Delta Air Lines, American ban emotional support animals
Starting Monday, Delta will no longer take new bookings for emotional support animals, though those confirmed for travel prior to that date will be permitted to fly.
The airline’s new policy defines trained service animals as “dogs, regardless of breed, specifically trained to assist a person with a disability.”
Passengers traveling with a service dog after Monday will have to submit Department of Transportation documentation through the Delta website attesting to “the dog’s health, training and behavior” and that it will not relieve itself on the aircraft on flights over eight hours or can do so without causing sanitation issues. The paperwork should be filed 48 hours prior to departure.
“If travel is booked less than 48 hours prior to departure, a customer may present the documentation at the ticket counter or at the departure gate,” the release said.
Service dogs with the right credentials will continue to fly free. Animals that do not may still be able to fly in the cargo hold or in a carrier under the passenger’s seat, provided they meet Delta’s requirements. But owners will have to pay a fee to bring them now. One-way fees start at $125. (The prices are similar on American.)
Delta also said it is lifting its ban on “pit bull type dogs” as long as they meet the documentation requirements for trained service animals.
Alaska, which announced its policy change just before New Years, was the first to act on new guidelines announced by the DOT on Dec. 2, which define what constitutes a service animal and give carriers the latitude to ban other animals other than dogs formally trained to aid people with physical or psychological disabilities. The updates to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) also go into effect Monday.
American said Tuesday that it will allow animals in the cabin free of charge if they are trained service dogs. The change takes effect next Monday, although passengers who already bought tickets can fly with a companion animal until Feb. 1.
The U.S. Transportation Department cleared the way for the crackdown against companion animals last month.
American said passengers with a service dog will need to complete a government form vouching for the dog’s health, training and temperament.
Jessica Tyler, American’s president of cargo, said the rules will help passengers with service animals and protect employees on planes and in airports.
The number of passengers flying with companion animals grew rapidly in recent years, with some saying the animals helped them overcome anxiety and other issues. Passengers only needed a note from a health professional, thus a cottage industry sprang up to provide those notes along with vests and other accoutrements for their animals.
Airlines and particularly flight attendants took a more critical view, saying passengers were exploiting a loophole in federal regulations to avoid pet fees. In a few cases, some involving serious injuries, companion animals bit other passengers.
The DOT estimated that under the new rules airlines will scoop up $59.6 million a year in pet fees.
Contributing: Associated Press