American Airlines Bans Emotional Support Animals Onboard

U.S. flight carrier American Airlines is the latest to join the ban on allowing emotional support animals onboard. Here is what you need to know about it.

PSA: the next time you want to board an American Airlines flight with your emotional support animal, please keep in mind that you can't now...  at least not without a fee.

Emotional Support Animals, or simply called ESA, are animals typically prescribed by mental health professionals in order to give support and comfort to the well-being of their patients. Unlike service animals, they are not required to be able to perform any specific tasks and are also not limited to what species they can be. (That's why we have emotional support alligator and emotional support peacock!)

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In December 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new policy that bans ESAs from traveling onboard any U.S. carrier. They can, however, still travel as carry-on pets with a pet fee. A revision to the Air Carrier Access Act, the new rule states that airlines are no longer required to treat an emotional support animal as a service animal — however, this does not include psychiatric service animals.

This policy change will affect all U.S. airlines such as Delta, United, JetBlue, Alaska, and American — with American Airlines adopting this new policy hot on the heels of Alaska Airlines.

Cost for ESAs on American Airlines

The latest to join the new ban, American Airlines will now join other U.S. airlines and ban ESAs from boarding their flights free of charge as service animals. The new policy, which goes into full effect on February 1st, 2021, requires passengers with an emotional support animal to board them as a carry-on pet or to be placed in cargo hold, along with the pet carry-on fee of $125.

In a recently-issued press release by the airline, Jessica Tyler, the President of Cargo and Vice President of Airport Excellence for American Airlines, stated:

"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," Tyler said. "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."

This new rule does not apply to trained service animals, but does limit service animals to be only dogs. The airline will also have the right to ask passengers with a service animal to fill out a DOT form in advance, confirming the dog's behavior, training, and health, such as necessary vaccinations.

What do you think of the new airline policy? Share your thoughts on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!

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