David McNew / Staff

Advocates argue that the new requirements are discriminatory and possibly even illegal.

Aric Jenkins
January 29, 2018

A number of disability advocates and travelers are not happy about Delta’s recent decision to crack down on service and emotional support animals.

The airline is now requiring flyers to present documentation two full days in advance that certifies their need for an animal as well as proof of the animal’s training and vaccination. Delta says that the move, announced earlier this month, is to protect its customers and employees as well as the animals itself. But advocacy organizations argue that the requirement is discriminatory and potentially illegal.

“We are particularly troubled by the requirement that guide dog users submit paperwork to Delta 48 hours before flying,” the National Federation of the Blind said in a statement, adding that “Travelers without guide dogs are not required to plan their travel 48 hours in advance.”

The National Federation of the Blind also says the new policy, which goes into effect March 1, violates the Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act, which bars discrimination “on the basis of disability in air travel.” The 48-hour "intent-to-fly" requirement means people who use guide dogs "will no longer be able to fly on Delta for family, medical or other emergencies,” the NFB said.

Delta said earlier this month that the new requirements could reduce an 84 percent increase in reported animal incidents such as biting, attacks and urinating/defecating since 2016. Other airlines agree and may roll out similar measures, according to NBC. “We are looking at additional requirements to help protect our team members and our customers who have a real need for a trained service or support animal,” an American Airlines spokesperson said in a statement to NBC.

Travel + Leisure has reached out to several major airlines and will update this story if they respond.

Despite the view of airlines like American, some travelers and advocates are still looking to revert Delta’s new policy. An online petition asking the carrier to not make it more difficult for people to travel without emotional support animals has more than 77,000 signatures.

“Traveling can be stressful for many people and emotional support animals can provide the traveler with physical and psychological support needed to make the journey,” the petition reads.

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