Airlines’ Policies On Emotional Support Animals
Are you one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who rely on the comfort of an emotional support animal? If so, that creature acts as a life preserver that you need by your side no matter where you are, and that includes transportation on airplanes.
However, if you're not prepared ahead of time, you could find yourself facing difficulty flying with an emotional support animal if the airline refuses to accept your pet's ESA letter.
Many domestic airlines have recently adjusted their policies, making things more difficult for travelers flying with an emotional support animal. Whether you're flying with a therapy dog, cat, or other devoted critter, it will be imperative for you to know ahead of time what airlines allow emotional support animals. Among other helpful details, DoNotPay can help you learn how to take an emotional support animal on an airplane.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
By definition, an emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal that provides relief to individuals with psychiatric disabilities through companionship. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), any species of animal can act as an ESA as long as it provides comfort and affection that alleviates the symptoms of its handler's mental health disability.
It's also important to understand the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal.
- Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks and actions that assist a person with a disability, such as a dog that can detect an oncoming seizure in its epileptic handler.
- Registered service dogs can legally accompany you on an airplane under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).
- Emotional support animals do not require any special training, and are therefore not guaranteed plane access, even if you have a valid ESA letter.
What is an ESA Letter?
In order to prove your pet is a valid emotional support animal, you will need an official document called an ESA Letter. This document must be written and signed by a licensed mental health professional. ESA letters are most often required by landlords to approve certain housing accommodations, although they may also be requested by airlines.
What must be included in an ESA letter?
|ESA letters must be renewed annually, and must contain certain information.||
Which Airlines Allow Emotional Support Animals?
In March 2021 the Department of Transportation (DOT) passed a ruling that removed established protections for those traveling with emotional support animals. Since airlines are now no longer required to accept ESA letters, many have opted to discontinue the practice in favor of charging their customers additional fees to fly in cabins with dogs and cats under 20lbs.
Unfortunately, this leaves many ESA and other pet owners in the lurch if their animal is very large or any species besides canine or feline.
Here is a list of airlines that still honor and accept ESA letters:
- Latam Airlines
- Air France
- Asiana Air (to/from U.S.A.)
- China Airlines (ESA dogs only.)
- KLM (ESA dogs only.)
- Lufthansa (to/from U.S.A.)
- Singapore Air (ESA dogs only.)
Can Emotional Support Animals Fly as Pets?
Thanks to the DOT's redefinition of "service animal," most domestic airlines now have their own rules and regulations regarding flying with emotional support animals and non-service animals. You may find that paying a modest fee will easily allow an ESA dog on a plane, but it will be much harder to guarantee accommodations for other ESA species such as cats, rabbits, birds, or miniature horses. Before you book a flight on a major airline, familiarize yourself with their pet fees and policies, which may have restrictions on size, weight, and breed.
There is a growing list of airlines that has outright banned ESAs from flights, making allowances only for trained service dogs.
If you're looking for the best airlines for emotional support animals, you might want to avoid the following—they DO NOT accept emotional support animals on flights as of January, 2022:
- American Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Air Canada
How to Get Your Emotional Support Animal Plane Access
Still want to know how to take an emotional support animal on an airplane?
If you want to fly with an emotional support dog, cat, or other animal and your only option is a flight with an airline that doesn't accept ESA letters, you can still try asking for special consideration.
There are those who argue that a psychiatric service dog provides the same mental health support as an emotional support animal. Although by law airlines are not required to honor ESA accommodations, there may be some that are willing to make an exception.
You'll have to do your research and ask who to call to bring an emotional support animal on a plane. Contact them ahead to find out and determine what, if any, restrictions are enforced.
How DoNotPay Can Help You Fly With Your Emotional Support Animal
If the thought of contacting every major airline to inquire after their ESA and pet policies sounds daunting, remember that DoNotPay can do the research for you! Through our new Service and Emotional Support Animals product, DoNotPay can help by asking airlines about their accommodation options on your behalf. This can save you valuable time and avoid additional emotional distress.
Our product can also handle your other ESA-concerns, including contacting your landlord about your ESA and finding the most affordable online ESA-letter service. Here's how it works.
- Search "service animal" on DoNotPay.
- Select the type of issue you need help with, including contacting your landlord about your ESA/service animal, asking your airline about ESA options, or requesting ESA/service accommodations at other venues.
- Answer a series of questions about your current situation and the details of your ESA/service animal, so we can generate the best results for you.
And that's it! Depending on your issue, DoNotPay will generate a letter to your landlord and mail it on your behalf, contact the airline agency and get back to you with an answer, or send a letter to your mental health professional requesting an ESA letter.
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