Airlines are required to permit trained service dogs to fly, unless the pets create a dangerous or disruptive environment. Unlike service dogs, airlines are not required to permit emotional support dogs, or any type of emotional support animal, to fly. Even though airlines are not required to permit emotional assistance animals, some airlines may. Read on to learn more about best practices of flying with a support animal and which airlines allow emotional support pets. Flying with emotional support dog in tow isn't easy, but this guide will help you fly with your pet in the best way possible.
The Department Of Transportation Has Issued New Rules About Flying With ESAs
In March 2021 the Department of Transportation rolled back protections that emotional support animals had for quite some time. This new ruling basically says that airlines can decide whether or not they allow emotional support animals on their flights.
Given the pandemic was in full swing and airlines were strapped for cash (this is our best guess as to why) most domestic airlines decided to stop accepting emotional support animals.
There are many airlines that are still accepting emotional support animals and all airlines are required to accept psychiatric service dogs. We'll cover everything from what the new rules say, which airlines accept emotional support animals, what are psychiatric service dogs (PSDs), how are PSDs different from ESAs, and how to make your dog a PSD or ESA.
Airlines Can Choose Whether They Accept ESAs
The new ruling says that an airline gets to decide whether or not they accept emotional support animals. The U.S Department of Transportation role out this rule earlier this year. A couple of things have changed as a result.
Most Airlines Have Chosen Not To
Most domestic airlines including United Airline, American Airlines, JetBlue, Frontier, Alaska, even our beloved Southwest Airlines have decided to take advantage of the new rule put out by the U.S. Department of Transportation and stop accepting ESAs in the airline cabin.
Many people have heard that the reason airlines have stopped accepting emotional support animals is because people were largely abusing ESAs as a service and bringing on peacocks and miniature horses as emotional support animals.
Our information leads us to believe that airlines have chosen to stop accepting emotional support animals for another reason entirely. Specifically, emotional support animals are an opportunity to increase airline profits because now you are required to pay a pet fee in order to bring your emotional support animals into the cabin with you. This includes dogs and cats as well as other pets.
Domestic Carries Still Accept Pets Under 20 LB If You Pay A Fee
While emotional support animals are no longer accepted, if your dog or cat is under 20 LB airlines still allow and you are permitted to bring them on an airline for a modest fee (even if they are not an ESA).
Unfortunately, this does not help the vast majority of dog owners who can't fly with their pet that is over 20 LBS. This can throw a wrench in travel plans and cause unnecessary stress in a person’s life.
Service Animals Are Still Protected
Service Animals are protected at the federal level and any airline will still allow service dogs and animals to fly in the cabin. The reason being is service animals are a federally protected class of pets and have been individually trained to a higher standard.If a fully trained service dog meets the requirements, they may fly free by sitting at its owner's feet.
They are typically extremely well behaved as well as individually trained to perform a task that can help someone with a specific disability. We talk more at length about psychiatric service dogs and psychiatric service animals, what kind of disability a PSD helps with, and what the standard "well behaved" means.
How To Fly With An Emotional Support Animal
There are still plenty of airlines where ESAs are permitted and it's extremely useful for air travel outside of the U.S.
Airlines Accepting Emotional Support Animals
The airlines still accepting ESAs mainly fly outside of the U.S. Here is a list of common air services that you can leverage ESA status and bring your ESA dog with you on:
Airlines In North America Where ESAs Are Still Permitted:
There are a few air services where dogs or cats can be certified as an ESA and still fly. Most of these airlines fly between the U.S. and Canada or between the U.S. and Mexico. They include:
We've linked to their websites so you can gather more information should you need before embarking on a flight with any one of these air carriers. Make sure you stay informed before you fly!
International Airlines Where ESAs Are Still Permitted:
For international airlines there are a lot more options when it comes to bringing your emotional support pet. Unlike many U.S airlines there are multiple air services you can turn to that have not been affected by the new regulations put out by the U.S Department of Transportation. They include:
- Air France
- Asiana Air (Flights from/to the United States. However, rules will change.)
- China Airlines (Emotional support dog only.)
- KLM (Emotional support dog only, from 4 months and older.)
- Lufthansa (Flights from/to the United States. ESA’s up to 8 kgs.)
- Singapore Air (Emotional support dog only, from 4 months and older.)
Again, we've linked to each one of these air carriers (like we did for U.S airlines) because we highly recommend before undergoing any air travel with your ESAs or boarding a flight for you to give them a call and make sure you have everything you need before boarding your flight.
What You Should Do To Make Sure You Have No Problems Flying
There are a couple of things we recommend you take care of before boarding any flight with your ESA dogs, cats or other pet.
Get A Comfy And Spacious Spot on the Airlines
First and foremost, the seat in front is usually more spacious if you can get it. When flying, the more room you can get for your pet, the more comfortable they will be, and the less signs of stress they will show while flying.
Make Sure Your Dog Is In Good Health Before You Travel
Second, while an ESA does not need to be trained to work or perform tasks it is still helpful to check a few things:
- Has your dog been sick the last few days?
- How well do they fly typically? Do they need to be calmed or prepared in any way?
- If they have never flown, how do they do in the car, or in new environments?
Generally, you want to make sure that your dog is prepared to fly and can handle any stress that might come. Traveling with a nervous dog, even if they serve as emotional support for you, can be stressful for them. Seeing your pet in distress can also raise your stress levels, increasing your anxiety and overall can have a negative effect on your mental health.
Make Sure Your Dog Is Well Behaved
Generally, you will have less of a headache needing to explain how your dogs and cats provide emotional support if your dog or cat is well behaved. This does not mean your ESA needs to be trained to do work that helps your disability. For an air service that accepts traveling with an ESA (dogs and cats) they do not need to know how to work or perform tasks.
However, the better trained your dog or cat, the less people will be inclined to ask you questions and make your life more challenging as you board your flight. It's best if your pet is well behaved. Oftentimes, animals with disruptive behavior will not be allowed to stay with its owner and instead may have to be a checked pet.
Call Your Airlines
Lastly, we recommend calling your airline and asking them if there is anything, in particular, they require when you're traveling with an ESA. Since flyings with ESA dogs or cats is at their discretion, it's usually helpful to figure out if there are any specifics to traveling with an ESA that they require. Most airlines will appreciate a call in advance, at least 48 hours before the flight, and sometimes they may want to know about your ESA at the time you book your flight.
Make Sure You Have All Of Your ESA Documentation
When bringing emotional support dogs or cats onto U.S or international airlines that accept emotional support animals you should always make sure you have the proper documentation.
All you need to bring with you is your ESA letter. We typically recommend keeping a copy on your phone and if you want to go above and beyond print your ESA letter forms and carry it with you.
Psychiatric Service Dogs Can Fly On All Airlines
Thankfully many travelers with a mental disability are turning to service animals, specifically psychiatric service dogs, service cats, and service animals as an alternative to ESAs. The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits the discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel, according to the Department of Transportation.
What Is A Psychiatric Service Dog And Service Animal?
A psychiatric service dog is very similar to an ESA in that they help alleviate symptoms of a person's disability. Psychiatric service dogs and service animals have emerged as the new standard for flying for a qualified individual.
How Are They Different From ESAs?
Psychiatric service dogs and service animals are different from an animal that provides emotional support in that they are specially trained to do work. When it comes to what mental and emotional disability qualifies for a psychiatric service animal it is the exact same standard as an ESA.
What Disabilities Qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog or Service Animal?
Any mental or emotional disability that qualifies for an ESA can qualify for a psychiatric service animal. This includes:
- Personality Disorders
A psychiatric service dog or service animal provides the same mental health support as an emotional support animal.
What Standard Of Training Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Need To Meet?
Psychiatric service animals need to meet two different standards of training to be classified as service animals.
Behave Well In Public
First, and foremost service animals (dogs and cats as well as other service animals) need to behave well in public. The standard for here is pretty subjective but generally service animals must not show signs of stress, climb on other people, chase other animals, and keep their composure for the duration of the flight and in other public settings.
If a dog does not meet that standard its classification as a service animal may be called into question and they won't be permitted on the flight or in the flight cabin.
Trained In Tasks For The Benefit Of The Mental Health Disability
Service animals must also be trained in tasks for the benefit of the owner's mental health disability or they will not be considered service animals, and be unable to board the flight.
A service animal can be trained in a variety of different tasks that support your mental health and will qualify them to board the cabin. This includes:
Help Ease Anxiety or Depression
A service animal can be trained in a variety of different tasks that will help alleviate anxiety or depression symptoms. This can include laying down on your lap, putting their paw on your chest, or just nudging you with their faces to get you to stop ruminating and break negative thought patterns. Sometimes simply petting your pet can release feel-good hormones. These hormones make a person feel calm and can even slow a person’s racing heart rate.
For people that experience claustrophobia (flying is a big problem for many people with claustrophobia), a service animal (service dogs or cats) can serve as a much-needed buffer for people between them and others. Especially when flying and moving towards your seat the separation they create between you and others in the air can be a huge relief.
Medical Support or Medical Reminders
A service animal (dogs are particularly good at this) can be trained to remind you to take medication for your mental or emotional disability. This can be particularly important on flights when you're in the air and the added stress can cause you to forget.
Relief From Stimuli or Heightened Stress
A service animal can be extremely helpful when you're experience more stress or sensory overload from increased stimuli on flights. A lot of people, especially those that don't take flights very often can have their mental health suffer as a result of the stress.
A service animal can help protect your mental health on these flights by providing a much needed distraction, tactile pressure, or perform other tasks that help alleviate some of the stress from flights.
Help You Stay Balanced
A service animal can also help people stay balanced, especially those that experience dizziness or fatigue as a result of their medication or mental health challenge.
Travelers benefit hugely from a service animal in these situations.
Wake You Up From Night Terrors
Travelers may also experience night terrors and a service animal in the cabin with them can help wake those travelers up from their night terrors.
Push You Towards Selective Solitude
Travelers may also get uncomfortable around people and in situations where they feel drained. A service animal can push passengers to remove themselves from situations and take a much needed break in solitude.
What Documentation Do I Need For A PSD?
Dogs must, as well as any other service animal, have the proper training. No other document is technically required but many people get a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter to attest to their need for mental and emotional support.
Remember before boarding a flight that dogs ( as well as other service animals) must meet the standard of training laid out by the ADA and DOT before you travel.
You also need a form that the DOT requires you fill out before boarding your flight. You can find the DOT form here.
Who Can Train A Psychiatric Service Animal?
A Psychiatric Service Animal, this is confirmed by the DOT and ADA, can be trained by anyone, including yourself. On the DOT form, they will ask you who was responsible for training your animal or PSD pet and passengers are allowed to answer that they were the trainers.
How Do I Get An ESA or PSD For Travel?
If you would like to get a PSD or an ESA our process is extremely simple. Take our quiz below to see if the ESA or PSD will work for you:
Schedule A Consult With Our World-Class Mental Health Professionals
You can fill out our quiz which will collect information to make sure we can get you connected with. a mental health professional that can help with your specific situation. Once you have filled out the quiz we'll connect you with world-class mental health professional with significant ESA experience who is licensed in your state.
We Can Meet Any Timeline
Given our deep network of clinicians across states we can meet almost any timeline and offer express service (e.g. guarantee you a consultation within twenty-four hours), with the exception of residents in California where law AB 468 applies, requiring a client-provider relationship of at least 30 days prior to providing documentation resulting in having two consultations before qualifying.
We’re The Only ESA Company We Know Offering A Satisfaction Guarantee
We believe in the quality of our mental health professionals and of our service. We also want to make sure our letters work for you so we offer a satisfaction guarantee meaning:
Your letter works as intended or your money back