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Which Airlines Are Still Allowing Emotional Support Animals? (Complete Guide)

Updated on Feb 2, 2024 by Patricia Thompson
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal that aids in providing therapeutic benefits like comfort, emotional support or companionship to an individual suffering from a mental health condition. ESAs help individuals to come out of the darkness of life through constant companionship and love. If you have an underlying medical condition, it becomes essential that your emotional support animal is always there with you, even during the air travels providing you comfort and companionship.

With the changing dynamics of mental health the demand for an ESA is increasing which makes it essential for the airlines to regulate the proper guidelines regarding these emotional support animals on planes. So, in this blog, we will provide you with information regarding which airlines allow ESA on planes. Other than this, we will try to answer any additional queries related to ESA on flights.

Flying with Emotional support animal

DOT Rules on Flying with Emotional Support Animals

The Department of Transportation under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) makes discrimination against passengers due to their disability illegal. This act applies to all flights operating within the United States. With the recent major change in the Air Carrier Access Act in January 2021, the amended the guidelines regarding the emotional support animals treated ESA same as regular pets. With which it means that the size restrictions apply to ESA, moreover they can be charged under the pet fee in certain conditions.
However, service animals are still protected by the Air Carrier Access Act ACAA and the Americans with Disability Act ADA. Previously, the ACAA allowed emotional support animals in the cabin of a plane for free, regardless of the animal’s size.
Due to the repeated incidents of misbehaviour of emotional support animals on flights the department of transportation vested the power of decision into the hands of the airlines. With this new federal rule, airlines have the power to decide whether to allow ESA on planes or not.

What Airlines Allow Emotional Support Animals?

Well, here is the list of airlines that allow ESA on planes. Airlines travelling on the U.S. and Mexico or the U.S. and Canada routes permit emotional support cats or dogs to fly. Here is the list of the Airlines that allow emotional support animals:

1- Volaris Airlines

Volaris is a leading low cost airline in mexico. It accommodates ESA limited to cats and dogs, who can travel on board for free within Mexico, South America and Central America. However the basic requirement to travel with an emotional support animal on a plane is an official ESA letter signed by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) within the last year.
Moreover, for an emotional support animal on a plane, there is a weight requirement that your ESA must not be more than 26 pounds. Also, the emotional support dog or cat should travel with a leash, harness, or in a carrier/kennel. Also there are certain requirements related to the carrier.
– The ESA Dogs and cats may travel in fabric, sturdy plastic carriers or bubble backpacks.
– The combined weight of the animal and the carrier must not exceed 26 lbs.
– The pet may leave the carrier during the flight, except in take-off and landing.
There are also other documents required that you can check from here while travelling with your ESA on Volaris Airlines.

2- LATAM Airlines

Latam airlines allow emotional support animals (dogs) to travel in the cabin on flights to or from Mexico, and Colombia, and on domestic flights within Colombia. The airline welcomes both service dogs and emotional support dogs or cats, at least on flights to or from Colombia and Mexico, and domestic flights within Colombia. The airlines accommodate the ESA (only the cats and dogs) for free.
Moreover, they only allow ESA that can fit in a carrier placed in the seat in front of yours. Aggressive dogs or dangerous breeds are prohibited in the cabin. Each flight has a limit to accommodate only six emotional or service support dogs per flight. It is important to note that you have to book an Emotional Support Animal Service at least 48 hours before the flight while submitting all the required documentation.

3- Aeromexico

Flying with an ESA animal requires a certificate prescribed by a psychiatric physician. The certificate must be issued exclusively by a psychiatrist. They do not accept certificates issued by psychologists or professionals of any other specialty. There is an online form you must complete in order to request bringing an ESA on board the aeroplane. The airlines only allow emotional support dogs and cats with a maximum weight of 26 lbs / 12 kg and 22 in long x 12 in height. Animals shall be at least 8 weeks old.
The emotional support animal is required to check-in the counter no less than 2 hours prior to departure. Moreover, only 1 service animal is accepted per customer, except on flights to the United States. For the other detailed list of guidelines and documents for travelling with an esa with Aeromexico airlines click here.

4- Avianca

Avianca airlines only allow emotional support dogs on planes provided that if it weighs up to 22 lb (including the container), it can fly in the cabin. However if the emotional support dog weighs up to 154 lb (including the container), it must fly in the hold.
Moreover Avianca airlines allow a maximum of one (1) emotional support dog. There are other requirements like booking this service 48 hours prior to flight departure and reaching the airport 2 hours before the flight departure. However, certain more guidelines related to the documentation and other requirements for an emotional support animal can be checked here.

5- COPA Airline

Copa Airlines only allows small dogs and cats in the cabin. Moreover, passengers travelling with pets are not eligible to travel in Business Class. At Copa airlines pets less than 16 weeks old are not accepted and only 3 pets are allowed in the main cabin per flight. Additionally the airlines permit only one pet per passenger provided the pet must be harmless, odourless and properly secured in their container.
Moreover children under 11 years are not allowed to travel with a pet. Other than Copa airlines pets are not allowed on connecting flights with other airlines. For further details regarding the ESA and the documentation at Copa airlines click here.

6- VIVA

With Viva airlines you can travel with your emotional support animals (only cats and dogs) provided you must carry a medical prescription on letterhead issued by a licensed medical health professional. Moreover, under the airline rules if the dog is not travelling in a kennel, then it must wear a leash, harness, and ID.
Along with this, the following international Airlines allow ESA travel:

  • Air France: Air France accepts ESA’s on board, but they require the handler to sign documents for their dog’s responsibility.
  • Asiana Air: Flights that are coming to or going to the U.S.
  • China Airlines: This is one of the airlines that allow emotional support dogs on plane.
  • KLM: KLM airlines only allow ESA dogs that are at least four months or older.
  • Lufthansa: ESA not more than 8 kg are allowed in flights going to the U.S. or coming to the U.S.
  • Singapore Air: Singapore Airlines’ pet policy allows emotional support dogs that are four months or older.
  • Other Airlines include Westjet, Norwegian Air and Virgin Australia.

Therefore, calling the airlines prior to your travel can aid a hassle free experience as most airlines require the ESA documents 48 hours before departure. Airlines typically require an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker.

What Type of Animals Do Airlines Allow?

Now even if you have an emotional support animal letter for flying, airlines can treat your ESA as a simple pet. The changes in the rules are as follows:

  • The best emotional support animals to travel with are those weighing 20 lbs or Less.
  • You can fly with your ESA dog by paying a moderate amount of fee.
  • Some airlines allow pets to travel with you, but only in the cargo portion.
  • Some airlines don’t allow pets in any condition.

Therefore, it is advisable to contact airlines before booking a flight with an ESA.
All American Airlines are still obliged to accept Psychiatric Service Dogs.
A psychiatric service dog helps to alleviate symptoms of a person’s psychiatric disability. The basic difference between Psychiatric Service Dog and an Emotional Support Dog is that PSD is trained to assist its disabled owner. To identify a dog as a PSD dog, airlines demand a PSD Letter signed by a state-licensed mental health professional.

Most Common Type Of Emotional Support Animals.

Any animal can be an emotional support animal. Either a pig or a peacock, all of these animals qualify to become emotional support animals. However, the most popular choice among all these species are Dogs and cats. So, let’s have a look at the list of most common emotional support animals.

Dogs

There is no surprise that dogs are among the most common species of an ESA. Dogs have always been man’s best friend and common domesticated animal. Due to their ability to understand and comprehend the situations they are considered an ideal choice for individuals suffering from mental health conditions. Moreover, if subjected to proper training dogs can also become a psychiatric service dog and enjoy additional rights protected for service animals under federal laws.

Cats

Another most common species of ESA after dogs is cats. Cats are regarded as an excellent choice for an ESA due to their easygoing and quiet behavior. Moreover, according to research caring and stroking a cat helps anxiety relief and stress while lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. With a little training, cats can also become service animals, however, they excel as emotional support animals.

Birds

Another small creature that becomes your ultimate companion in the dark phases of life are birds. They qualify as an excellent choice for an ESA. With their pretty colours and sweet voice a bird can bring happiness to the lives of individuals struggling with depression or anxiety.
Parrots, cockatoos, canaries, parakeets, cockatiels, budgies, and finches are a list of birds that can become ESAs. Their ability to talk and repeat words can help the individuals during an anxiety attack. Moreover, the ability of birds to sense feelings and emotions, such as fear or uncertainty, makes them a great choice as an ESA.

Rabbits

Being incredibly comforting and affectionate makes rabbits another great choice among ESA. These little animals love to bond with their owner and are surprisingly intelligent, which is why they can learn to follow various commands.

Pigs

Well known for their friendliness and intelligence, pigs are surprisingly a popular choice among ESAs. They make a great ESA due to their ability to understand and follow instructions. However, with the changed guidelines airlines now do not permit them to fly.

Hedgehogs

Little, cute, and clumsy hedgehogs love seeking attention and love from their owner, which makes them a great choice as an ESA. However, it is important to note in some states owning a hedgehog is illegal. So, make sure to take a deep analysis of the state, federal, and local laws of the place before leaving for a trip with a hedgehog.

Do Airlines Allow Unique Emotional Support Animals?

Under the new guidelines of the Air Carrier Access Act, allowing an ESA on a plane is an individual decision of the airlines, i.e the rules and regulation for ESA on plane may vary from airline to airline.
Therefore, it becomes important to be aware of these changes and understand the specific requirements and restrictions that may apply while you fly with your unique ESA. Moreover, flights generally allow emotional support animals like cats and dogs on planes, putting a stop to the entry of all other unique ESA as it leads to an uncomfortable experience for other passengers. So, it is advisable to contact the airlines prior your travel as this will allow you to make informed decisions and plan accordingly, especially if you have a unique emotional support animal that may require special arrangements and paperwork.

Can any species become an emotional support animal?

Any animal species can become an emotional support animal. From kangaroos, bearded dragons, turkeys, ducks, marmosets, peacocks, and even chickens etc all of them can be regarded as emotional support animals.
As there are different airline policies associated with different ESAs it becomes important to look into the certain guidelines and considerations when it comes to travelling with an emotional support animal in air. However, it is important to know that you don’t need any specific species to be qualified as an emotional support animal.

Are pigs popular choices as emotional support animals?

Due to their qualities of inherent friendliness and intelligence pigs have gained a huge popularity as emotional support animals. Their ability to understand and follow instructions makes them suitable for the role of an emotional support animal.
However, due to the concerns raised by incidents involving emotional support animals, airlines now do not permit a pig to fly. Nevertheless, they still remain a popular choice as emotional support animals even though they are restricted on flights.

Why Are Some Airlines Not Allowing Emotional Support Animals?

The reason for the change in the regulations was result of repeated issues that passengers and flight attendants faced which made it obligatory for the Department of transportation to revisit their policies. Here are some of the cases that led to the change in policies:

– A survey conducted in 2017 stated that almost 61% of flight attendants were unhappy due to disturbance caused by the airline’s emotional support animals. Most of them mentioned trouble due to the aggressive and violent behaviour of ESA.

– In an incident of ESA American Airlines, a pet newly designated as an emotional support animal was flying with its owner when it bit the flight attendant. The condition of the flight attendant became severe, and for the same, she received five stitches. It raised several questions on the allowance of travelling with an emotional support animal on flights.

– In 2019, a person flew with an emotional support dog on a Delta Air lines plane. Out of nowhere, the dog attacked an innocent Alabama man. He suffered from extensive facial damage. Consequently, Alabaman sued the airlines for allowing emotional support dogs to fly without any care and precautions.

Due to this misbehaviour of emotional support animals on flights, from January 2021, DOT(department of transportation) gave the green light to airlines for banning ESA. With this new federal rule, airlines have the power to decide whether to allow ESA on planes or not.

Which Airlines Banned Emotional Support Animals on Planes?

Many airlines were getting complaints due to emotional support animals flying on their planes. That is why most airlines banned ESA. Here is the list of airlines that banned Emotional Support Animals:

  • Frontier
  • Alaska
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • JetBlue

This ban was inevitable. As mentioned earlier, people were misusing the ESA allowance to another level. You can understand how uncomfortable it was for other passengers and airline staff when ESA parents used to bring giant peacocks, pigs, etc., inside the plane.

Are Psychiatric Service Dogs Still Allowed on Planes?

It is important to note that all airlines allow PSD unlike ESA thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) which allows the psychiatric service dogs to ride in the cabin with you whenever you need to travel via aeroplane. Moreover, the handler does not need to pay any additional charges for their PSD as they can fly for free provided the handler should have a PSD letter obtained from a licensed mental health professional.

How Can I Travel With My Pet On Friendly Emotional Support Animals Airlines?

Travelling with an emotional support animal can be a very different experience for other passengers. Hence it is important that certain points should be kept in mind to ensure a hassle free travel experience for everyone on board.

Inform the Company About Your Arrival

On the day of your travel, arrive at your flight or Coach or train station as early as possible. As soon as you arrive inform someone in charge that you are traveling with an ESA. This person might be the conductor, the driver, or the clerk who checks you in. You may again have to go through the hassle of educating this employee, too, of the laws surrounding travel with an ESA. If this is the case, don’t despair. Remain calm. Explain the laws and Hold your ground. Remember, the law is on your side.

Always Be Respectful to Fellow Passengers

Likely, they will have you board your transport either first or last. When boarding, always be cognizant of other passengers. If you are traveling with a dog, remember that some of your fellow passengers might be deathly terrified of dogs of all shapes and sizes. Though you adore your little pooch Fido and you know she would never bite anyone remembers that the old lady beside you does NOT know Fido and might be unreasonably afraid of her because she was bitten by a dog once while still a child. So be respectful of other passengers, and this doesn’t mean just explaining that Fido would never hurt anyone, but instead holding onto Fido’s leash tightly enough that there is no way Fido could possibly even reach the little old lady just beside you.

Train Your Pet for long Journeys

What do you do if your flight is seven hours and halfway through Fido starts prancing around in circles, indicating that her bladder needs to let go? This is a tough one. You definitely don’t want your ESA to piddle on the floor. That would be more than embarrassing. It would be downright unsanitary. This is where some foresight comes in handy…I know, I know. Fido is well-trained to piddle outside and not on the carpet, but traveling on moving vehicles has a way of testing even the most reliable bladders, making the best of us have to urinate. Start training Fido to let loose in the house on one of those puppy house training pads. They are like a flat, rectangular diaper that you spread out on the floor for a puppy to do their stuff upon. But use them now to begin training Fido on getting used to using the pads.

Ensure Everything Before Journey

Then on the day of your trip ensure you bring several of these puppy pads in the cabin with you and then when Fido begins doing her little pee dance you can whip out a couple of training pads for her to do her business upon. Simple, really — but it will earn you the great respect of both your fellow passengers and the cabin crew if Fido is not pissing on the floor. At the end of your travel, the cabin crew will likely direct you to either disembark first or last, depending on what makes the most sense to them. Follow their directions to ensure the smoothest transition from traveling to arriving, and all will go well.

Consideration Before an International Flight With ESA

Travelling with emotional support animals internationally can be a bit challenging as international flights have longer travel hours which can make your little companion a little uncomfortable. So here are some tips that make an international trip with your ESA a smooth experience.

1- Training:

The foremost important thing is weeks or months before the trip you should start training your ESA. The training includes making the emotional support dog or cat comfortable in using a pad for pooping and stuff. These pads are like a flat, rectangular diaper that you spread out on the floor for an animal to do their stuff upon.

2- Exhaust Your Dog:

Another thing that can work is exhaust your ESA before flight as that would help in a relatively calmed behaviour before flight. Yes, a vigorous daily exercise days before the flight can aid in the calmer behaviour of pets.

3- Dealing with Anxiety:

Dogs or even the cats may face certain types of anxiety in the air, which is why it is important that your ESA undergo proper checkup from a medical professional or if suggested you may also take help of certain medications for your little companion.

4- Monitoring the Food and Water Intake

Monitoring the intake of food and water is very important as it will be clearly related to the stool passing cycle and the number of times the animals has to pee. Therefore, it is important that days before the flight with exercise you also take care of the food and the water intake of your little friend.

5- A Good Kennel

Having a good kennel is very important as there are different guidelines that are associated with the specification, material and other things related to the kennels. Usually, airlines prefer that a kennel has hard walls and a roof large enough for the dog to comfortably stand up inside, ensuring comfort for the ESA throughout the flight.

6- Get the favourites along

Taking the favourite toys or a blanket that your ESA loves is a great option while travelling on longer flights as this will bring them a sense of comfort and keep them engaged throughout the flight.

End note

With the change in the guidelines things have changed and it has become important to look into the every little details that are mandated by the airlines for the travel of an ESA. Therefore, it is important to stay informed and plan ahead for a hassle-free travel experience with emotional support animals. However, if you have a PSD letter, your dog will still be allowed to travel freely on flights. Acknowledging this, we can keep hope in the future that lawmakers will come up with some middle road. The path that can allow emotional support animals to fly without compromising the safety of travellers. Till then, you can fly with your ESA on these ESA permitted flights.

Posted in: Airline Guide

About the Author

Patricia Thompson
Patricia Thompson
Patricia Thompson is a highly skilled clinical psychologist with over five years of expertise in the field. She possesses extensive knowledge and experience in using clinical guidance and providing recommendations for emotional support animals (ESAs) as a form of treatment for mental illness. Patricia's profound understanding of the therapeutic benefits of ESAs enables her to offer valuable insights and practical advice to individuals seeking emotional support. In addition to her clinical practice, Patricia also writes for Fast ESA Letter, sharing her expertise and advocating for the importance of ESAs in mental health care.

Comments

2 Comments
  1. Forrester Dulany

    Can I fly with a large ESA dog?

    Reply
    • Blake Quinn

      Firstly, whether your dog is small or big depends on airlines to airlines if they allow for ESA travel. After the ACAA fetched protections previously granted to emotional support animals, most airlines don’t allow ESA travel.

      Now, if you are sure the airlines you are travelling in allow emotional support for animal flying, make sure that your dog is not too big. For travel allowance, a dog must easily fit in your feet area section under your seat as well as it won’t occupy space of other passengers’ seat feet area and aisle.

      Reply
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