air canada esa policy

Air Canada Pet Policy for Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs

The Bottom Line:

  • Does Air Canada Still Accept ESA Letters? Air Canada's service dog policy no longer permits emotional support animals inside its aircraft cabins. However, your psychiatric service dog can accompany you during your flight. 
  • What Is a PSD Letter? A PSD letter verifies that you have a disability and are legally allowed to travel with a psychiatric service dog. 
  • How Do You Get a PSD Letter? Obtaining a PSD letter through Pettable is simple. Start with our short quiz to be matched with a Pettable mental health partner. If you qualify, you can receive your letter as soon as 24 hours. 
  • How Do You Qualify for a PSD Letter? A licensed mental health professional evaluates you to determine your eligibility. You must have a relevant mental or emotional health disability such as depression, ADHD, autism, or an anxiety disorder. 
  • How To Get Started? Complete our quick online assessment to see if you're eligible. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced major rule changes impacting air travel with emotional support animals. Many airlines, including Air Canada, have shifted their policies regarding ESAs and service animals.

Like other travelers on upcoming Air Canada flights, you may have lots of questions. What is the new Air Canada ESA policy? Does the Air Canada pet policy apply to psychiatric service dogs? What documentation do you need to travel with your service dog? In our comprehensive guide, we answer these and other important questions. You'll also learn what forms to fill out, plus how to obtain a psychiatric service dog letter from Pettable.

What is Air Canada’s Pet Policy?

For animal lovers flying to or from the Great White North, you’ll be happy to know that the Air Canada pet policy gives you multiple options for traveling with your pet. If you have a small cat or dog that is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, it can join you in the airplane’s cabin with you. Your pet must travel in a closed carrier that gives the animal enough room to stand up, turn around, and lie down safely and comfortably, and it must remain closed through the flight. One bonus: your dog or cat doesn’t need to be a support animal to accompany you.

To travel with your pet on Air Canada, you’ll need to pay a $50 fee for the United States and Canada or $100 for international flights. If it’s traveling in the cabin, your animal and crate will count as your one standard carry-on item. If your pet is too big to fly with you in the cabin, it can still travel in the pressurized cargo compartment of most Air Canada planes. This option can cost you up to $120.75 for flights within the U.S. (including Hawaii) and Canada, or upwards of $300 for international travel.

Recent Changes to Air Canada’s ESA Policy

Air Canada stopped permitting emotional support animals in its aircraft cabins as of March 1, 2021. As a result, the old Air Canada ESA policy is no longer in effect. Under its new accessibility rules, only service dogs fit its definition of a service animal. Cats are considered pets, so they may travel in pet carriers inside airplane cabins. Large pet dogs can travel in either an aircraft's baggage compartment or through the Air Canada Cargo service.

Due to these recent changes, Pettable no longer offers ESA air travel letters. However, your emotional support animal may fit the definition of a psychiatric service dog. You must comply with Air Canada service dog policy and submit a completed U.S. DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form. Get ready for your flight on Air Canada with your DOT form plus a legitimate PSD letter from Pettable.

How to Fly on Air Canada with a Pet or Emotional Support Animal

Before you can embark, you’ll need to let the Air Canada team know that you’ll be traveling with your pet, either in the cabin or baggage compartment. After you’ve booked your flight, contact Air Canada Reservations to register your pet. During this call, you’ll need to provide the dimensions of the carrier, as well as the breed and size/weight of your pet to ensure they qualify for in-cabin travel. The airline strongly recommends registering your pet within 24 hours of your reservation and that you arrive to the airport an extra 30 minutes before your flight (since you’ll need to see an agent at check-in).

How To Fly With Your Psychiatric Service Dog on Air Canada

Because the old Air Canada ESA policy no longer applies, you will need to follow the new Air Canada service dog rules. You should obtain proper documentation in advance of your flight. While the U.S. DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form is the most important requirement, a Pettable psychiatric service dog letter verifies that you need your service animal on your flight. Keep in mind other useful advice for flying with your psychiatric service dog:

  • Prepare your documentation well in advance.
  • Have clearly written descriptions of the assistive tasks performed by your service dog.
  • Confirm any quarantines, restrictions or embargos before your flight.
  • Give your dog exercise before leaving for the airport.
  • Avoid overfeeding and overwatering your dog before your flight.
  • Inform airport security officers that you have a service dog.
  • Cooperate with airport staff and keep your dog under control at all times.

How to Get a Legitimate Psychiatric Service Dog - Pettable’s Process

To bring a psychiatric service dog into your life, Pettable is your one-stop shop. Just take our quick and easy assessment to determine your eligibility and get diagnosed by one of our licensed mental health professionals. If you want, we’ll issue you a PSD letter, but for the best results, you’ll want to consider signing up for Pettable’s PSD training course.

Take Our Assessment

To get started, take the Pettable PSD evaluation assessment. By answering a few questions, we can determine your eligibility for a service dog, and we will match you with one of our professionals to guide you through the rest.

Meet with a Licensed Mental Health Professional

Next, you’ll meet with one of our licensed mental health professionals, who will evaluate your mental and emotional health. They will diagnose your condition and discuss how a PSD can help your daily life and well-being, as well as help you determine the best type of dog for your needs.

Receive a PSD Letter

Optionally, your LMHP can issue you an official PSD letter, which demonstrates your need for the support animal. While it isn’t necessary for your daily life with the PSD, it’s useful to have on hand when applying for housing or bringing them along in public accommodations and spaces.

Train Your Psychiatric Service Dog

The most important step to making your canine companion a PSD is with proper training, such as the program we offer at Pettable. To serve as your PSD, your dog must be trained to perform specific tasks related to your mental health condition. These can include:

  • Fetching medication
  • Performing deep pressure therapy (DPT)
  • Assisting during an epileptic seizure
  • Contacting emergency services in an emergency

Whether you’re adopting a new dog or training your current canine, our online PSD training course can prepare you for the job — from the comfort of your home. The 15-part video series, led by a professional dog trainer, lets you teach your dog at a pace that fits you both, guaranteeing a successful future of support. 

What Is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)?

Before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the United States government took measures to help make air travel more accessible. The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 was one such move. The ACAA prohibits discrimination based on passengers' disabilities and mandates airlines to offer accessible features and facilities. Such accommodations include ramps and mechanical lifts, removable armrests, accessible restrooms, and allowance for mobility aids and service animals.

Emotional Support Animals Under the ACAA

The ACAA originally defined service animals as being trained to assist people with disabilities, but a 2003 DOT policy update allowed ESAs inside airplane cabins. This change allowed each eligible passenger to bring an emotional support dog, cat or other animal for airline travel.

While ESAs do not have to be trained to perform tasks, their presence alone offers support to people dealing with anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar disorders and other developmental/mental health conditions. The 2003 DOT policy change did not significantly limit the kinds of species that could serve as ESAs. Air carriers faced unique challenges as passengers brought animals claimed to be ESAs but with no legitimate documentation.

Most airlines, including Air Canada, no longer allow any type of emotional support animal. They do permit psychiatric service dogs, which can serve the same functions as ESAs for people with mental and emotional support needs. Along with your completed U.S. DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form, a Pettable PSD letter can provide the vital documentation needed for your to travel with your psychiatric service dog.

What Is the Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and Psychiatric Service Dog?

ESAs and psychiatric service dogs help their human guardians in similar ways. Both can help alleviate stress in challenging situations, particularly acute stress experienced by people with disabilities. While the qualifying processes for an ESA and a PSD are similar, service dog training focuses on specific assistive tasks. Depending on your unique needs, your PSD may perform a few important jobs:

  • Detecting early signs of an anxiety attack
  • Applying calming physical pressure on the body
  • Fetching medication as needed
  • Signaling to others that you need space
  • Seek outside assistance if you're in danger
  • Besides meeting the appropriate training guidelines, your PSD will have to be well-behaved in public settings.

Air Canada's Service Dog Policies

Are you traveling with your emotional support animal on Air Canada? If your ESA is also a psychiatric service dog and you have the proper documentation, you're golden. Make sure you follow the new Air Canada service dog policy, not its former policy on emotional support animals. Keep in mind that the policies and procedures detailed here apply to Air Canada Rouge and Air Canada Express flights operated by Jazz Aviation.

Air Canada's Required Documentations

With the old Air Canada emotional support animal policy no longer applicable, you must now have a completed U.S. DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form. You need to include important information on this form: vaccination details plus the names of the dog's handler and trainer. You must also certify that your PSD is trained in specific assistive functions, will not relieve itself on the airplane, can behave appropriately in public and will be leashed at all times. Finally, the form requires you to accept responsibility for any damages the animal may cause.

If your flight will last eight hours or longer, you must also complete the U.S. DOT's Service Animal Relief Attestation Form. You certify that your service dog will either not urinate or defecate on the plane or it can do so in a hygienic manner.

Advance Notice

You should contact the Air Canada Medical Assistance Desk about your psychiatric service dog at least 48 hours before your flight departs. You must notify the desk that you have a service dog and request additional floor space for the dog if needed. You can call the Medical Assistance Desk at 800-667-4732.

Air Canada PSD Letter Policies

Air Canada doesn't explicitly require a PSD letter to fly with your psychiatric service dog. However, having a Pettable PSD letter along with your required DOT forms can ensure smooth check-in and inspection at the airport.

Other Air Canada Pet Policies To Know

It's helpful to know how Air Canada pet policy addresses flying with pets in cabin and baggage compartment areas. Except for fees, pet travel policies are the same for domestic, U.S. inbound and international flights.

Air Canada's Pet Fees

Pet fees on Air Canada differ between domestic and international flights. Expect to pay between $50 and $59 USD on flights within the United States and Canada, excluding Hawaii. International pet fees range between $100 and $118. Air Canada flights to Hawaii do not permit pets in the cabin: They must travel in the baggage compartment via the Air Canada Cargo service.

Air Canada's Breed Restrictions

Air Canada does not specify breed restrictions for service dogs or pets in the cabin. However, snub-nosed breeds cannot travel as checked baggage or through the Air Canada Cargo service. Brachycephalic cats and dogs have flatter and wider skulls, which reduce their breathing efficiency in extreme heat. This feature makes them prone to dangerous overheating, which can lead to severe illness or death. Prohibited breeds include Burmese, British Shorthair and Persian cats along with Boxer, Pekinese and Pug dog breeds. You can find the full list on its website.

Air Canada's Pet Carrier Size Requirements

Air Canada has set size guidelines for small pet carriers. Because the airline mandates that pet carriers be placed underneath the seats, these requirements vary by the type of aircraft. Your pet carrier cannot exceed certain dimensions:

  • Boeing 789: 20H x 40W x 43L centimeters
  • Boeing 788: 20H x 40W x 35L centimeters
  • Boeing 777-300ER and 777-200LR: 21H x 38W x 43L centimeters

Air Canada's Travel Requirements

Pet carriers count toward the airline's carry-on baggage allowance. You cannot take pets in the cabin if you are traveling in Premium Economy class, have a bulkhead or exit row seat, are an unaccompanied minor or are flying in Business class of a Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane.

You may bring only one cat or small dog on your flight. Your pet must be at least 12 weeks old and fully weaned and stay inside its pet carrier at all times. Because you'll need to see an agent at check-in time, you should arrive at least 30 minutes early. You cannot check in at airport self-service kiosks when traveling with your pet in the cabin.

Pettable’s Tips on How to Fly with Your ESA and Psychiatric Service Dogs

Make Sure Your Dog Can Handle Air Travel

Don't just assume your service dog can handle airline travel. Check with your dog's veterinarian and trainer to discuss travel suitability and options.

Understand Airline Service Dog Policies

Remember that U.S. DOT and airline service animal rules can change at any time. Check ahead for any updates before booking your ticket.

Have Ready Access to Your Documents

Keep your completed U.S. DOT forms and Pettable PSD letter in an easy-to-reach place. You'll save time and hassles during the check-in process.


Do service dogs fly for free on Air Canada?

Service dogs may accompany Air Canada passengers for free. On flights to and from the United States, each passenger may have up to two service dogs. Within Canada and to other destinations, each passenger may take only one service dog.

Does Air Canada allow ESA dogs?

Air Canada only permits service animals, including psychiatric service dogs. Small pets may travel inside aircraft cabins while inside their pet carriers.

Can Air Canada deny my ESA?

Because Air Canada service dog policy no longer permits ESAs, you cannot board an Air Canada flight with one unless it is a psychiatric service dog and you have proper documentation.

Which airlines are still allowing ESA dogs?

Most airlines in the United States no longer allow emotional support animals. However, a few air carriers allow ESAs. These include North American-based carriers such as Latam, Volaris and WestJet plus several international airlines:

  • Air France
  • Asiana Air
  • China Airlines
  • KLM
  • Lufthansa
  • Singapore Air

Check with each carrier for its specific policies. Some may only permit ESA dogs, while others have weight and breed restrictions.

Can my dog sit on my lap during an Air Canada flight?

No, service dogs must be leashed, harnessed or tethered during your flight. Small pets must travel in their appropriately sized carriers, which should fit under passenger seats inside the aircraft cabin.