What to Know If You're Flying With a Large ESA Dog

Emotional Support Animal What to Know If You're Flying With a Large ESA Dog

4 Airlines That Allow You To Fly With A Large ESA Dog

After the Department of Transportation's final rule that said that emotional support animals are not the same thing as trained service animals, most airlines started making restrictive policies or outright banning ESAs from flying in the cabin. For ESA owners that have a large ESA dog, airplane policies are doubly restrictive.

If you need help flying with a large ESA dog, read on to learn more about navigating strict airline policies. DoNotPay also has an ESA air travel solution for you to help you travel comfortably and get you the accommodations you deserve.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal (ESA) provides comfort and alleviates symptoms for someone with a mental or physical disability, like depression, PTSD, or anxiety. They can be dogs, cats, or other common pets.

To be an emotional support animal, your ESA needs an official ESA letter that is signed by a health professional, like a psychiatrist, therapist or licensed social worker.

Emotional support animals are not the same thing as service animals. Under the ADA, service animals are defined as animals who are individually trained to perform activities or tasks for a person with disabilities. Trained service animals are typically granted more privileges in the US than most emotional support animals due to the nature of their service.

Can a Large Dog Be an Emotional Support Animal?

According to UMass Med, any domesticated animal can be an emotional support animal, from hedgehogs to large dogs. However, most commonly, ESAs are dogs or cats. Keep in mind that just because any domesticated animal can be an ESA, it doesn't mean that airlines have to accommodate your unique emotional service animal.

Can My Large Emotional Support Animal Fly With Me?

Unfortunately, in December 2020, the Department of Transportation ruled that airlines no longer have to let emotional support animals fly in the cabin with their owner. However, most airlines do still allow passengers to bring their pet as a carry-on item, as long as the animal can fit in the space at your feet, without entering the other passengers' space.

Many airlines also have size restrictions for the animal, rules for the documentation your pet needs, and a fee for bringing your pet into the cabin. Each airline has different policies for both ESAs and on-flight pet size restrictions. Here are a few examples:

AirlineDoes the airline allow ESA dogs in the cabin?What is the size limit for dogs in the cabin?
Southwest AirlinesNo, but small pets can fly in the cabin for $95Must fit in an 18.5" long x 8.5" high x 13.5" wide carrier
VolarisYes26 lbs.
American AirlinesNo, but dogs can fly as a carry-onThe carrier plus your pet can't exceed 20 lbs.
United AirlinesNo, but dogs can fly as a carry-on for $125Must fit in an 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high soft kennel


How to Prepare your ESA Dog for a Flight

If you are granted access to fly with your large ESA, here are a few tips for preparing your emotional support animal for the flight:

  • Give your airline at least 48 hours' notice before flying with a large ESA dog to avoid any unexpected fees or paperwork
  • Get to the airport early to allow for a slower airport security screening process
  • Even if they are in their carrier, put a harness and leash on your dog in case of emergency
  • Bring your pet's documentation, like their vaccination card and health certificate
  • Feed your dog a few hours before the flight
  • Give your dog their favorite toy in their carrier to comfort them

How to Get Accommodations to Fly With Your Large ESA Dog on Your Own

It's not an easy or straightforward process, but there are steps you can follow to try to have your large ESA dog with you in the cabin while flying:

  1. If you haven't already, get an official ESA letter for your large dog by asking your medical practitioner to sign your ESA letter.
  2. Check your airline's website to see their policies for ESAs and the maximum weight or size of carry-on pets.
  3. If the airline has an ESA ban or your dog doesn't meet the size restrictions, you will need to send an accommodation demand letter to the airline.
  4. In the letter, include information about why you need to fly with your ESA dog, why it's in their best interest to make accommodations for you, and any other relevant information, like your ESA letter.
  5. Send this letter to your airline and wait for a response.

Due to pet carry-on size restrictions and ESA policies, you, unfortunately, may have to settle with either bringing your pet as a carry-on (if they fit) and not taking them out of their carrier during the flight, or you may have to check your large dog in the cargo area instead. This is understandably not ideal, so consider turning to a successful tool that creates the travel demand letter for you: DoNotPay.

An Easier Way to Get Flight Accommodations for Your Large ESA Using DoNotPay

Airlines will take some convincing when it comes to large ESA dogs, but that's why DoNotPay, an easy-to-use robot lawyer app, is here to help.

Here's how DoNotPay can help:

Through our new Service and Emotional Support Animals product, DoNotPay can help you with all of your ESA-related concerns, including contacting your landlord about your ESA, asking airlines about their accommodation options, and finding the most affordable online ESA-letter service.

  1. Search "service animal" on DoNotPay.


  2. 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.


  3. 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.


It's that simple. 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.

Why Use DoNotPay's Solution for Traveling With Your Large ESA Dog

Traveling with your large ESA dog is not easy, but DoNotPay can simplify the process for you. All you have to do is answer a few questions, and we will take care of the rest, including sending a demand letter to your airline to ask for them to make accommodations on your behalf. DoNotPay wants to help protect your right to travel comfortably with your ESA dog—no matter how big your dog is.

Have Any More ESA Questions or Issues?

Still have more questions about emotional support animals and getting the appropriate accommodations? DoNotPay can help. Here are a few more answers and solutions from our information hub:

Other DoNotP​​ay Products for Your Pets

DoNotPay has a lot of products to help protect and care for your pet, including:

Want More Help From DoNotPay?

We also handle lots of issues that have nothing to do with pets. Check out a few of DoNotPay's other fast, successful, and easy solutions:

Sign up for DoNotPay to solve your problems, like flying with a large ESA dog.

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