Virgin Atlantic Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and Psychiatric Service Dog Policy

Virgin Atlantic Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and Psychiatric Service Dog Policy

The Bottom Line:

  • Does Virgin Atlantic Still Accept ESA Letters? - Unless your emotional support animal is also a service dog, you can not travel with it in the cabin as a service animal. An ESA letter will not change this.
  • What is a PSD Letter? - Psychiatric service dogs can travel in the cabin as service animals with the proper documentation. A PSD letter serves as supporting documentation.
  • How Do You Get a PSD Letter? - A statement from a licensed mental health professional in your state on official letterhead is required, so you must schedule a consultation with a qualified professional.
  • How Do You Qualify for a PSD Letter? - The mental health professional you choose will review your history and evaluate you to determine if you have a qualifying disability.
  • How to Get Started? - Answer the questions in the Pettable 3-minute quiz. Pettable uses your responses to find a compatible mental health professional in your area.

You may have heard about changes in the U.S. DOT's rules on traveling by air with emotional support animals. If you're scheduled for upcoming Virgin Atlantic flights, you may be concerned about updates to Virgin Atlantic ESA policy. In this guide, you'll learn about these changes plus what you need to know about traveling with a psychiatric service dog in an aircraft cabin.

Recent Changes to Virgin Atlantic’s ESA Policy

The United States Department of Transportation amended its rules on emotional support animals in December 2020. Effective January 2021, the U.S. DOT no longer classifies ESAs as service animals. The new rules also define a service animal as a "dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."

Similarly, Virgin Atlantic emotional support animal policy has also changed for flights departing from or arriving in the United States. The airline permits assistance and guide dogs to travel in the cabin with their human guardians. For U.S. travel, its policy requires passengers with assistance dogs to complete the U.S. DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form. Travelers on flights lasting eight hours or more must also fill out the U.S. DOT's Service Animal Relief Attestation Form.

To travel with your ESA in an airplane cabin, the animal must be classified as a service dog. For this reason, Pettable no longer offers ESA travel letters. An official psychiatric service dog letter documents that you have a qualifying disability and need the animal to travel with you. Request your legitimate PSD letter from Pettable now.

How To Fly with Your Psychiatric Service Dog on Virgin Atlantic

Bringing your psychiatric service dog onto your flight requires some preparation. The airline's policy on assistance dogs offers a helpful checklist you can use:

  • Confirm with the Animal Reception Centre that your flight accepts assistance dogs.
  • Obtain all vaccinations, tests and documentary evidence required for the country you plan to visit.
  • Let the Special Assistance department know you're traveling with a service dog.
  • Send all required documentation to the Animal Reception Center at the departure airport.
  • Keep copies of all important documentation, including your DOT forms and Pettable PSD letter, within easy reach.

How To Get Your Legitimate Psychiatric Service Dog Letter With Pettable

Pettable offers a fast and convenient method for obtaining a psychiatric service dog letter. You'll first complete a short quiz asking for key details: when and why you need your letter, what type of animal you have and your state of residence. There are also a couple of mental health-related questions — we only ask these so we can match you with a therapist in your state.

After we've recommended a Pettable therapist, you'll contact this professional for a short consultation. If you're determined eligible for a PSD letter, you'll receive it from your therapist in as little as 24 hours.

What Is the Air Carrer Access Act (ACAA)?

Enacted in 1986, the Air Carrier Access Act made it illegal for air travel providers to discriminate against people with disabilities. Moreover, the ACAA required that air travel be made accessible. Airlines must provide accommodations such as accessible restrooms and movable armrests, plus assistance with boarding and exiting planes and making connections. The law also covers related topics such as mobility aids, assistive devices and service animals. Airlines may not charge extra for these basic accommodations.

Emotional Support Animals Under the ACAA

When the ACAA was passed in 1986, it permitted service animals specifically trained to assist people with disabilities. In 2003, the DOT began allowing ESAS to travel inside aircraft cabins. This was a positive development for people who need ESAs due to mental, emotional and cognitive health challenges. An ESA's presence and companionship may alleviate distress for individuals dealing with ADHD, anxiety, autism, bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia and similar conditions.

The DOT's 2003 policy change did not place significant limitations on the types of animals that could serve as ESAs. Unique challenges arose as airlines tried to accommodate a wide range of ESAs accompanying their passengers. While most airlines no longer accept ESAs, they do permit psychiatric service dogs. Along with your completed Department of Transportation forms, a PSD letter from Pettable can supply valuable documentation as you travel with your assistance dog.

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

Both emotional support animals and psychiatric service dogs can relieve emotional or psychological distress for people with disabilities. However, they serve slightly different purposes. ESAs help their human clients by their presence. Psychiatric service dogs have been trained in specific assistive tasks such as retrieving medication, spotting the signs of an impending panic attack, prompting others to give the person space and applying comforting pressure to the body during a panic episode.

Besides assistive task training, psychiatric service dogs must also be calm and well-behaved. Like any other service animal, a PSD receives obedience and situational behavior training. With proper training and a confident temperament, PSDs help their clients navigate public spaces and carry out activities of daily living. The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 addresses other details concerning service animals.

Virgin Atlantic's Service Dog Policies

Passengers traveling to and from U.S. destinations must complete the DOT's Service Animal Air Transportation Form, plus the Service Animal Relief Attestation Form if their flights are eight hours or longer. You should also contact the airline's Special Assistance Team and notify them that you are bringing an assistance dog. Keep in mind you may be asked for some additional pieces of documentation:

  • Copy of your dog's identification card from an accredited charity
  • Details of your dog's weight and breed
  • Copy of your dog's non-EU official veterinary certificate or PETS passport

If you live in the United States, you can obtain a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection for your service dog. You'll also want to have copies of all your documents with you at the airport, plus proof of insurance and your Pettable PSD letter for your assistance dog.

Advance Notice

Contact the Special Assistance Team about your service animal in plenty of time before your flight. You'll want to have your required documents completed and submitted to the airline's Animal Reception Centre at least three days before your departure date.

Prohibited Breeds

Regardless of whether your animal is an assistance dog or not, Virgin Airlines does not permit passengers to travel with certain breeds. These include snub- or pug-nose breeds, along with those banned by the United Kingdom's Dangerous Dogs Act.  If your destination is in the United Kingdom, be sure to review the UK Government's guide to traveling with your assistance dog.

Other Virgin Atlantic Pet Policies To Know

Virgin Atlantic pet policy applies if your emotional support animal does not meet the criteria of a psychiatric service dog. You should note some important details about how to transport pets traveling on Virgin Atlantic flights: fees, pet carrier size guidelines, prohibited breeds and more.

Virgin Atlantic's Pet Fees

Virgin Atlantic does not post its pet fees on its website. These fees are based on the dimensions of your pet's carrier. You can contact Virgin Cargo for more information.

Virgin Atlantic's Breed Restrictions

Per Virgin Atlantic pet policy, pets cannot travel in the cabin. Instead, pets travel in the secured, heated and air-conditioned compartment of the hold. For this reason, the airlines do permit brachycephalic breeds. These animals have a flatter face with a snub or pug nose, which can make breathing more difficult and increase the risk of overheating. Specific breeds prohibited by Virgin Atlantic include Persian cats and English bulldogs. Per the UK's Dangerous Dogs Act, the airline also does not accept bookings for Pit Bull Terriers.

Virgin Atlantic's Pet Carrier Size Requirements

Virgin Atlantic's minimum size permitted for pet carriers is 71L x 52W x 54H centimeters. Your pet's carrier must offer enough room for the animal to stand up, turn around and lie down. There must be at least 5 centimeters of room between the top of your pet's head and the roof of the carrier. The airline specifies a few additional requirements for each pet carrier:

  • Wood or hard plastic construction
  • Secure locking mechanisms
  • Rigid and non-collapsible
  • No opening roofs or grills
  • Ventilation on all four sides
  • Leak-proof bases
  • Hinged or sliding doors

Virgin Atlantic also requires a water dish attached to the inside of the pet carrier's door. Each carrier must also have soft absorbent material on the bottom.

Virgin Atlantic's Travel Requirements

Virgin Atlantic recommends booking pet travel at least seven days before your departure date. The airline offers pet travel to and from a limited set of destinations. There may be date and time restrictions on when your pet can travel on its aircraft. These can change without prior notice, so be sure to check with Virgin Atlantic Cargo's pet booking service for additional details.

Domestic

Pets can travel in and out of three U.K. airports: Manchester, Heathrow and Gatwick. Virgin Atlantic does not book flights for pets landing in or departing from these locations on Saturdays or Sundays.

International

Pets cannot fly from Hong Kong to the United Kingdom, but they can fly from the United Kingdom to Hong Kong. Pet air shipments to and from South Africa must be handled by a member agent of the International Pet and Animal Transport Association. Contact Virgin Cargo Caribbean for pet shipments to and from Antigua, Barbados and St. Lucia.

U.S. Inbound

Virgin Atlantic currently flies to and from a small group of U.S. locations: Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle plus John F. Kennedy International in Queens and Washington, DC. No weekend pet travel is available for these destinations. Additionally, pets cannot fly out of Miami or Orlando between June 1 and September 30.

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

Limit Food and Water Intake Before the Flight

Time your dog's meal around four to six hours before your departure. You can continue giving your dog water, but offer one final potty break prior to leaving for the airport.

Exercise Your Dog Ahead of Time

Extended playtime with your dog can help with expelling excess energy. Your dog should be calmer than usual while you're together on the airplane.

Be Courteous and Respectful

When you arrive at the airport, remain courteous and cooperate with security personnel. Be ready to present documentation and keep your service dog under your control at all times.

FAQ

Do service dogs fly for free on Virgin Atlantic?

The airline's website does not explicitly mention any fees for flying with an assistance dog. You can confirm this by contacting its Special Assistance Team.

Does Virgin Atlantic allow ESA dogs?

Your ESA dog must be documented as a service animal to travel in the cabin with you. Psychiatric service dogs meet this requirement.

Can Virgin Atlantic deny my ESA?

Because the airline only allows service dogs in its aircraft cabins, ESAs without such documentation fall under its pet travel policies.

Which airlines are still allowing ESA dogs?

While most international and U.S. domestic airlines no longer recognize ESAs, some carriers still permit passengers to travel with them. Domestic providers that allow emotional support animals include Latam Airlines, Volaris and WestJet. International carriers include Air France, Asiana Air, China Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa and Singapore Air. Check with each airline for its policies and restrictions.

Can my dog sit on my lap during a Virgin Atlantic flight?

Your assistance dog cannot sit on your lap during your flight. Per the airline's rules, your dog must be equipped with a safety harness while on the plane. The Animal Reception Centre also recommends bringing an absorbent mat on your flight for your service dog.