This past year most domestic airlines tightened their rules regarding trained service animals, emotional support animals (or ESAs) and psychiatric animals on airplanes.
The move was necessary, airlines said, because too many passengers were taking advantage of lax government rules regarding the transport of these animals and, in many cases, claiming their regular pets as emotional support animals, which fly for free.
In announcing its new rules, Delta Air Lines noted that it was carrying about 700 service and support animals a day and nearly 250,000 annually. Since 2016, the airline has seen an 84 percent increase in the number of reported incidents involving untrained emotional support animals attacking passengers (and other animals) and urinating or defecating in aircraft cabins.
Airlines say the type of animals passengers claim they need with them on board for emotional support has been getting out of hand as well, citing passengers who claim they can’t fly without a turkey, peacock, pig, goat, spider or snake for support.
The airlines would like the Department of Transportation to clarify and tighten the overall rules for service and ESAs on planes. But while waiting for the government to act, individual airlines are rolling out their own updated policies.
Here’s a list of those policies as well as links to airline pet policies for passengers who may need to pony up the cash and fly by the rules.
Alaska Airlines’ updated policy for support animals goes into effect Oct. 1, 2018. After that date, passengers traveling with emotional support animals will be able to bring only one emotional support animal on board with them: either a dog or a cat that will always need to stay leashed or in a carrier. Documentation and a 48-hour notice are also required. Details here. (Pet policy)
American Airlines’ new rules went into effect July 1 and require passengers to provide three forms of documentation 48 hours before a flight for any emotional support or psychiatric service animal. The rules also prohibit many types of animals from flying as emotional support animals, including amphibians, goats, and snakes or spiders. Details here. (Pet policy)
Allegiant addresses service, emotional support and comfort animals in its Contract of Carriage (updated July 1, 2018), which notes that passengers must provide proper documentation from a mental health professional when bringing an emotional support or comfort animal on board. Details here (#48). (Pet policy)
Delta Air Lines' updated policies for service and support animals went into effect on July 10, 2018 and require passengers to submit documentation 48 hours before a flight. Pit bull-type dogs and animals such as hedgehogs, ferrets, reptiles and rodents are not permitted to fly as service or support animals. The airline reserves the right to refuse transportation to any animal that growls, barks excessively, jumps on passengers, relieves themselves in the gate area or cabin, or eats off seat-back tray tables. Details here. (Pet policy)
Frontier's policy for therapeutic/emotional support animals requires documentation and excludes aggressive or disruptive animals and unusual or exotic animals including rodents, reptiles, insects, rabbits, non-household birds and animals with foul odors. Details here. (Pet policy).
JetBlue updated its policy for emotional support and psychiatric animals in July 2018. The policy limits emotional support animals to one per passengers and requires documentation 48 hours before a flight, including a medical or health professional’s form, a veterinary health form and a confirmation of animal behavior. Details here. (Pet policy)
Southwest Airlines’ new policy for emotional support animals became effective Sept. 17, 2018 and limits ESAs to one dog or cat per passenger. Animals must be kept on a leash or in a carrier both in the airport and on the aircraft. Proper documentation is required for each animal and disruptive animals may be denied boarding. Details here. (Pet policy)
Spirit Airlines requires proper documentation and 48-hour notice for emotional support animals. The airline allows passengers to travel with more than one emotional support animal, but no snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders or spiders are permitted. Details here. (Pet policy)
United Airlines updated it policies for emotional support and psychiatric service animals on March 1, 2018. Documentation must be filed 48 hours before the flight. Passengers may travel with only one emotional support animal. Animals must be trained to behave properly in a public setting and, as with most airlines, anyone traveling with an emotional support animal is not permitted to sit in an exit row. Details here. (Pet policy)