Which Airlines Allow Emotional Support Animals in 2022

ESA Pet Staff

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Since the outbreak of Covid 19, airline rules are constantly changing, so flyers ask, which airlines allow emotional support animals to fly with pet owners? There is no exact answer to this question since each airline can dictate if a flight with an emotional support animal is permitted.

In December of 2020, the United States Department of Transportation published a new law regarding the guidelines for airlines concerning the rules for emotional support animals during flights. We will review these new rules and how they affect flyers who have emotional support animals.

Emotional Support Dog ready to travel with an ESA letter

New DOT Rules for Emotional Support Animals

The new Department of Transportation DOT rules on emotional support animals (ESA) or assistance animals do not define them as service animals. 

Before the change in 2021, emotional support animals fell under the broad definition of service animals under the DOTs Air Carrier Access Act. “This final rule defines a service animal as a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” The new rule available in the DOTs Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) has made it so the airlines do not recognize emotional support animals as service animals. Airlines now have the authority not to accept emotional support animals on their flights.

Before this updated rule, emotional support animals were not trained to perform a specific task, like guiding a blind person or assisting an individual during a seizure. Emotional support dogs provided emotional support and therefore fell under the DOT’s previous definition of a service animal.

This allows each airline to create its policies on emotional support dogs. The DOT created this new rule in response to an increase in travelers with emotional support dogs and incidents where an emotional support dog injured flight attendants or passengers.

What is the Department of Transportation?

The Department of Transportation DOT is the federal government agency that oversees travel in America. The Department of Transportation DOT website states the mission is “To deliver the world’s leading transportation system, serving the American people and economy through the safe, efficient, sustainable, and equitable movement of people and goods.” The DOT oversees the FAA or Federal Aviation Agency that regulates civilian aviation to ensure passenger safety. The FAA issues and enforces regulations for the protection of the passengers and the crew members.

Reason for New Regulation

The airlines began to experience issues when the DOT allowed the use of emotional support animals on flights. In 2009 when the airlines raised pet travel fees, many travelers started using the emotional support animal rules as a loophole to paying the fees. 

Their animal could now fly free of charge in a pet carrier, and many would purchase an ESA vest for their animal and present a certificate asserting their emotional need for the animal. The ESA vests and certificates could be easily bought online, so there was no way to know if it was legitimate or a way to bypass fees for traveling with pets.

What are Emotional Support Dogs?

Many of us may feel that our dogs offer us an emotional connection, but that does not automatically classify the animal as an assistance animal or emotional support animal, or service dog. To have an animal approved as an ESA, you would need to have an assessment performed by a mental health professional who will then decide if there is a necessity to prescribe or list your animal as an ESA. 

Many people have felt emotional and physical release from anxiety with the presence of an emotional support animal. When the FAA and DOT initiated the change in 2008 that allowed emotional support animals on flights, it was for this specific reason. Passengers on flights can feel overwhelmed, anxious and scared, so emotional support animals were thought of as a way to ease those issues for individuals who suffer from severe anxiety or other mental illness.

Emotional Support Dog vs. Service Dog

It’s important to understand the distinction between an emotional support dog and a trained service animal. Emotional support animals assist their owners with companionship and can help ease their anxiety and depression. However, an ESA is not considered a service dog, so the owners of ESAs do not follow the same guidelines as people with a service dog.

Only trained service animals, such as psychiatric service dogs, can accompany their owners into restaurants and stores without any issues. Meanwhile, ESA animals are only permitted into businesses at the owner’s discretion. 

Laws regarding emotional support animals differ in each city or state, and the certification process has never been singular, so the paperwork was often purchased or printed with no qualification or certifications that needed to be met. 

A service dog, like a psychiatric service dog, has been specifically trained to assist a person with a function they can complete on their own without assistance. A service dog could assist its owner who is blind or get the attention of a new mother who is hard of hearing when her baby is crying. 

An emotional support dog has no specifically trained service they give their owner. Their presence alone calms their owner, but they have had no specific training and perform no assistive tasks like a service dog.

Dog travelling with an ESA letter following Airline requirements

Flying with an Emotional Support Dog?

When flying with an emotional support animal, each airline has its requirements for pets traveling. For example, an airline in South America may have very different requirements than Central America. First, check to ensure the airline you are flying with allows emotional support animals on their flights and the specific rules. 

Many airlines have specific guidelines regarding pet carrier size, dog breed, and other factors regarding checked pets. Confirming before your flight will reduce any issues and unnecessary inconveniences that could occur if you do not plan accordingly. There is likely an entire process that a checked pet must go through before travel.        

Obtain a Medical Assessment Letter

There is no set process to have a dog certified as an emotional support animal. This caused many issues with the airlines because anyone could say and show paperwork that they had an emotional support animal. 

The best way to complete the process is to meet with a mental health professional for an assessment. Other tips include: 

  • Be legitimate, on professional letterhead, and written by a qualified physician and mental health provider.
  • Include the professional’s license number with the date
  • Have paperwork that explains your need for the ESA.

Gather Necessary Documentation

You need to complete specific steps and get your dog a pet passport. Your dog will need the following:

  1. Microchip
  2. Rabies vaccination
  3. Animal health certificate
  4. Additional vaccinations
  5. Rabies test
  6. Parasite treatment

As a side note, make sure that you notice when your animal’s vaccination expires as American Airlines flights and many others require this updated information.

Book Your Flight and Inform the Airline of the Checked Pets

It is essential to check airlines that allow passengers to fly with emotional support dogs. Many airlines (including American Airlines) do not allow ESAs since the law was updated in 2021. After reviewing carriers who accept ESAs review their policies because those can differ with each airline and what they require.

Some airlines, including those in Central and South America, require specific seating for passengers traveling with ESA. So it is vital to check these particular requirements when booking your flight or reserving your seats.

Complete Sanitation Form

A sanitation form is used when your ESA will be with you on a flight longer than 8 hours. The sanitation form states your emotional support dog will not defecate or urinate during the flight and that you have a plan of action set to dispose of and clean up any urine or feces should your ESA make a mess during the flight.

In the past, many ESA would urinate and defecate in flight, and the owners had no plan of action for cleaning up or disposal of feces during the flight. This can cause sanitation issues and comfort issues for other passengers who may not want to smell feces during a flight.

Airlines In North America Where ESAs Are Still Permitted:

Since adding the new regulations regarding emotional support animals and assistance animals, only certain airlines allow emotional support animals on their flights. Most of the lights are between U.S. and Canada or U.S. and Mexico. They include:

  • Latam Airlines
  • Volaris
  • Westjet

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Tips for Flying with an Emotional Support Dog

Now that emotional support dogs are no longer automatically permitted on flights, it is essential to plan, so there are no last-minute issues regarding your flight. Understanding the rules of our airline and the information required will ease the process if you plan on flying with an emotional support animal.

Know the Rules

In the past, any dog could pass as an ESA if it had a doctor’s note, but that is not the case anymore. If your dog is not a service animal that assists you, you may need to pay the same fee as other travelers with pets. You must also ensure that your pet behaves properly throughout the duration of the flight.

Have the Proper Paperwork

Gather the appropriate paperwork from your medical professional that states your dog is an ESA.

Prepare for Fees

 Airlines have gotten rid of the emotional support animal fee-free flights, and carriers including United, Delta, or American Airlines will charge you to fly your ESA $125 pet fee each way.

Check for Breed Restrictions

Certain airlines restrict specific breeds, and it can vary between carriers. Review this information before booking your flight to know which airline will allow your dogs breed to fly as an ESA.  

Commonly following dog breeds are often restricted:

  • Affenpinscher 
  • American Staffordshire Terrier 
  • Boston Terrier 
  • Boxer 
  • Brussels Griffon 
  • All Breeds of Bulldogs 
  • Cane Corso 
  • Dogue de Bordeaux 
  • English Toy Spaniel 
  • Japanese Chin

Get Proof Your Pet is Healthy

Ensuring your pet will travel comfortably and not be emotionally or physically stressed is essential. This can cause issues for your pet and other passengers on the flight. Has your pet been sick? Only dogs and cats that are healthy can fly. Does your pet have motion sickness? If your animal has any of these issues, you should address this before the flight with your vet. There may be medications that can calm your pet during flight and help with motion sickness. Keep proof of vaccinations and check-ups handy if anyone requests to see this information.

Can Emotional Support Dogs go on International Flights?

The airlines that fly internationally can accept ESAs to fly as carry-on pets. It is essential to check the airlines’ rules, what is required to bring an emotional support dog, and if there is a fee associated with your pet.

International Airlines Where ESAs Are Permitted:

There are many more options for international airlines if you need to bring an emotional support dog on your international flight. Many international airlines follow the major American airlines because there are multiple issues with ESA overuse on flights. 

The airlines experienced a loss in revenue because there was no charge for ESA, so passengers were inaccurately claiming ESA to utilize the loophole not to have to cover the fees to ship and fly their animals. The DOTs list of international flights that allow emotional service animals includes:

  • Latam Airlines
  • Volaris
  • Westjet
  • Air France
  • Asiana Air (to/from U.S.A.)
  • China Airlines (ESA dogs only.)
  • KLM (ESA dogs only.)
  • Lufthansa (to/from U.S.A.)
  • Singapore Air (ESA dogs only.)

Airline That Have Not Banned Emotional Support Animals 

Since the law was updated in 2020, airlines in the U.S. have banned flights with ESAs. They have issues with passengers attempting to bring on birds, horses, and other animals as their ESA. Aside from that, untrained, unruly animals have disrupted flights, bit passengers and flight attendants, or made a mess of defecating and urinating during flights. This change was overdue in the eyes of many passengers and airline workers. 

As of 2022, all major American airlines have banned ESA. Airlines for America, an airline advocacy group, reported that the number of ESAs in the air multiplied in recent years. An increase in negative incidents caused by the animals between ESAs and passengers of flight crew increased substantially. “In 2017, the number of ESAs surged by nearly 60% compared to the year before, while in 2018, the number of animals flying grew by 14%, which is still a sizeable figure compared to the 4.7% growth in human air travelers that same year.” (Airlines for America 2021)

All major US Carriers have banned emotional support animals. As of March 2022, the following airlines do not allow emotional support animals.

Consider reviewing the changes of regulations, including American Airlines ESA.

Dogs Under 20 Pound Can Fly with a Pet Fee

Even if your pet is not an emotional support animal or service animal, carry-on pets are permitted on the flight if it weighs less than 20 pounds. Pets traveling with you will need to sit on the floor or under the seat, which can comfort some owners. Keep in mind; pet fees vary depending on the airline. Contact the airline to learn if they accept checked pets.

Conclusion

With the policy change, emotional support animals are no longer guaranteed to be allowed on flights without a pet travel fee. Emotional support animals are no longer classified as service animals who can accompany their owners on flights and in most public places. Now, there are clear pet policy guidelines regarding service dogs.

If you want to fly with your emotional support animal, it is important to research which airlines will allow your animal and what requirements the airline has. Time and planning are essential now, so your flight is smooth for you and your animal.

ESA Pet Staff