Alaska Air Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and Psychiatric Service Dog Policy

Alaska Air Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and Psychiatric Service Dog Policy

The Bottom Line:

  • Does Alaska Airlines Still Accept ESA Letters? Alaska Air's 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. 

Flying with emotional support animals has been a controversial topic for several years with some airlines and passengers complaining about disruptive behavior. In January of 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 Air ESA policy and the Alaska Airlines policy for psychiatric service animals.

Recent Changes to Alaska Air’s ESA Policy

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.

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. 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.

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 getting a legitimate psychiatric service dog letter easy. Start by completing a 3-minute assessment that asks about your needs. Pettable will use your answers to match you with a professional therapist in your state. You can then work with the therapist to get your PSD letter. You should receive your letter within 24 hours of being approved.

What is the Air Carrer Access Act (ACAA)?

The Air Carrier Access Act makes it illegal to discriminate against someone in air travel based on a disability. This DOT rule (Title 14 CFR Part 382) applies to all U.S. airlines flights 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. Airlines may require up to 48 hours advance notice for accommodations, such as transporting a service animal, that require preparation time.

Emotional Support Animals under the ACAA

The Alaska Air 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. The airline now accepts a maximum of two service dogs per guest, including your psychiatric service dog. ESAs that are not a trained service dog per the Alaska air service dog policy may travel as pets.

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. ESAs provide emotional support but have not been trained to perform specific tasks. The law requires most businesses and public facilities, such as airlines, to accommodate psychiatric service dogs. Only housing providers are required to accommodate ESAs. A psychiatric service dog has completed basic behavioral training in addition to specific training needed to assist the dogs' owners. ESAs may have extensive behavioral training or none at all.

Alaska Air’s Service Dog Policies

Trained service animals may travel on Alaska Airlines for free. However, they must meet the 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 can not 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 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 should not 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 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.

Advanced Notice

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.

Alaska Airlines offers its Fly for All app for iOS and Android devices to assist customers with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

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. Contact reservations at 1-800-252-7522.

The airline does not transfer pets traveling in the baggage compartment to other airlines. If you have a connecting flight with another airline, you must claim your pets and recheck them to the connecting airline.

Alaska Air's Pet Fees

The fee for pets traveling in the cabin or baggage on Alaska Airlines is $100.00 per carrier each way. If you are connecting to another airline, you may be charged an additional fee by that airline.

Alaska Air's Breed Restrictions

Brachycephalic dogs and cats, such as bulldogs and Persian cats, may not travel in the cargo compartment of any Alaska Airlines flight. These breeds are permitted in the cabin if their carrier fits under the seat.

Alaska Air’s 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

Carriers in the cabin must be small enough to fit comfortably in a kennel 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".

Pets Traveling in Checked Baggage

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 Air's 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.

Domestic

Passengers who are at least 18 years old may travel with dogs, cats, household birds and rabbits in the cabin. Additionally, ferrets, guinea pigs, non-poisonous reptiles, hamsters, tropical fish and pot-bellied pigs may travel in the baggage and cargo compartments. Dogs and cats traveling in baggage or cargo must also meet age and size restrictions.

International

Only dogs and cats may travel on international flights. Health and vaccinations requirements vary by destination.

US Inbound

Only dogs and cats may travel to the United States from a non-US location. All animals must have a valid health certificate that shows the breed, age, sex and description of the animals. 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 Air 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 Early

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.

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.

FAQ

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 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 Air's 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.

Several North American airlines still accept ESAs:

Volaris

Latam Airlines

Westjet

Additionally, you can fly with ESAs on several international carriers:

Air France

China Airlines

Asiana Air

Lufthansa

KLM

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.