive list of policies that they follow. However, they do not accept emotional support animals as service animals but they could travel as pets. For service animals, they accept only trained dogs and the animal should be leashed at all times.
In the cabin, the animal must be small enough to fit under the seat or sit comfortably at the feet of the handler. For complete and detailed policies, visit the Frontier airlines policies page.
The airline fully accepts law enforcement dogs free of cost.
Trained service dogs and emotional support animals are accepted but they must be properly trained and may have to provide additional documentation.
The person who wishes to travel with an ESA must fulfill the requirements of the airline.
The person could have only a single ESA.
The animal must travel in a pet carrier that is to be placed under the passenger’s seat.
The documentation for ESA includes an ESA letter written on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional.
The letter must contain the details about the person’s disability and animal, details about the person’s need for the animal, and the date and type of the doctor’s license.
Besides, you can know more about the policy details on Southwest’s policy page.
From January 11, 2021, the airline is accepting trained ad well-behaved service animals only.
People who wish to travel with their animals must follow the suit of traveling with a pet.
The airline will not accept the animals, regardless of their status, that exhibit inappropriate behavior like growling, jumping on other passengers, barking excessively, and biting.
As of January 11, 2021, the airline will accept dogs as service animals only, miniature horses no longer qualify for being service animals.
When traveling with the animal, the passenger must submit the U.S. DOT Service Animal Air Travel Form, at least 48 hours before the flight.
For complete details, read through Delta’s policies page regarding service and emotional support animals.
4. As of now, which animals are allowed to fly in the cabin?
As per the new airline rules and policies, only dogs are characterized and identified as service dogs. They will be allowed to travel in the cabin without paying any extra cost and without the need for being in a carrier.
Animals considered as emotional support or comfort animals will not be allowed to travel freely or regarded as service animals. These animals could be anything but they are no longer allowed to travel without a cost and a carrier.
5. Will I be allowed to travel with my ESA if I have a signed ESA letter for an LMHP?
Previously, the airlines used to regard the ESA letters but due to repeated complaints against ill-mannered and dangerous animals on board, the airlines no longer accept these letters.
However, you can still travel with your animal if it is well-mannered or trained and you are ready to pay the cost of traveling with it.
The prices are different for different airlines and, usually, you can know about it from their official website.
6. Under the updated laws, how can I fly with my ESA?
If your animal meets the guidelines and requirements of the airline, then you can travel with your animal. As per the requirements, your animals must be well-trained, disciplined, and not a danger to other passengers and animals traveling on the flight.
However, you must know everything about flying with a dog before you move forward with your ESA.
7. Will I have to pay to fly with my emotional support animal?
Yes, since most of the airlines will not recognize an ESA, they will be treated as other pets. Due to this, you will have to pay to bring your animal to the cabin. The price ranges from $99 on Frontier Airlines and $125 on others including American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, and United.
The cost may vary and you may have to pay more or less than what is stated here.
8. What are the policies regarding flying with a large emotional support dog?
If your dog could fit into the pet carrier, then yes, you can travel with your dog. Due to the latest update in the policies, people with comfort and emotional support animals could no longer have their animals in the cabin.
These animals are treated as other pets and would travel in the cargo since having a large ESA dog on the plane could be potentially dangerous and risky.
9. Are the policies the same for large service animals also?
Yes, the policy remains the same but the people having a service animal do have other options. Though many people argued that service animals, regardless of their size, should be allowed to travel with their owners, DOT has offered several options.
The service animal owners could buy an additional seat for their animal, have their animal travel in the cargo, get the animal on another flight, or get reseated to another seat that could accommodate the animal.
When traveling with a big service dog, talk to the airline about the available options.
10. Can I travel with my service animal on the flight?
Yes, you can travel with your service animal on the plane and without paying any pet fee. However, your service animal should be a dog since other animals like miniature horses and capuchin monkeys are no longer recognized as service animals.
Dogs have the ability and personality to be trained to perform the required tasks while being safe to have around everywhere. This is why they are the only animals that are recognized as service animals.
Since the policies were updated on November 30, 2020, airlines are adopting them slowly and at their own pace. Some of the airlines have already implemented these policies while others are working on them.
To be on the safe side, it is important that you communicate with the airline before boarding your plane with your emotional support animal.