No more pet iguana’s used as emotional support animals, folks!
In recent years, there’s been a huge increase in emotional support animals flying in the cabin with their owner. It seems like passengers were trying to take advantage of the system by registering any type of animal they had so they could fly in the cabin. Clearly, trying to bypass the system and ruining it for the rest of us. All it took was a doctor’s note to be cleared to fly for free, opening a robust black market for emotional support animal letters.
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FORT WORTH, Texas — American Airlines today announced forthcoming changes to its policies and procedures for travel with emotional support animals and service animals, aligning with regulations recently issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The new policies and procedures are intended to support customers with disabilities and the service animals that travel with them, as well as the team members who work to keep customers safe.
“Our team is motivated by a purpose to care for people on life’s journey, and we believe these policy changes will improve our ability to do just that,” said Jessica Tyler, President of Cargo and Vice President of Airport Excellence for American. “We’re confident this approach will enable us to better serve our customers, particularly those with disabilities who travel with service animals, and better protect our team members at the airport and on the aircraft.”
The DOT’s new rule defines 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 — a narrower definition than in the past. When the rule goes into effect Jan. 11, American will no longer authorize new travel for animals that do not meet that definition, such as emotional support animals. Existing bookings involving emotional support animals will be honored through Feb. 1, when the airline’s new policies go into effect.
Starting Feb. 1, to ensure accessible travel for individuals with disabilities while protecting the safety and well-being of customers and team members, American will ask customers traveling with service animals to complete a DOT form attesting to the dog’s behavior, training and health. The airline will require this form to be submitted electronically 48 hours in advance of a flight, unless the reservation is booked within 48 hours of travel. A service animal’s authorization will be valid for one year or until the expiration of its vaccinations.
Animals that previously traveled as emotional support animals and no longer qualify as service animals may travel as carry-on pets or as cargo pets, as long as they meet the requirements.
American Airlines is reaching out to customers who are expected to be impacted by these changes. The service animal forms, along with additional details about the airline’s new policy, will be available on aa.com in the coming days.
After successful submission, the form will be valid for one year or the expiration of the animal’s vaccinations, whichever is earlier.
Non-service animals can fly in a kennel underneath your seat for a pet fee of $125.
Traveler Note: Some destinations don’t allow pet travel, and American has stopped checking pets in the cargo hold, due to pandemic-related flight changes.
In December of 2020, the US Department of Transportation announced that a “service animal” is defined as one that is “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.”
The DOT no longer requires airlines to make the same accommodations for emotional support animals as it does for trained service dogs. The DOT effectively narrowed the scope of what’s considered a “service animal” to a dog.
That means that American Airlines’ flyers won’t be able to bring emotional support iguana’s, pigs, peacocks, cats, or any of the other animals that used to grace the U.S. skies.
Alaska Airlines became the first airlines to adopt the updated DOT guidance. Over the holidays, the Seattle-based carrier made revisions to its service animal policy that largely mirror those unveiled on Tuesday by American Airlines.
And now, it’s likely only a matter of time before the remaining U.S. carriers make similar moves.
What do you think about airlines and their new emotional support animal policy? Leave your thoughts and comments down below in the comment section.