Airlines are becoming more accepting of passengers bringing emotional support animals on board airplanes. However, the regulations covering these animals often varies from airline to airline and continues to change all the time. Those who own exotic emotional support animals (such as sugar gliders, hedgehogs, ferrets, geckos, etc.) might be wondering which airline you should book a flight with. Here’s a breakdown on how the most popular airline companies are handling passengers traveling with exotic emotional support animals.
Currently, Southwest does not allow emotional support animals besides dogs or cats onboard. So if you have a more exotic ESA, you won’t be permitted to fly with it. The airline has also set some pretty strict rules if you have a dog or cat ESA. You are only allowed one animal on your flight, and your ESA must be kept on a leash or in a carrier at all times. Animals that are not trained and that engage in any type of disruptive behavior will be denied entry to the plane.
United does not permit exotic animals (like rodents, reptiles, ferrets, etc.) in the cabin of the aircraft for any reason. The only permitted animals are dogs, cats, miniature horses, monkeys, and birds. If you’re wondering if your exotic ESA fits these regulations, you can contact the United support desk for additional information at (800) 228-2744. Any ESA you wish to bring on board a United flight requires you to have documentation, which includes a letter from a licensed medical/mental health professional, as well as records for the animal to show that they’ve been properly trained in a public setting. Passengers are only allowed to travel with one emotional support animal, and the animal cannot weigh more than 65 pounds.
This airline has the most complete list on their website of animals that they do not allow onboard (because they might pose safety and/or public health concerns). These animals include:
- Sugar gliders
- Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird, and birds of prey)
- Animals improperly cleaned with a foul odor
- Animals with tusks, horns, or hooves
Delta is the most recent airline to make many major changes to their policies. As of this past summer, Delta started enforcing a rule that states passengers are only allowed to travel with one animal. At the end of 2018, they’ve also come up with a restriction that emotional support animals under four months of age are not allowed on flights (because of rabies vaccination requirements). Another huge change is that ESAs are no longer permitted to be on flights that last longer than eight hours. Passengers looking to fly with their non-exotic ESAs must complete the required documentation and can call (404) 209-3434 with any questions they might have about traveling with an emotional support animal.
At this time, JetBlue only accepts dogs, cats, and miniature horses as emotional support animals permitted on flights. Passengers must notify the airline of their intent to travel with an ESA within 48 hours of flying. Passengers also must complete three required forms, including the Medical/Mental Health Professional Form (a document completed by the professional currently providing the customer’s mental healthcare), the Veterinary Health Form (which must be completed by a veterinarian detailing and attesting to the animal’s vaccination records and fitness to fly), and the Confirmation of Animal Behavior Form (a document that is a signed customer confirmation affirming the ESA is trained to behave well in public). This last form also says that the owner accepts all liability for any injuries or damage to property caused by their ESA.
American Airlines prohibits the same list of animals that Delta does, so you’re not going to be able to bring your exotic ESA onboard. If you have a non-exotic ESA, you must give American at least 48 hours notice if you’ll be traveling with your animal. There are also several documents that must be completed ahead of time. American has some specific requirements for once you’re aboard the plane: animals must be able to fit at your feet, in your lap, or under your seat, and they cannot occupy a seat or block aisles. They also must be trained to behave appropriately in public, so make sure your ESA doesn’t growl, bite or attempt to bite, jump or lunge at people. Your ESA must be in your control and/or on a leash or harness the entire flight.
Frontier also limits the types of animals you can bring onboard as an ESA. At this time, they are only permitting dogs and cats on a flight – so those with an exotic ESA are currently out of luck. Frontier does require just one emotional support animal per customer, and the animal must be in a carrier under the seat or in front of the customer and on a leash at all times. The airline requires 48 hours’ notice if you’ll be traveling with your ESA, and there are several forms to complete before you board.
It isn’t likely you’ll be permitted to bring your exotic ESA onboard for many US flights, but it’s always a good idea to check with the specific airline you’ll be flying with to see whether exotic emotional support animals are allowed on the flight or not.