THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED FOUR TIMES IN AUGUST, 2019, JANUARY, 2020, DECEMBER 2020 AND FEBRUARY, 2021. ALL NEW CHANGES ARE BOLDED.
Airline pet policies on flying with emotional support and service animals are changing, and now the Department of Transportation (DOT) has implemented changes to the Airline Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and its regulation, 14 CFR Part 382 (Part 382) in order to address the issues that airlines have recently been facing – lack of training, the use of false credentials and the variety of animal species whose owners claim protection under this legislation.
During the process of collecting public comment, DOT permitted the airlines to specify what type of animals they will allow as emotional support animals and those they will not. An airline group, Airlines for America, is suggesting that service animals be defined as “trained dogs that perform a task or work for an individual with a disability,” which would eliminate untrained emotional support animals from flying under the ACAA. This is the definition that the ACAA has now adopted. the definitions which is aligned with the Americans with Disabilities Act, specifically defines this classification as dogs only. Cats, miniature horses and other animals are no longer offer protections under this act.
Some of the other changes that were considered include policies that would distinguish between different types of animals, whether or not that they will need to travel in pet carriers, whether to limit the number of animals allowed per passenger, ease of reservations and booking for trained service animals. liability for damage caused by service animals and whether to require all service animals be trained to behave in a public setting.
Currently, Title 14 Code of Federal Aviation Regulations § 382.117 dictates that the airline “must permit the service animal to accompany the passenger with a disability at any seat in which the passenger sits, unless the animal obstructs an aisle or other area that must remain unobstructed to facilitate an emergency evacuation.” Airlines may choose not to transport service and emotional support animals that are not socialized and trained to behave properly in close surroundings. Pet owners are expected to control their animals at all times when flying.
What is unclear is the species of the animal protected by this legislation, the type of disability, and the amount of information that must be disclosed to the airlines. Because of these gray areas, many of these protections have been extended to those who may not not truly qualify for them. These are the areas that the amendment clarifies.
UPDATE: August 8, 2019
The Department of Transportation has issued a clarification to the ACAA in response to airline restrictions made for ESAs. The DOT rulings addressed the following points;
- Airlines cannot discriminate against certain breeds of ESAs (as Delta did against Pit Bulls)
- Airlines cannot dictate the duration of the flight that ESAs would be allowed.
- Airlines must allow up to 3 assistance animals per passenger, however they can limit the number of ESAs to one.
- Airlines must allow miniature horses as service animals on their flights. (This is not a new rule.)
Later this year (2019), the Department of Transportation plans to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on service (and emotional support) animals. The NPRM would address the definition of a service animal and include safeguards to ensure safety for other passengers and flight crews. Additionally, the changes would reduce the likelihood that passengers traveling with their pets on aircraft will not be able to falsely claim their pets are service or emotional support animals when they are not. More information on this to come.
UPDATE: January 22, 2020
The Department of Transportation has issued a Notice of Rulemaking Change (NRMC) regarding several amendments to the Airline Carrier Access Act. The first would be to align the definition of a service animal to that defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act which is published by the Department of Justice (DOJ) which specifies a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.
Additionally, the amendment will require that all passengers flying with service dogs submit forms developed by DOT in advance of travel which will reflect pre-training and socialization. All service animals will need to be “harnessed, leashed or otherwise tethered.” Larger service animals and effects to in-cabin operations and the safety and welfare of other passengers and the crew will be considered as well as who is responsible for the damage they may cause to the aircraft. More information on the NRMC.
UPDATE DECEMBER 2, 2020: The United States Department has issued a final ruling. with changes to the air transport of emotional support animals. Find it here. Basically, the ruling defines a service animal as a dog who is “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” The final rule also gives the passenger the responsibility for caring for the service dog’s health needs, especially on longer flights. Additionally, the airlines may request supporting documentation from the passenger ahead of check in. A form published by the DOT attesting to the service dog’s health, behavior and training must be completed and submitted to all US-based airlines prior to flight. The form is available here.
Service animals must be “harnessed, leashed, or otherwise tethered” at all times while in the aircraft and the owner is responsible for any damage incurred by the service dog. This ruling will go into effect January 1, 2021.
For the purposes of this post, service dogs are defined as animals who have been trained to assist physically disabled passengers suffering from mobility issues, visual impairments, seizures, hearing issues, issues resulting from diabetes or other physical issues. Emotional support animals are those who assist passengers with emotional, psychiatric, cognitive or psychological disabilities and have not received specialized training for the assistance they provide.
On all airlines, service dogs should be fully trained, clearly identified and leashed or harnessed. They will sit at their handler’s feet without protruding into the aisle or causing other safety concerns. If they are small enough, they may sit in their handler’s lap.
The airlines can limit the number of service dogs accompanying a disabled passenger to two. The legislation is not breed-specific and the airlines cannot ban certain dog breeds from flying as trained service dogs.
Service animals in training may or may not be accepted by an airline under these regulations. Trained service dogs accompanied by their trainers and being delivered to their owners also may or may not fall under these regulations depending on airline policies. Therapy animals, rescue dogs and dogs providing immigration services such as drug or bomb detection are not accepted under these regulations.
THIS PARAGRAPH APPLIES TO AIRLINES THAT RECOGNIZE ESA ANIMALS AS OF THIS DATE. Emotional support animals are permitted to sit in their owner’s laps if small enough not to touch any part of the seat and do not interfere or prevent other passengers from using seat amentities. They should be socialized and trained to behave around other people and pets, especially in small confines. Their owners should travel with proper documentation clearly identifying their licensed physician or medical professional, stating that they have a documented condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that necessitates that their pet travel with them and dated within a year of flight departure.
Animals are not permitted to sit in exit row seats. They are not permitted to fly in the seat next to their owner. They are not permitted to sit on the tray table. Owners should be prepared to demonstrate that they are prepared to handle the service dog’s hygienic needs on flights over 8 hours in duration. Some airlines will require that a sanitation form is completed prior to travel. This form has been released by the DOT and is available here.
Additionally, notification must be provided and permission granted in advance for countries that require that all live animals arriving by air to arrive as checked baggage or air cargo in the hold of the aircraft. (United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, India, New Zealand and others) The provision of this notice must be the same for disabled passengers as it is for other passengers (on-line and in-person).
It is also important to note that both service and emotional support animals are subject to the same requirements when flying internationally as other animals of their species. Owners should be prepared to present rabies and health certificates and all other documentation required by the airline or their destination country upon check-in.
Here are some of the new (and old) regulations regarding service and emotional support animals. For the most part, regulations concerning service dogs have not changed. Note that we will make every attempt to update this post when regulations change. We will also be adding addendums to this post with regulations from other airlines.
UPDATE: Delta no longer accepts emotional support animals of any kind. Handlers of service dogs must provide US DOT forms more than 48 hours before flight. Dog breed bans have been removed.
UPDATE: The Department of Transportation has rejected Delta’s ban of Pit Bulls as service or emotional support animals as their regulations do not address specific dog breeds. Note that the airline may still reject any dog that shows aggressive behavior.
UPDATE: Delta will now allow ESAs on flights over 8 hours; however, Pit Bull breeds continue to be banned as emotional support animals.
Update: United Airlines no longer accepts emotional support animals of any kind. Handlers of service dogs must provide US DOT forms more than 48 hours before flight.
Update: American Airlines no longer accepts emotional support animals of any kind. Handlers of service dogs must provide US DOT forms more than 48 hours before flight.
Guide (service) dogs are accepted as long as they are clearly marked and remain leashed. Notification 48 hours in advance is required.
Air France will require that owners of emotional support animals provide notification at least 48 hours in advance by providing a medical certificate that is less than a year old. This certificate must be provided by a mental health specialist and attest that you have regular check-ups and need to be with your dog at all times. Air France will not accept dog breeds known as dangerous as service or emotional support dogs.
Service dogs (guide dogs, hearing dogs, diabetic alert dogs, seizure alert dogs) can fly in the cabin with their handlers on all flights that Lufthansa operates. For flights outside of the United States, a training certificate from a recognized training institute should be submitted in advance to the Lufthansa Medical Operation Centre via email or the Lufthansa Service Center. You will receive notice of approval from Lufthansa.
Lufthansa will only recognize emotional support dogs and only on flights to or from the United States. That means that, if you have a layover in a country other than the United States on your itinerary, your dog must fly the leg that does not involve the United States in a carrier in the cabin or in the cargo hold as checked baggage for a fee.
Within 48 hours of flight departure, your service or emotional support dog must be registered with the centers referenced above and a medical certificate issued by a licensed physician confirming the need for you to be accompanied by an emotional support dog must be presented. You will receive notification of approval from Lufthansa. Two copies of this form must be presented at check-in.
All service dogs must be accompanied with an identification or card or other written document and be clearly identified. Notification must be provided a minimum of 48 hours prior to departure.
Emotional support dogs are recognized on flights to or from the United States and also flights with an Air-Canada operated flight through a US-based airline. Documentation for emotional support dogs must be provided to Air Canada reservations a minimum of 48 hours prior to departure and must include an original letter dated within the past year on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional treating the passenger’s mental or emotional disability recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Your professional’s license information must also be provided.
All service dogs must have been trained to assist a disabled person and certified by an organization that is a member of Assistance Dogs International or International Guide Dog Federation. Notification should be provided at least 7 days in advance. British Airways does not recognize emotional support animals.
Emirates will transport guide dogs for the blind in the cabin free of charge. Forty eight hour notice must be provided when traveling with a guide dog. Emotional support animals are not recognized.
JetBlue accepts trained service dogs only. Dogs must file DOT forms (above) at least 48 hours in advance of travel and submit them here. Dogs cannot occupy a seat. They must sit at their handler’s feet or lap (only if small enough) and cannot sit in an exit row. Maximum of 2 service dogs per passenger.
Southwest Airlines will accept only accept service dogs in the cabin at no charge on domestic and international flights. US DOT forms will be required.
Dogs who are trained to assist passengers with physical or psychiatric disability are the only animals that will be accepted as service dogs.
Passengers are encouraged to notify Southwest Airlines that they are flying with a service dog and US DOT forms will be required.
Service dogs that perform a task(s) to assist with deafness or hard of hearing, seizures, mobility limitations, limited vision, or other disabilities are accepted on Spirit Airlines flights at no charge. Passengers will be asked to provide a verbal description of the task that the service dog provides for them. Harnesses, vests, ID Cards or registration letters are no longer accepted.
Passengers with service dogs must submit DOT forms (see above) here more than 48 hours ahead of travel.
Therapy and service dogs in training are not covered under Spirit Airlines’ service dog policies.
Allegiant will permit trained service dogs in the cabin free of charge. They provide identification cards, tags, or other written documentation; harnesses or markings on harnesses or the credible verbal assurances of the individual with a disability using the animal. Owners will also need to submit a Veterinary Health Form at check in.
Within 1 hour of departure, the following documentation must be provided to an Allegiant agent for emotional support animals: Veterinary Health Form, Mental Health Veterinary Form and a Animal Behavior and Responsibility Form. Download forms here.
All service and emotional support animals must fly either at their passenger’s feet without interfering with cabin operations or other passengers. Emotional support animals can also fly in their owner’s lap (if less than 30 lbs) or also in a carrier that will fit under the seat in front of them. Max: 9”H x 16”W x 19”D.
Swiss Airlines will only permit emotional support animals on flights originating or terminating in the United States. For flights outside of the United States, ESAs may fly in-cabin if size permits or in the cargo hold at standard charges.
TAP Portugal Airlines
TAP Portugal Airlines accepts guide and emotional support dogs flying in the cabin with their owners at no charge. In either case, notification must be provided to TAP Portugal’s Service Center.
Guide dogs must be properly identified as service animals and with documented evidence that they have been officially trained and certified.
On flights to and from the United States, emotional assistance dogs weighing more than 8kg are accepted in the cabin. The maximum recommended weight and size is 40kg and 62cm in height (from the ground to the withers).
For flights outside of the United States, all emotional assistance dogs must fly in airline-compliant pet carriers and must not weigh more than 8 kg (17 lbs) including the weight of carrier. The carrier dimensions may not exceed 40 cm in length, 33 cm width and 17 cm height. (15 in x 12 in x 6 in) Soft-sided carriers are recommended to meet height requirements.
KLM will allow both guide and emotional support dogs to fly in the cabin at no charge. Other animals will be considered upon request; however, reptiles, livestock and insects will not be permitted. All animals must be leashed and guide dogs should be wear a harness or vest.
Owners of guide dogs need to submit this form to KLM prior to departure and bring original document with them.All guide and emotional support dogs must be presented at the check-in desk on the day of travel.
Owners of emotional support dogs must submit this form to KLM at least 48 hours prior to departure. A signed declaration from your physician or medical professional is required. The declaration should state that the passenger has a mental health-related disability listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV); that having the dog accompany the passenger is necessary to the passenger’s mental health or treatment, that the individual providing the assessment of the passenger is a recognized mental health care provider and the passenger is under his or her professional care, and the date and type of the health care provider’s registration and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.
KLM Cares can be contacted via phone, Whatsapp or other social media outlets for pre-travel notification.
Singapore Airlines will allow service and emotional support dogs to fly in the cabin at no charge on all flights where destination countries will allow pets to enter in the cabin. Dogs must fly at your feet without affecting cabin operations. Muzzles and leashes are not required but should be available.
All service dogs should be marked with a vest or harness or other items such as an identification card identifying it as a service dog.
If your dog is an emotional support animal, you must carry documentation on the letterhead of a licensed medical professional dated within the past year supporting the need for your ESA.
No dogs included in Singapore Airlines’ banned breed list (see step #6) will be accepted as service or emotional support animals.
Owners of service and emotional support animals should contact Singapore Airlines at least 2 weeks prior to departure.
Aeroflot will permit guide dogs assisting physically disabled passengers to fly in the cabin at no charge. The passenger must present a proof of disability and a document certifying the dog’s training. If the working dog is a member of the Federal Executive Authority Canine Service, the passenger accompanying the dog must present a document certifying the special training of the working dog as well as a document proving that the passenger transporting the working dog is an employee of the Federal Executive Authority Canine Service.
Emotional support animals are not recognized.
Alaska Airlines will accept your service and emotional support animal without charge.
Passengers should inform the customer service representative when arriving at the airport that they are flying with a service animal. Service animals must fly at their handler’s feet and behave appropriately. Dogs, cats and miniature horses are accepted as service animals.
Owners of emotional support animals must submit 3 forms to Alaska Airlines at least 48 hours before travel: Animal Health Advisory Form, Mental Health Form and Animal Behavior Form.
Emotional support animals must be leashed or travel in an airline-compliant pet carrier, behave properly, be contained to the owner’s seat and not interfere with the adjacent passenger. Dogs and cats are accepted as emotional support animals. One animal per passenger.
Only service dogs and only cats and dogs can be transported as service or emotional support animals to Hawaii.
The following animals are not accepted as emotional support animals: Amphibians,Hedgehogs, Ferrets, Goats, Insects, Reptiles, Rodents, Snakes, Spiders, Sugar gliders, Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game birds, and birds of prey), Animals improperly cleaned and/or foul odor, Animals with tusks, horns, or hooves (except miniature horses that are trained to behave appropriately), any unusual or exotic animals.
Service animals being delivered to their new owner are accepted at no charge on domestic flights within the United States. Documentation must be available that training was successfully completed and they must be traveling with their trainer.
Service animals are welcome to fly on Frontier Airlines flights without charge. The only animals that will be accepted as emotional support animals are dogs and cats. One ESA is permitted per passenger. Most behave appropriately around other animals and passengers and be under control of owner at all times. A Medical/Mental Health Professional Form and an Animal Behavior Acknowledgment Form must be completed and uploaded here more than 48 hours of travel. Owners should carry copies of submitted documentation with them.
Turkish Airlines will fly both service and emotional support animals free of charge.
Service dogs must be marked as such and have proof of training and certification.
ESAs are only accepted on flights to or from Istanbul and the United States. All ESAs that will be connecting to other flights in IST must have pet carriers or crates when boarding the initial flight and will be subject to fees imposed on other animals on flights which do not terminate or originate in the United States.
A minimum of 48 hours prior to departure, owners of ESAs must submit official documentation in English (or translated to English) on a letterhead of a licensed mental health professional who is treating the passenger’s mental or emotional disability. The document must be dated within one year from departure of the initial flight. This document shall state that the passenger has a DSM 4 or DSM 5 disability according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, why the passenger needs the ESA and that the passenger is under the care of a licensed medical professional. The license number and State where the license is issued must also be included.
In the case of either a service dog or an ESA, all dogs must be leashed and fly at their owner’s feet. No pets are allowed to fly on a seat. A muzzle must be available should any aggressiveness be displayed. On flights over 8 hours, owners must be able to provide written instructions regarding how they have prepared for their dog to relieve itself. Owners also are responsible for any damage caused to the aircraft by their service animal.
All rabies vaccination certificates and documentation from exporting and importing countries must be available at check-in.
Vueling Airlines only recognizes assistance animals trained to serve special needs. Certification of training must be provided to staff at check-in. Dogs must be at least 3 months old. Dogs must have proof of rabies vaccination no sooner than 3 months of age and more than 30 days prior to travel.
If your airline is not listed above, you can contact us at email@example.com with any questions.