Flying with an Emotional Support Animal - Answering Popular FAQs

Do you want to fly with your emotional support animal? You can still take your pet, but the Department of Transportation has changed and updated some rules.

As of now, some airlines don't let people bring their pets on the plane. They make you pay for it like a normal pet. But now, more airlines let people bring pets on the plane, and they don't charge anything extra. The Department has also put new rules in place that affect which animals can fly on the plane.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has updated guidelines for emotional support animals. Following these new guidelines, many other airlines have also updated their policies.

The airlines are happy with this decision, and they are looking forward to making these changes. These changes will happen because many people complain about the passengers who bring their poorly trained or badly behaved animals on flights.

Passengers might bring animals like pigs, ducks, and monkeys with them. These animals can be difficult to handle, and sometimes they are dangerous.

The new rules and policies on pets and service animals went into effect on January 15, 2019. Airlines are starting to follow these rules. American Airlines says they will only allow well-trained service animals and pets on their flights. These animals should stay well-behaved in public settings.

According to the new policy, the airlines are bound to allow individually trained service animals on the flights, while other assistance animals like therapy animals, psychiatric service animals, and emotional support dog will be treated as usual pets.

What does this mean for people who travel and have an emotional support animal?

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions regarding flying with an emotional support animal.

  1. 1. What are the updated DOT laws about flying with animals?

    The Department of Transportation has changed its policy for emotional support animals. These animals are no longer considered "special" but are treated as pets. The owners will have to pay the pet fee for their animal, and the animals will have to air travel in the carrier or cargo area of the plane.

    Only service dogs can sit in the cabin. Service dogs must be trained, and they should sit at their owner's feet. If the dog is too big, it can travel in the cargo, or you could explore other options that are available.

  2. 2. Can I take my miniature horse service animal along on a flight?

    No! DOT only recognizes dogs as service animals. Lots of people say that DOT can also recognize miniature horses as service animals. But others say that this is not true because horses are livestock and cannot be trained like dogs.

    Moreover, horses have hooves, and it could damage the airplane. Considering these risks, DOT has decided not to allow them as service animals.

  3. 3. Why did the DOT bring changes to its policies?

    The main reason behind doing it is to revise the Department of Transportation's Air Carrier Access Act. It also has other important reasons for doing it, including:

    • The Department received many complaints from and about the passengers' service animals.
    • A service animal does not have a specific definition, so it can’t be separated from other assistance animals.
    • Some people want to bring weird animals on planes. This is difficult because the animals might not be good for other people on the plane.
    • Some people are trying to pose their pets as service animals so that they don't have to pay for them. This is happening more often now.
    • An increased number of accidents on airplanes has been caused by emotional support animals.

    The department made some changes to its policies regarding animals on flights due to all these and other such concerns.

  4. 4. How have the airlines updated their flying policies for animals?

    Multiple airlines have brought various changes to their policies. Some of these are explained below:

    JetBlue Airlines

    • The airline will only accept service animals. You can bring a dog with you, but not other animals.
    • The animal should be directly supervised by its handler at all times. This means that it should never run away or cause any disturbance.
    • The behavior of the animal will be checked at the airport. If it is vicious and wild, then it could be rejected.
    • People who are still training their service animals will not be able to take them on the plane. They can't bring them on board.
    • Animals will not be allowed to travel on the seat in front of the other passengers. If they come on board, they’ll be in their carriage or at their owner’s feet.
    • The person has to submit the necessary permission documents at least 48 hours before departure.
    • Only small dogs and cats are allowed to travel with you within the cabin.

    For more information, please read the JetBlue airlines’ policies page.

    Spirit Airlines

    • Emotional support animals will not be considered special animals. They will be considered just as pets.
    • People willing to travel with their ESA have to follow the same rules as those who want to take their pets.
    • You can only bring domestic animals like small dogs and cats on the airplane. This also includes small birds or rabbits.
    • No health certificate is needed except for animals that travel with people going to the US Virgin Islands.
    • Rabies vaccination is compulsory.
    • Exotic wild animals, including rodents and reptiles, are not allowed.
    • The animal can not stay free. They shall remain in their carrier or cage at all times during the flight.
    • The total weight of the animal, along with its carrier, must be 40 pounds. Excessive weight shall be paid for or won’t be allowed.

    If you want to know more about Spirit Airlines’ policies, you can visit their policy page.

    Alaska Airlines

    • Simple emotional support animals are not allowed on airplanes with their passengers.
    • Service animals who are well-behaved and have received proper training will be allowed. Their owner does not need to pay an additional fee for them.
    • Only those animals will be allowed which fit their owner’s set or personal space. No additional space shall be occupied.
    • Animals will not be given an extra seat, cabin, or tray table.
    • Only those ESAs are allowed on the flight that assists a mentally disabled person.
    • Animals that are accepted as ESAs include dogs, cats, and miniature horses.
    • Each passenger can only have one pet along, not more than that.
    • The passenger must complete the necessary documentation prior to flying.

    The detailed policies of Alaska Airlines are given on its page.

    American Airlines

    • It is now possible for trained service animals to travel in the cabin. They were not able to do this before February 1, 2021.
    • If you want to travel with an animal, you have to fill out the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Service Animal Air Transportation form. You also need to submit it before boarding.
    • You can bring your animal with you if you can either hold it through a leash or put it in a carrier all the time during the flight.
    • Even if your animal is too big, it can't sit on the seat. You need to put them in a kennel that fits under the seat.
    • The animal will not be approved for the flight until it is checked at the airport.

    Check out American Airlines‘ official policy page for more information about the updated policies.

    United

    • The airline no longer lets emotional support animals fly as a special type of animal.
    • Therapy animals are not considered service animals. They must follow the same rules as other pet owners when it comes to traveling.
    • Only dogs are accepted on the flight as service animals. This dog has to be over four months old and trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.
    • Small animals are more likely to be allowed. They should behave well and be small enough to go under the seat or at the foot of the person who is holding them.
    • The owner needs to bring the updated vaccination records of the animal along.

    If you want more information about their policies, you should read the full United’s policy page.

    Frontier Airlines

    Frontier Airlines has a list of policies that they follow, but they do not accept emotional support animals as service animals. For service animals, only a service dog is allowed. The animal should be leashed at all times and should be well-trained.

    On the airplane, your animal must be small enough to fit under the seat or sit comfortably at your feet. For more information on their policies, read the Frontier airlines’ policies page.

    Southwest

    • The airline company will let you bring a dog that is used for law enforcement, and they do not charge any money.
    • If you have a trained service dog or emotional support animal, they are allowed. Moreover, you may be needed to provide additional paperwork for the animal.
    • To travel with an ESA, the person must have an ESA letter and should fulfill the airline's requirements.
    • A person will be able to have only one ESA along with them on an international or domestic flight.
    • You cannot put your animal in another passenger seat. You have to take it in a pet carrier that is placed under your seat.
    • The documentation for ESA includes an official ESA letter on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional.
    • The letter should tell about the person's disability and animal, why they need the animal, and what kind of doctor license the issuing therapist has.

    The policy details on Southwest's website page can tell you more about the policy.

    Delta

    • From January 11, 2021, the airline accepts trained and well-behaved service animals.
    • People who want to take their ESAs with them when they travel have to follow the same rules as traveling with a pet.
    • The airline will not accept animals that behave badly. A growling animal, an animal that jumps on other people and barks too much, and an animal who bites may not be allowed on the airplane.
    • Only dogs are allowed to be service animals starting on January 11, 2021. The miniature horses cannot be service animals anymore.
    • You need to fill out and submit the US Department of Transportation form at least 48 hours before your flight.

    For more information, go to Delta's policies page on service and emotional support animals.

  5. 5. According to the current rules, which animals are allowed to fly in the cabin with their owner?

    As per the new airline rules and policies, service dogs are now permitted to travel in the cabin. They will not need to be in a carrier or pay any additional costs.

    Emotional support animals will not be allowed to travel freely or be seen as service animals. These animals can be anything, but they no longer have the right to travel without a carrier and free of charge.

  6. 6. Am I allowed to take my ESA along on a flight if I have an authentic ESA letter?

    Previously, airlines accepted ESA letters. However, now because of many complaints about rude and dangerous animals on board, airlines do not accept these letters.

    However, you can still travel with your animal if it is well-trained and you are willing to pay the price for traveling with it. The prices on different airlines are different, and they can usually be found on their official website.

  7. 7. How can I fly with my ESA according to the new laws?

    According to the updated emotional support animal laws, If your animal meets the airline's guidelines and requirements, then you can take him with you on a flight. The animal needs to be well-trained and not be a danger for other passengers and animals that are also on the flight.

  8. 8. Do I need to pay to travel with my ESA on a flight?

    Yes, because most airlines do not recognize ESAs as pets. For this reason, you will have to pay to bring your animal to the cabin.

    The cost ranges from $99 on Frontier Airlines and $125 on others, including American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, and United. The price may vary. So, you could be paying more or less than what is stated here.

  9. 9. What are the policy measures for traveling with a large emotional support dog in an airplane?

    If your service dog can fit into the pet carrier, then you can travel with them. But if they are only comfort or emotional support animals, they cannot be in the cabin anymore.

    Emotional support animals are treated like other pets. They will travel in the cargo since having a large ESA dog on the plane might be dangerous.

  10. 10. Are the policies for large service animals the same?

    Yes, the policy does not change. But for people with large service animals, there are other choices. Many people argue that all kinds of service animals should be allowed to travel with their owners, but the Department of Transportation has offered several options.

    If you have a service animal, the airline might charge you extra for an additional seat. You can ask if your animal can go in cargo or wait for another flight. Or, if there is no other option, the airline might let you switch seats with someone who doesn't mind sitting near your service animal.

  11. 11. Am I allowed to travel with my service animal on the flight?

    Yes, you can take your service animal on the airplane and not have to pay a pet fee. But only use a dog as your service animal because other animals like miniature horses or capuchin monkeys are no longer recognized as service animals.

    Dogs have the ability to perform tasks while being safe. This is why they are the only animals that are recognized as service animals.

    Since the airlines updated their policies on November 30, 2020, they are adopting them slowly. Some airlines have already adopted these changes while others are working on them.

Always better to be safe than sorry!

So, before you get on the plane, it is important that you talk with someone from the airline about your emotional support animal.