Flying with emotional support animals has been a controversial topic for several years, with some airlines and passengers complaining about disruptive behavior. In January 2021, a new United States Department of Transportation policy for ESAs went into effect and many airlines, including Alaska Airlines, changed their ESA policies in response. This guide covers the current Alaska Airlines ESA policy and the Alaska Airlines policy for psychiatric service animals.
The Bottom Line:
- Does Alaska Airlines Still Accept ESA Letters? Alaska Airlines' service animal policy no longer includes emotional support animals. However, you can travel with your psychiatric service dog in aircraft cabins.
- What Is a PSD Letter? Besides the required US DOT forms, a PSD letter documents that you're traveling with a psychiatric service dog. The letter states that you have a qualifying disability that legally entitles you to have a PSD.
- How Do You Get a PSD Letter? Pettable makes it convenient to get a PSD letter. Take a short quiz to be matched with a mental health professional partnered with Pettable. You can receive your letter in as little as 24 hours if you qualify.
- How Do You Qualify for a PSD Letter? People with mental or emotional health disabilities can qualify for a psychiatric support dog. Some examples include depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, and personality disorders.
- How To Get Started? Fill out our brief online assessment to find out if you're eligible.
Recent Changes to Alaska Air’s ESA Policy
In January 2021, the USDOT stopped classifying emotional support animals as service animals. However, the new guidelines require airlines to treat psychiatric service animals in the same manner as other service animals. This means that airlines must treat PSDs like other service animals (e.g., guide dogs) and allow them to travel with their owners.
In response to the change in federal regulations, Alaska Airlines modified its service animal guidelines to no longer accept emotional support animals as service animals. In fact, Alaska Airlines was the first U.S. airline to ban ESAs after the DOT announced its change of policy. Passengers may still travel with ESAs if they meet the Alaska Airlines pet guidelines and pay the fee.
Alaska Airlines requires passengers traveling with a psychiatric service animal to provide documentation. Though not specifically required, a psychiatric service dog letter from Pettable may be useful for documenting your PSD's status. Because most U.S. airlines no longer accept emotional support animals as service animals, Pettable no longer provides an ESA letter for travel.
How to Fly with Your Psychiatric Service Dog on Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines requests passengers who will be traveling with a service animal to contact Alaska Airlines in advance and notify the customer service agent when they arrive at the airport. Guests traveling with service animals are not permitted to sit in an emergency exit row. Alaska Airlines recommends selecting a window seat to protect animals from foot traffic.
How to Get Your Legitimate Psychiatric Service Dog Letter with Pettable
Pettable makes it easy to get a PSD letter that meets federal and state guidelines.
Complete the initial assessment online
Start by completing a 3-minute online quiz. This assessment includes questions about your mental health needs and uses your answers to determine whether you are likely to qualify for a psychiatric service dog. Once you finish the quiz, you’ll need to select the type of letter you need: travel, housing, or a package that includes both.
Get evaluated by a licensed mental health professional
Pettable will use your quiz results to match you with a professional therapist certified to practice in your state. You’ll need to complete and e-sign some privacy and consent forms, and then you can schedule your telehealth appointment. During the consultation, the therapist will discuss your mental health condition and determine whether you would benefit from a PSD.
Receive your psychiatric service dog letter
The therapist will let you know at the end of your evaluation if you are eligible for a PSD. They will create and sign an official PSD letter that meets federal and state requirements. With rush service, you can get your letter within 24 hours (California residents excluded).
We guarantee your satisfaction and will provide a full refund if your letter doesn’t work as intended.
What is the Air Carrer Access Act (ACAA)?
The Air Carrier Access Act makes it illegal to discriminate against someone during air travel based on a disability. This DOT rule applies to all U.S. airlines and foreign airlines flying to or from the United States.
Airlines are not allowed to refuse passage to someone because of a disability unless transporting that person creates a safety issue. Additionally, airlines must make reasonable accommodations to support a passenger’s disability, including allowing them to travel with a fully trained and well-behaved service animal. Airlines may require up to 48 hours advance notice for service animal accommodations. The ACAA also allows airlines to require a passenger to fill out forms with details about their service animal’s training, health, and behavior.
Emotional Support Animals under the ACAA
The Alaska Airlines emotional support animal policy was revised effective January 11, 2021, after the USDOT amended its rules to no longer consider emotional support animals to be service animals. The airline cited past issues with disturbances caused by ESAs on flights as a reason for the change. Airline regulations now allow a maximum of two service dogs per guest, including a psychiatric service dog. An ESA that is not a trained service dog (per the Alaska Airlines service dog policy) may travel as a pet.
What is the Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and Psychiatric Service Dog?
Psychiatric service dogs are trained to assist their handlers with specific tasks. Most PSDs have also completed basic behavioral training. ESAs provide emotional support but have not been trained to perform specific tasks.
Federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, require most public facilities and businesses, including airlines, to accommodate service animals. Because a psychiatric service dog performs specific tasks related to its owner's disability, it meets the legal requirements for a service animal. Thus, airlines are required to treat PSDs as service animals and make reasonable accommodations for them.
Unlike airlines, housing providers are required by law to accommodate emotional support animals. ESAs may have extensive behavioral training or none at all; landlords may deny an ESA request if the animal is uncontrollable or not housebroken.
Alaska Air’s Service Dog Policies
Trained service animals may travel on Alaska Airlines for free. However, they must meet the following guidelines:
- Must remain in the guest's seat or the foot area of the guest's seat without encroaching on other passengers' space for the entire flight
- Only animals that are no larger than an infant may travel in the guest's lap
- Animals must not exhibit disruptive behaviors
- Animals cannot occupy seats or tray tables or block aisles or emergency evacuation areas
- No more than two service dogs per guest
Alaska Airlines accepts service animals that are in training if they meet the following requirements:
- Animal is being transported to the new owner or handler
- 48 hours advance notice given
- Trainer is transporting the service animal
- Trainer can provide the new owner or handler's home city and name
- Must confirm available space in the cabin or cargo department before the flight
- Travel is entirely within the United States
Alaska Air’s Required Documentations
Passengers must submit a completed DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form. Alaska Airlines must finish processing the form at least 48 hours before the flight, so it is a good idea to submit the form as early as possible. If the ticket for the flight was purchased less than 48 hours in advance, the passenger may complete the form at the airport but should arrive early to allow time for processing.
Once you have submitted your form online and it has been verified, you shouldn’t need to show it at the airport. However, the airline recommends carrying a printable copy in case of a technical outage. Passengers who are connecting to a flight with a partner airline must contact that airline to determine the required documentation.
Additional Documentation for Service Animals in Training
Passengers traveling with a service animal in training must provide documentation on official letterhead that proves the animal is in or has completed training. They must also provide a health certificate from a local veterinarian or assistance organization and an official Trainer ID card.
Additional Documentation for Passengers Traveling to Hawaii
Passengers traveling to Hawaii must provide documentation per the strict guidelines and programs in place to prevent rabies transmission. Otherwise, the service animal may be quarantined for up to 120 days in Honolulu at the owner's expense.
Additional Documentation for International Travelers
Passengers traveling to international destinations must ensure they have obtained all of the specific documentation required by the country they are traveling to. Otherwise, the service animal may be quarantined at the owner's expense.
Alaska Airlines recommends guests traveling with PSDs make reservations as early as possible and make service requests online or call the accessible services line at 1-800-503-0101 (dial 711 for relay services).
They also recommend arriving at the airport a minimum of two hours before departure. Guests should notify the airline about any special requirements at check-in, on the aircraft, and in the boarding area.
Other Alaska Airlines Pet Policies To Know
Alaska Airlines allows pets to travel in the cabin or the cargo compartment if there is available space. To find out more, contact reservations at 1-800-252-7522. The airline doesn’t allow pets in the cargo compartment on certain flights during the holiday season, November 15 through January 10. Animals that meet the airline’s pet policy requirements may still travel in the cabin on these flights. Additionally, pets may be allowed to travel as checked baggage on flights operating entirely within the state of Alaska.
The airline does not transfer pets traveling in the cargo compartment to other airlines. If you have a connecting flight with another airline, you must claim your pets and recheck them with the connecting airline.
Alaska Airlines’ Pet Fees
The fee for pets traveling in the cabin or in the cargo compartment on Alaska Airlines is $100 per pet each way. The fee is higher for Alaska Airlines flights that depart from Canada: $105 each way. If you are connecting to another airline, you may be charged an additional fee by that airline.
Alaska Airlines’ Breed Restrictions
Brachycephalic (“flat-faced”) dogs, such as bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, and pugs, may not travel in the cargo compartment of any Alaska Airlines flight, including those operated by Horizon and SkyWest. The same rule applies to short-nosed cats, such as Burmese, Himalayan, and Persian felines. These breeds are permitted in the cabin if their carrier fits under the seat.
Alaska Airlines’ Pet Carrier Size Requirements
There are different carrier requirements for travel in the cabin and travel in the baggage or cargo compartments.
Carriers in the Cabin
To fly in the cabin, pets must be small enough to fit comfortably in a kennel that can be stored under the seat. Hard-sided carriers must be no larger than 17" x 11" x 7.5". Soft-sided carriers must be no larger than 17" x 11" x 9.5". A pet carrier counts toward your carry-on bag allowance. You may bring up to two pet carriers in the cabin, but you must purchase an additional seat next to yours so you can place the second carrier under it.
Pets Traveling in Checked Baggage
Alaska Airlines allows most small-sized domesticated animals to fly in climate-controlled baggage or cargo compartments. Some examples of acceptable pets are cats, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, non-venomous reptiles, and tropical fish.
Pets traveling in checked baggage may need to meet the check-in requirements of the specific airport you are departing from. Pets are not allowed to travel in the baggage compartment of the Airbus fleet because the cargo space is not heated.
Pets Traveling in Cargo
If you are not traveling on the same flight as your pet, your pet will be transported using Alaska Airlines’ Pet Connect service. Kennels must be large enough for your pet to turn freely in a standing position, sit, stand erect, and lie down. The maximum size belly load kennel is 53" x 48" x 34".
Alaska Air’s Travel Requirements
All pets traveling in the cargo compartment must have a health certificate dated within 10 days of outbound travel and 30 days of return travel. Pets traveling in the cabin are not required to have a health certificate. However, some states have health and vaccination requirements.
Passengers who are at least 18 years old may travel with dogs, cats, household birds, and rabbits in the cabin. Dogs and cats must be fully weaned and at least 8 weeks old. They must be accustomed to eating solid food for at least five days without nursing. Dogs and cats traveling in baggage or cargo must also meet age and size restrictions.
Only dogs and cats may travel on international flights. Health and vaccination requirements vary by destination. You are responsible for remaining compliant with both U.S. regulations and those of the country to which you are traveling. Alaska Airlines will not reimburse any additional costs you incur by not meeting the foreign country’s documentation requirements.
Only dogs and cats may travel to the United States from a non-U.S. location. All animals must have a valid health certificate that shows the breed, age, sex, and description of the animal. A family is limited to bringing two animals into the U.S. per flight from Mexico. Proof of rabies vaccination may be required when transporting animals from high-risk countries, per CDC requirements. You can find more information about specific countries' requirements on the Alaska Airlines website.
Pettable’s Tips on How to Fly with Your ESA and Psychiatric Service Dogs
These tips will help you have a better travel experience with your psychiatric service dog or emotional support animal.
Book your flight online or by phone as early as possible. This gives you the best chance to secure your seat while there is still enough space for you and your animal and allows plenty of time to check requirements, gather documentation, and deal with any issues that occur.
Check Requirements at Your Destination
Different states within the United States and destinations outside the U.S. have requirements that exceed those of Alaska Airlines. Make sure you know the requirements before you book your flight. This is especially important if you are flying internationally; you must abide by U.S. regulations and those of the country you are visiting.
Exercise Your Dog Before Boarding
If possible, take your dog for a walk in a designated animal relief area to exercise and use the bathroom.
Offer Food and Water
If your pet is flying in the cargo compartment, you must offer them food and water within four hours of check-in. You must offer enough food and water for the duration of the flight, and you must complete a Pet Check record during check-in indicating that you offered adequate food and water.
If you have a connecting flight, you are responsible for picking up your pet at baggage claim and re-checking them onto the new flight. If your connection is longer than four hours, you must offer food and water again.
These are some of the most commonly asked questions by Alaska Airlines guests.
Do service dogs fly for free on Alaska Airlines?
All service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, that meet the Alaska Airlines requirements fly free.
Does Alaska Airlines allow ESA dogs?
Emotional support animal dogs may travel on Alaska Airlines as pets, but not as service animals.
Can Alaska Airlines deny my ESA?
ESAs are subject to Alaska Airlines' pet policies and may be denied per those policies.
Which airlines are still allowing ESA dogs?
The majority of U.S. airlines no longer allow ESA dogs to fly as service dogs. You will need to pay the pet fee and follow the pet policies to travel with your ESA on most domestic airlines.
There are several North American airlines that allow ESAs:
- Latam Airlines
Additionally, you can fly with ESAs on several international carriers:
- Air France
- China Airlines
- Asiana Air
- Singapore Air
Policies are subject to restrictions and may change, so it is best to check with the airline before purchasing tickets.
Can my dog sit on my lap during an Alaska Airlines flight?
Your service dog may sit on your lap during the flight if the dog fits in your lap without encroaching on other passengers' space. ESAs must remain in their carrier under the seat per the Alaska airlines pet policy.
Can Alaska Airlines ask for proof of a service dog?
Under DOT regulations, an airline can require a passenger to provide a completed form documenting the service animal’s health, behavior, and training. For flights longer than eight hours, the airline can require a form attesting that the service animal can avoid relieving itself or do so in a sanitary manner.
Can Alaska Airlines deny a psychiatric service dog?
In some cases, yes. Airlines can deny a service animal that poses a health and safety threat, causes a significant disruption in the airport, or is too large to fit in the cabin.
Can you fly on Alaska Airlines with your ESA if you have an ESA letter?
Alaska Airlines does not accept emotional support animals under the same conditions as service animals. An ESA letter will not allow you to avoid the airline’s rules and fees for pet travel.
Can Alaska Airlines ask for proof of a psychiatric service dog?
An airline can ask questions about what tasks the PSD performs to support your disability. The easiest way to prove that your psychiatric service dog is a service animal is to provide the airline with an official PSD letter from Pettable.