New regulations surrounding emotional support animals and flying are released fairly often as airlines continue to adapt to more people wanting to bring their ESAs on their flights. It can be a little tricky to stay up to date with each airline’s requirements, especially because they’re always changing.
If you’re planning on flying soon, you might be wondering, “Can I travel with my emotional support animal in first class?” The answer is most likely yes, but here’s some more information to help you prepare for any upcoming trips.
What are the airline requirements for traveling with an ESA in first class?
According to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), individuals who require an ESA to travel with them are permitted to bring their animal in the cabin with them as long as they are meeting that airline’s specific requirements. Passengers also are not typically charged with any additional fees for bringing their ESA onboard with them. ACAA mandates that passengers cannot be discriminated against for needing to travel with an ESA. This includes all passengers, including those in first class.
Even if you’re permitted to fly with your ESA, there are still several things you should know before you book your next flight. Don’t forget to do the following…
1. Check the ESA requirements of the particular airline you’ll be flying with.
Head to the website for the airline you’ll be traveling with to see their specific restrictions for ESA travel. The information is usually pretty easy to find if you type “emotional support animal” into the search function.
Each airline has different rules regarding which types of animals can fly (usually either a dog or cat), the size of animal, and what particular documentation you need to provide before you book your ticket. Most airlines do require you to notify them at least 48 hours in advance of your flight if you’ll be traveling with your ESA.
So, can emotional support animals fly first class? Most of the time the answer is yes, but always check with your preferred airline to confirm before you book your ticket.
2. Get together all the documentation you’ll need before you fly.
Once you know what paperwork your airline requires, you’ll need to gather all of this documentation so you can give it to the staff when you check in at your gate. You might also need to show the documentation to additional airline staff during your flight, so keep it accessible at all times.
Typically, you can be asked to provide proof of vaccinations, a report from your veterinarian confirming your ESA is healthy, and even a waiver that asserts that your ESA is well-behaved and won’t cause any problems with other passengers or airline staff.
You might be wondering, “Do emotional support pets fly free?” Traditionally, because of ACAA, you cannot be charged for flying with a necessary support animal. However, you should always be prepared for extra fees that the airline can levy (such as for damaged seats).
3. Make sure your ESA is well-trained and up to date with their vaccinations/shots.
Well before you’re set to leave for your trip, you should make sure your ESA is in peak health with all of their required shots and vaccinations. It’s also really important that your ESA is social enough to be around large groups of people in an airport and on the plane, and well-trained enough to not bark, snap, bite, or in any way disrupt or upset other people around you.
An ESA that appears to be ungroomed, sick, or ill-behaved can be denied entry to the plane by airline staff. Make sure your animal is healthy and clean and can act appropriately at all times on the flight, and you’ll be good to go.
4. Pack all the supplies you’ll need to keep your ESA happy during the flight.
An important part of preparing for your flight is making sure you have everything you need to keep your ESA happy and comfortable. Pack food, treats, water, and toys to keep them occupied, and don’t forget to bring along a blanket for them to snuggle with. If you’ll be transporting them in a carrier, make sure they feel comfortable and safe inside.
The flight staff (even in first class) won’t have a ton of time to devote to getting you extra supplies if you need them, so it’s always best to be extra prepared for what your ESA might require while onboard the plane.
5. Review the rules you’ll need to follow while in-flight.
In your research about the specific airline you’ll be flying with, you probably came across information about how to handle your ESA on the flight. For example, some airlines have restrictions about where you can have your ESA (usually it’s in your lap, on the floor in front of you, or underneath your seat).
It can be helpful if you know ahead of time exactly which restrictions you’ll need to follow so the in-flight staff don’t have to remind you of the rules. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to ask questions if the need arises. They are there to help if you can’t remember exactly what you should be doing.
The answer to “Can I take my emotional support animal in first class?” is most likely yes, but with the caveat that you still have to follow all of the airline’s rules. At this time, it’s rare for an airline to allow you to bring an exotic ESA onboard (so no flying for hedgehogs or pigs!), but for the most part, you’ll likely feel like your ESA is welcome in first class as long as they’re well-behaved and calm.
Above all else, do your research before you book your ticket so that you know everything you need to do before you arrive at the airport. The more informed and prepared you are, the better! Then you can just sit back and enjoy the comforts of first class with your ESA by your side.