American Airlines Will No Longer Accept Emotional Support Animals on Flights
American Airlines became the latest carrier to ban emotional support animals from flying for free on Tuesday, about a month after the Department of Transportation gave airlines the green light to do so.
The new rule, which goes into effect on Feb. 1, will require passengers traveling with an emotional support animal to bring them as carry-on, which comes with a fee of $125, or as cargo, according to the airline. American Airlines also limits the types of animals that can travel in the cabin to certain dog and cat breeds.
"Our team is motivated by a purpose to care for people on life's journey, and we believe these policy changes will improve our ability to do just that," Jessica Tyler, the president of cargo and vice president of airport excellence for American, said in a statement. "We're confident this approach will enable us to better serve our customers, particularly those with disabilities who travel with service animals, and better protect our team members at the airport and on the aircraft."
Service animals will still be accepted under the new policy, but travelers with disabilities will have to "complete a DOT form attesting to the dog's behavior, training and health" at least 48 hours before their flight. The authorization will be valid for one year or until the animal's vaccinations expire.
The rule change comes a month after the DOT announced it would no longer consider emotional support animals to be service animals, defining 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."
On Thursday, Delta Air Lines joined other carriers and told T+L they will no longer accept emotional support animals starting Jan. 11. The airline will also lift its ban on pit bull-type dogs who qualify as trained service animals.
"We applaud the DOT for making this change and acknowledging the concerns that Delta and many other stakeholders have raised for the past several years," Allison Ausband, the senior vice president of in-flight service said in a statement. "The DOT's final rule enables airlines to put the safety of all employees and customers first, while protecting the rights of customers who need to travel with trained service animals."
Next week, Alaska Airlines will implement a similar policy change, but will continue to accept emotional support animals on already-booked reservations through Feb. 28.
Traveling with pets can be very rewarding, but does require some extra steps and advance planning, including ensuring proper vaccination records, familiarizing yourself with individual airline policies, and bringing all the essentials (think quiet toys rather than squeaky ones).
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.