If you’re planning on traveling with your emotional support animal, it’s imperative that you know the regulations you’ll need to follow for a stress-free trip. Recently, airline carriers have become more accommodating when dealing with ESAs. However, many of the restrictions and rules from each airline vary from one another, so it can be difficult to know what to expect from each airline. So, here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about several different airlines when you’ve got your ESA in tow.
First, you should remember that your emotional support animal is protected by the Air Carrier Access Act. This means that you and your ESA can’t be discriminated against by any commercial airline. You’re permitted to have your ESA with you in the cabin of the aircraft at all times during the flight – which means your pet won’t be stowed anywhere else on the plane. There are also no additional costs for you to fly with your ESA.
Now, here’s a look at the various rules for some major airlines.
New rules at Southwest mean that your emotional support animal must be a cat or dog only – no other animals are considered ESAs. You are only permitted one animal on your flight, and you must keep your ESA on a leash or in a carrier at all times. However, unlike other airlines, you are not required to present written documentation about your animal’s behavior or health. You are still required to provide the airline in advance with a letter from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional that states why it’s necessary for you to travel with your emotional support animal. Southwest also notes that if your ESA appears to be untrained or is displaying bad behavior, Southwest agents can deny your ESA entry to the plane.
Passengers traveling with ESAs must sign an Animal Behavior Form (which verifies that the animal has been trained to behave well in a public setting) and provide a Veterinary Health Form signed by a licensed veterinarian at least 48 hours prior to the flight. You’re also required to provide a letter from a medical or mental health professional that attests to why you’re traveling with your emotional support animal. You are only permitted to have one ESA with you on a United flight, and they must sit in the floor space below your seat.
Delta travelers are required to fill out a form (found on their website) in advance of the flight (at least 48 hours before). You’ll need documentation from a certified mental health professional that states your need for an ESA. There’s also a Veterinary Health Form to be completed with certification of your animal’s health and rabies shot verification (copies of vaccination records can also be used). There’s also an Accessibility Service Request Form that has to be uploaded to Delta’s website, as well as a Confirmation of Training Form that verifies your ESA is well-trained. The airline requires you to keep all of the completed paperwork with you while you’re traveling with them. Delta does have the right to turn away ESAs that are exhibiting bad behavior, like growling, excessive barking, or jumping on other passengers. Additionally, during the flight, your emotional support animal must be seated in the floor space below the seat or in your lap. You must keep your ESA with you at all times.
JetBlue requires you to notify them up to 48 hours before your flight if you’ll be traveling with your ESA. Currently, the airline accepts cats, dogs, and miniature horses as viable ESAs. Your ESA must remain on the floor or in your lap. You’ll need to fill out several forms beforehand: the Medical/Mental Health Professional’s Form, the Veterinary Health Form, and the Confirmation of Animal Behavior Form, which can all be found on JetBlue’s website. These documents need to be submitted online at least 48 hours prior to departure. You should always keep copies of these documents with you at all times in case JetBlue personnel need to review them. If you’re traveling internationally, check with JetBlue staff to inquire about any additional documentation that might be required.
You are required to give American Airlines advance notice if you’ll be traveling with your emotional support animal. You must contact the Special Assistance Desk with the proper paperwork at least 48 hours before your flight. You’ll need a Mental Health Professional Form, which is completed by a licensed mental health professional and is signed by you. The form will indicate that you have a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and that you’re currently a patient under the professional’s care. You must show a need for an ESA during air travel, and they must be able to provide proof of their licensing information. You’ll also need to complete a Behavior Guidelines Form and an Animal Sanitation Form (if your flight is going to be over eight hours). To verify the information on these forms, American Airlines might need to contact your mental health professional to substantiate your claims. Make sure to keep all of these documents with you at all times during your travels. There are some animals that are prohibited, so check the American Airlines website to make sure your ESA is okay to travel with. Additionally, your ESA must be well-trained and free of any disruptive behaviors during the flight.
If you’re going to be traveling with your ESA on another airline carrier that isn’t mentioned here (or if you just have questions before your flight), check out the airline’s website. There’s usually a great deal of information about what you should expect when traveling with your emotional support animal. Just make sure to complete all of the proper documentation (in advance!), and you’ll be all set to fly the friendly skies with your ESA!