Most people will say that 2020 was a dumpster fire. The pandemic has caused untold misery with millions infected and over a million dead around the world. The aviation industry has been upended. Airlines have failed and many airlines have retired their fleets (most notably the near worldwide retirement of the A380 and 747 passenger fleets along with the retirement of all MD-90 and most MD-80 aircraft fleets).
In a year where there is almost nothing to celebrate in the airline industry, there is finally a positive change that most of us can get behind. Alaska Airlines has banned emotional support animals with other airlines adding additional restrictions. If you’ve ever sat next to a growling dog on a flight or had the pleasure of sharing a bulkhead with a miniature horse, you’ll probably rejoice.
Airlines Are Now Adopting More Restrictive Rules On Emotional Support Animals
Alaska Airlines announced a new policy that will ban any emotional support animal. They are the first major US airline to do so. According to their website:
“Effective January 11, 2021, Alaska will accept only service dogs which are trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability. Emotional support animals will no longer be accepted.”
New Rules For Emotional Service Animals Came After Complaints to the US DOT
Earlier this year, we reported that the US Department of Transportation proposed more restrictive rules on emotional support animals. These rules allowed “airlines to place additional limitations on ESAs and/or prohibit them all together on flights.
The airlines could place other restrictions on ESAs like requiring passengers to check in before most other passenger are required to show. Passengers with ESAs would also be required to show that the animal has a DOT Animal Air Transportation Health Form. Airlines can also place limits on the size and type of animal.”
Additional Restrictions Likely
Other airlines have implemented additional restrictions as well that include limiting the total number of ESAs on a flight and additional documentation requirements. While there are many valid purposes for service animals and even emotional support animals, the abuse of the previous rules have led to additional restrictions.
DELTA AIR LINES REQUIRES ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION
Beginning in March of this past year, Delta Air Lines added additional requirements for anyone who wants to travel with an ESA. According to Delta’s website:
“Delta requires that all customers traveling with a service or support animal show proof of health or vaccinations 48 hours in advance. In addition to the current requirement of a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, those with psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals will also need to provide a signed document confirming that their animal can behave to prevent untrained, sometimes aggressive household pets from traveling without a kennel in the cabin. These measures are intended to help ensure that those customers traveling with a trained service or support animal will no longer be at risk of untrained pets attacking their working animal, as has previously been reported.
“The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” said John Laughter, Delta’s Senior Vice President — Corporate Safety, Security and Compliance. “As a leader in safety, we worked with our Advisory Board on Disability to find a solution that supports those customers with a legitimate need for these animals, while prioritizing a safe and consistent travel experience.”
Return to a more rational cabin where people with real needs are supported but end to abuse of policies?
The hope is that these more restrictive policies will return to a more rational system where individuals with true needs are still supported without unnecessary burden. At the same time, the new policies should discourage pet owners who were abusing the policy to travel with their pets.
Do you have an experience with an unruly emotional service animal? Let us know in the comments below.