The Bottom Line:
- Does Spirit Airlines Still Accept ESA Letters? - Spirit Airlines no longer considers ESAs to be service animals, so they do not accept ESA letters.
- What is a PSD Letter? - A PSD letter serves as documentation that a licensed mental health professional has confirmed that you are eligible to live with a PSD.
- How Do You Get a PSD Letter? - A licensed mental health professional in the state you live in can provide you with a PSD letter.
- How Do You Qualify for a PSD Letter? - You must be evaluated by a licensed mental health professional in your state to determine if you have a qualifying disability.
- How To Get a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD)? - You must have a qualifying mental health disability and train your dog on a task to assist with symptoms of that disability.
- How to Get Started? - Pettable will match you with a licensed mental health professional in your state after you complete the 3-minute quiz.
Traveling long distances with a beloved pet can cause high levels of stress for all pet owners. For those whose pets also serve as emotional support animals, air travel can cause even higher levels of anxiety. You must remain abreast of current regulations and policies that affect your ability to include your ESA in your travel plans. Pettable is an excellent resource to help you overcome the difficulties of air travel with your psychiatric service dog.
What Is Spirit Airlines Pet Policy?
Pet lovers will be happy to learn about Spirit Airlines’ pet policy, which is generally among the more animal-friendly air carriers. For one thing, the company allows small, domesticated pets to accompany their owners in the cabin for domestic flights, including Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. However, this is limited to domesticated dogs and cats, as well as small household birds or rabbits (which are not allowed on flights to Puerto Rico and St. Thomas). Because of its well-known compact airplanes, pets are never transported in the cargo department, so larger dogs and cats are out of luck.
If you want to fly Spirit with your small pet, they’ll need to be diminutive enough to ride into a carrier that fits under the seat in front of yours, and they have to be small enough to stand up in the crate. Like many other airlines, Spirit considers ESAs pets, so unconventional animals such as lizards and snakes, are not permitted on its flights.
Other Spirit Airlines Pet Policies To Know
The Spirit Airlines pet policy allows small domesticated animals to travel in the aircraft cabin on domestic flights. This includes flights to and from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The current Spirit Airline policy for emotional support animals is that they be treated as pets and are subject to the airline's regular pet policies, whereas service dogs are allowed to travel with you as long as they meet the proper requirements.
Of course, airline pet policies are never totally simple or straightforward. Spirit has some additional pet rules you’ll have to parse through before checking in for your flight. Make sure to review these thoroughly so you don’t wind up missing your flight.
Spirit Airlines' Pet Fees
The cost of bringing your pet onboard a plane with you depends on where you're traveling, and Spirit Airlines charges a fee of $110 per pet carrier for each flight, regardless of whether the carrier contains one pet or two.
Spirit Airlines' Breed Restrictions
Spirit Airlines does not list specific breed restrictions for pets; however, the size and weight limits for pet carriers will naturally exclude some breeds. There are no breed restrictions placed on service dogs.
Spirit Airlines' Pet Carrier Size Requirements
Pet carriers must fit underneath a seat and cannot be larger than 18 x 14 x 9 inches. Carriers must be soft-sided and completely enclosed.
Spirit Airline's Travel Requirements
Spirit Airlines has a limited pet policy. Approved animals are small domestic dogs and cats. Except for flights to Puerto Rico and the USVI, this includes rabbits and small household birds. Poultry, waterfowl, birds of prey, game birds, and flightless birds are not considered household birds and are excluded from the policy.
Additional restrictions include:
- A health certificate is required for animals traveling to USVI.
- A rabies vaccination certificate is required for animals going to Puerto Rico.
- Animals must be at least eight weeks old and weaned from their mother.
- All animals must be contained in a pet carrier for the entirety of the flight and must be able to stand and move freely.
- No more than two animals can be in each pet carrier, and each passenger is limited to one carrier.
- There is a limit of six pet carriers on each flight.
- Pet carriers must be stored under the seat in front of the passenger who brought them into the aircraft cabin.
Service animals and approved pets are allowed on all domestic flights. Additional requirements for a health certificate or rabies vaccination record exist for Puerto Rico and USVI.
With the exception of service dogs, the Spirit Airlines pet policy does not allow animals on international flights. Additional regulations may exist for service dogs traveling to other countries; passengers should contact Spirit Airlines for more information on their destination.
With the exception of service dogs, the Spirit Airlines pet policy does not allow animals on flights inbound to the U.S. from other destinations. Service dogs returning to the U.S. from other countries may fall under CDC dog import regulations as well.
Recent Changes to Spirit Airline's ESA Policy
The Spirit Airlines ESA policy has been modified significantly with the recent regulatory changes that were passed by the U.S. Department of Transportation in January 2021. Whereas emotional support animals were previously viewed as support animals, they no longer benefit from that designation and are now subject to the same policies as domestic pets.
The recent DOT regulations outline important alterations in previous policy that all pet owners should be aware of:
Limits the definition of a service animal to a dog that is specifically trained to take action to mitigate its owner's disability
States that an ESA is not a service animal
Allows airlines to require DOT documentation both 48 hours before a flight and at the boarding gate
Allows airlines to limit the number, size, and containment method of a service animal
Requires airlines to apply the same allowances to psychiatric service animals as all other service animals
It may be possible to obtain a psychiatric service animal designation for your ESA that will allow you to continue to benefit from its presence on flights. Pettable provides a simple process to help you obtain your PSD letter.
What Is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)?
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits discrimination based on disability in air travel. The Department of Transportation has a rule defining passengers' rights and airlines' obligations under this law. This rule applies to all U.S. airlines and flights to or from the United States by foreign airlines, including Spirit Airlines.
Under the Air Carrier Access Act, a service animal is any animal that is individually trained or able to assist a person with a disability; or any animal that helps persons with disabilities by providing emotional support. Documentation of passengers needing to travel with emotional support or psychiatric service animals may be required.
As of January 2021, the Air Carrier Access Act no longer categorized emotional support animals as service animals. Therefore, ESAs are now prohibited from traveling on aircraft unless the airline regulations have specific guidelines for traveling with pets. However, service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, are still allowed on airplanes, regardless of the airlines' pet policy.
Emotional Support Animals Under the ACAA
Prior to 2021, emotional support animals were included in the protections of the ACAA. Under the new regulations, however, the ACAA only applies to service animals and psychiatric support animals.
Per the new DOT regulations, the Spirit Airlines ESA policy is to require passengers wishing to fly with their emotional support animal to do so under the airline's regular pet policy. The airline no longer recognizes an ESA as a psychiatric service animal.
Spirit Airlines Service Dog Policies
While ESAs have to follow a strict set of rules, just like pets, trained service dogs have some more flexibility when it comes to flying with Spirit Airlines — literally. Thanks to their status as official working animals, service dogs can skip the crate and sit on their owners’ laps, as long as they are about the size of a two-year-old child. If it is seated on the floor, your service dog can’t invade other passengers’ space or block the aisle. Most importantly, service dogs must be on their best behavior; that means they can’t show any signs of aggression or disruption or intimidate any other travelers.
Spirit Airlines Required Documentation
Before you can board your flight, Spirit Airlines requires that you fill out the U.S. Department of Transportation's Service Animal Air Transportation Form. The airline prefers that you submit it on their website. Documents may be presented at the gate, but if Spirit Airlines staff are unable to verify the documents before the flight, you may need to reschedule for a later departure. The form must be dated on or after the date that you purchased your ticket and fully completed, including updated rabies vaccinations.
Spirit Airlines requires that you submit a DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form for each service animal traveling with you. The airline strongly suggests that you submit the form at least 48 hours prior to your flight.
For reservations or questions regarding flights or policy, contact Spirit Airlines toll-free at 1-855-SAVE-555 (855-728-3555); passengers who are hearing impaired should dial 711 for TTY/TTD. You can also reach Spirit Airlines by text at 48763, or use 855-728-3555 on WhatsApp.
Additional Spirit Airlines Policies
The DOT form is an official government document; therefore, all information on it must be correct. Deliberate misstatements could be seen as fraudulent and considered a federal crime. Spirit Airlines makes clear on its site that incidences of false documents will be reported to the appropriate authorities.
How To Fly With Your Psychiatric Service Dog on Spirit Airlines
Psychiatric service animals are bound by Spirit Airline's service animal policies which allow two service dogs per passenger. You cannot sit in an emergency exit when you are accompanied by a service dog and the animal must be small enough to sit in your lap or at your feet. The animal cannot block the aisle or infringe on another passenger's space. If your service dog's size doesn't comply with these restrictions, you may need to purchase an extra seat.
Airline personnel can ask if your dog is needed due to a disability and what service it provides. They cannot ask for detailed information about a disability or a demonstration of your service dog's skills. Airline personnel may also assess your service dog's behavior. Any aggressive or disruptive behavior from the animal can lead to a refusal to allow it to board the plane.
How to Get a Psychiatric Service Dog — Pettable’s Process
If you think you would benefit from training your canine companion to be a psychiatric service dog (PSD), Pettable can help you make it happen. We offer a peerless online PSD training program led by certified trainers and self-paced to fit you and your dog’s needs. We’re so confident in our program that we offer a 100% money-back guarantee. Although it’s not required for most encounters with your service dog, we can write you an official PSD letter to provide you with documentation and peace of mind.
Take Our Assessment
To get started, take the online Pettable assessment. By answering some easy questions, we can confirm your eligibility, match you to the right mental health expert, and give you and your dog the best possible outcome.
Meet with a Licensed Mental Health Professional
Next, we’ll schedule an appointment with one of our licensed mental health professionals (LMHP). During this meeting, the LMHP will ask you some questions to get to know you, your dog, and your disability. Once they have all the information they need, they can officially diagnose you with your mental health disorder, giving you the green flag for moving on to training.
Train Your Psychiatric Service Dog
Now that you officially qualify for a PSD, you can enroll in Pettable’s online PSD training program. You’ll be self-paced as you access and complete the 15 online training lessons led by a certified dog trainer. Completing this training course is the most important aspect of the process; your PSD must be properly schooled in performing the necessary tasks to have a positive impact on your mental health disorder.
Receive a PSD Letter
Once you have completed training, we can issue you a certificate of completion and an official PSD letter. Although it isn’t needed for bringing your service dog along with you, a PSD letter can come in handy in situations where you get pushback about your animal’s status. Think of it as insurance against grumpy landlords and overworked restaurant managers.
What Is the Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Emotional support animals and psychiatric service dogs are vastly different. Below are some critical differences between ESAs and psychiatric service dogs that are important to keep in mind.
Any animal can be an emotional support animal. Under federal law, only dogs and miniature horses can be service animals.
An emotional support animal assists through its presence alone. A service animal is specially trained to perform tasks for someone with a disability.
An emotional support animal requires no training; all that's needed is a letter from a licensed mental health professional explaining its therapeutic value. Service animals must undergo individualized training.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act protects service animals, it does not cover emotional support animals. Emotional support animals are covered only under the Air Carrier Access Act and Fair Housing Act.
A service animal can go anywhere its owner goes. While owners of emotional support animals may get away with bringing them into places where pets aren't allowed, the only places legally required to welcome them are housing units.
Pettable's Tips on How To Fly With Your ESA and Psychiatric Service Dogs
Traveling with trained service dogs or emotional support animals is always an adventure. Follow these tips for a great trip.
Before flying with your emotional support animal or psychiatric service dog, it's essential to remember the rules and regulations regarding pets, ESAs, and PSDs before heading to the airport. Ensure you have the proper documentation, including a valid ESA or PSD letter for travel. Be prepared to pay any fees for bringing your pet on board the place. Knowing the correct requirements for your pet (including breed restrictions, carrier requirements, and destination restrictions) before boarding the plane can make the traveling process a lot less stressful for you and your animal.
Consider the Temperature
If your emotional support animal must be checked into the cargo compartment, keep the outside temperature in mind. If it's extremely hot or cold outside, you could be putting your pet at risk. Schedule direct flights so your animal spends less time on the tarmac, and travel during the more excellent parts of the day in summer (early morning and late evening) and the warmest part of the day in winter (midday). Some airlines won't even allow pets in the cargo area if the outside temperature exceeds certain thresholds.
Even if your service dog is trained to be calm in any situation, flying on a plane for the first time is an unknown. Speak with your veterinarian about medication to help your dog relax if the flight turns out to be more than it can handle.
Invest in a Service Dog Vest
Your service dog needs to be focused on you during the flight. That can be challenging if other passengers overwhelm it with attention. Wearing a vest that identifies it as a service animal will act as a deterrent for most people, and provide you with a polite excuse if you need to ask passengers to curb their enthusiasm.
Plan for Delays
Adding an animal to your travel plans is certain to make your progress through the airport slower. Add 30 minutes to your arrival time to ensure that you and your pet get to your seat without undue stress.
Do you have more questions about flying on Spirit Airlines with your ESA? These answers may help.
Do emotional support animals fly free on Spirit?
No, emotional support animals no longer fly free on Spirit flights. If your furry friend is an emotional support animal or pet, a fee will apply when flying on Spirit Airlines. Psychiatric service animals and service animals are exempt from these fees. Pets are only allowed inside the aircraft cabin, and the total weight of the carrier and the animal cannot exceed 40 lbs.
Can Spirit deny my ESA?
Yes, Spirit Airlines can deny your ESA if you do not follow their pet policy. Under federal law, airlines must allow people with disabilities to bring their assistance animals on planes. But airlines are now allowed to restrict service animals to dogs and to treat emotional support animals like pets.
How do I get my emotional support animal on a plane?
To fly with an emotional support animal on participating airlines, you will need an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. The LMHP will also need to fill out forms provided by the airline. Most airlines require that ESA documents be submitted 48 hours before departure. With Pettable, you can get an official ESA letter in as little as 24 hours.
Can airlines ask for proof of service dogs?
Airlines that allow ESAs or service dogs may require a U.S. DOT form attesting to the animal's health, behavior, and training and a U.S. DOT form attesting that the animal can either not relieve itself or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner if the animal is on a flight that is eight or more hours.
How much does Spirit Airlines charge for pets?
Spirit Airlines charges a flat $110 fee for bringing your pet into the cabin on domestic flights, regardless of the breed or type of animal. Spirit does not carry pets in the cargo hold.