Whether you have an emotional support animal, service dog, or therapy pet, preparation is essential when flying with your assistance animal. The Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to provide reasonable accommodations to those with a disability, which allows them to bring their emotional support animals and service dogs with them during a flight.
ESAs and service dogs can sit on their owner’s lap or sit in the space in front of their seat during a flight; there is no pet fee allowed. Learn more about flying with your assistance animal so you can have a stress-free trip.
1. Therapy Dogs are NOT ESAs
Only emotional support animals and service dogs are allowed to travel in the aircraft cabin under the Air Carrier Access Act. Therapy pets are not considered ESAs even if they have training. Therapy pets provide support and comfort to other people, not their owners. Small pets are often allowed to travel as carry-on luggage in a carrier under the seat in front of their owner with a pet fee.
2. ESAs need to be well-behaved
Emotional support animals do not require training as a service dog would, but they do need to be well-behaved in public. ESAs cannot disturb or harm other passengers. If an ESA is disruptive, the airline can deny them boarding. Emotional support animals should be calm, quiet, and under the owner’s control while in the airport and on the plane.
3. Each Airline Has Different Rules
Airlines are becoming more restrictive as to what type of animals are allowed to travel as ESAs. For the safety of other passengers and to prevent any disturbances on board, many airlines are only allowing cats and dogs to fly in the aircraft cabin. Cats and dogs are routinely vaccinated and easier to train compared to other pets. Some airlines require additional paperwork other than an ESA letter, so make sure you read the most up-to-date policies on the airline you are flying.
4. ESA Letter Must Be From a Licensed Mental Health Professional
There are many sites online that offer fake ESA letters, which can ruin after an airline denies you boarding. A licensed mental health professional, who has a valid license, is the only one who can sign an ESA letter. Emotional support animals are for those with a diagnosed and qualifying mental disability like anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
5. Airports Have Pet Relief Areas
Airports that serve more than 10,000 passengers per year are required by federal regulations to have at least one pet relief area in each airport terminal.
When flying with your emotional support animal or another assistance animal, it’s important to be up-to-date with the latest policies surrounding your airline. Some airlines are changing their policies and restricting which animals they will allow flying in the aircraft cabin and what documentation is needed. Your ESA letter must be from a licensed mental health professional, be wary of fake ESA letters online!