Spirit Airlines Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and Psychiatric Service Dog Policy

Spirit Airlines Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and Psychiatric Service Dog Policy

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 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.

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.

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 Your Legitimate Psychiatric Service Dog Letter With Pettable

On the Pettable site you only need to take a few easy steps to obtain a psychiatric service dog letter:

Answer a few simple questions about yourself, your pet, the state you reside in and the reason you need the psychiatric service dog letter.

Fill in a simple mental health questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist in your state.

Meet with your therapist.

Once approved you'll receive your psychiatric service dog letter within 48 hours.

What Is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)?

The Air Carrier Access Act was created to protect those with disabilities from discrimination. It requires air carriers to make accommodations for disabilities by making aircraft, airport facilities and all services available for those passengers with a disability.

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.

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

Psychiatric service dogs are specifically trained to provide a direct service to their owners which assists them in managing a disability. For instance, a PSD may be trained to alert its owner about an impending panic attack or to retrieve their medication when they are incapacitated.

Emotional support animals do not perform specific tasks for their owners. Their primary purpose is to provide comfort when their owner is in distress.

Spirit Airline's Service Dog Policies

Passengers traveling with a service dog will need to follow the Spirit Airlines service animal policies closely to ensure a smooth transaction.

Spirit Airline's Required Documentations

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.

Advanced Notice

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.

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.

Approved animals are small domestic dogs and cats. Except for flights to Puerto Rico and the USVI, this also includes rabbits and small household birds. Poultry, waterfowl, birds of prey, game birds, and flightless birds are not considered to be 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.

Spirit Airline's Pet Fees

Spirit Airlines charges a fee of $110 per pet carrier for each flight, regardless of whether the carrier contains one pet or two.

Spirit Airline's Breed Restrictions

Spirit Airlines does not list specific breed restrictions for pets; however, the size and weight limits for pet carriers will naturally disclude some breeds. There are no breed restrictions placed on service dogs.

Spirit Airline's 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. Passengers should become acquainted with requirements and restrictions before planning their flight.

Domestic

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.

International

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.

US Inbound

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.

Pettable's Tips on How To Fly With Your ESA and Psychiatric Service Dogs

Flying with your ESA or psychiatric service dog doesn't have to be difficult, but it does require some planning ahead:

Visit the Pettables website to find out how to get a psychiatric service animal designation for your emotional support dog.

All airlines accept service animals but regulations can change without notice. Contact Spirit Airlines to make sure you know their current service dog policy.

Complete all necessary forms far in advance of your flight.

Take printed versions of forms and records with you to the airport.

3 Tips To Make Traveling With Your Pet Easier for Everyone

Traveling with a pet, even a trained service animal, can be challenging. Use the following suggestions to make the process less stressful.

Be Proactive

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.

FAQ

Do Service Dogs Fly for Free On Spirit Airlines?

Yes, all service dogs can fly with their owners in the aircraft cabin free of charge.

Does Spirit Airlines allow ESA Dogs?

Airlines no longer have to make accommodations for emotional support animals. but your ESA can still fly on Spirit Airlines domestic flights if it meets the requirements of their standard pet policy.

Can Spirit Airlines Deny My ESA?

Since emotional support animals are no longer considered to be service animals, Spirit Airlines is within their rights to refuse them access if they don't meet standard pet criteria.

Which Airlines Are Still Allowing ESA Dogs?

Due to recent changes to DOT regulations, emotional support animals are no longer protected under the ACAA. Go to the Pettable website to educate yourself on which airlines still accept emotional support animals.

Can My Dog Sit On My Lap During a Spirit Airlines Flight

Spirit airlines' service dog policy states that animals no bigger than a 2-year old child are allowed to sit on their owner's laps or at their feet. Other pets must be contained in a pet carrier stored under the seat in front of their owner.