emotional support animals on airlines

What You Need to Know About Emotional Support Animal Airlines

Charles Grisham
By Charles Grisham
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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Do Airlines Allow Emotional Support Animals?

Do Airlines Allow Emotional Support Animals?

No, there are not many emotional support animal airlines. 

At the start of 2021, the Department of Transportation amended the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), the set of laws that required airlines to allow emotional support animals (ESA), and set forth new rules that no longer require air travel providers to permit ESAs aboard.

All of the major airlines, including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta, and Jetblue, have updated their policies to only allow service animals on board their planes, but smaller airlines that travel to and from the United States still allow ESAs. It is up to the company to decide whether they allow ESAs, and it seems they have pretty unanimously agreed to ban them.

Do Airlines Verify ESA Letters?

Yes, airlines verify the emotional support animal letter.

Airlines verify certain information to determine if the ESA letter is legitimate. Here is a list of things they check to determine if the letter is legitimate according to transportation.gov:

  • That your condition is recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
  • You require the animal for either the flight or your final destination.
  • You are under the professional care of a licensed mental health professional.
  • The letter must be written on the licensed mental health professional’s letterhead.
  • The date and type of professional license; and the state in which the license was issued
  • The letter cannot exceed one year from your flight date

When obtaining an ESA letter, it is essential to realize there are scams out there that provide fake ESA letters making claims like you can “take your pet anywhere” or that they “register” or “certify” your pet as an emotional support animal.

To obtain an actual ESA letter, you can use an online telehealth service like certapet.com to get in touch with a licensed mental health professional who can provide you with a basic ESA letter.

Certapet

Legitimate way to certify your emotional support animal

  • Connects licensed medical practitioners to individuals seeking ESA letters
  • ESA letters comply with state and federal regulations

How do I Fly With My Emotional Support Animal?

First, you will need an emotional support animal letter to make your pet an emotional service animal. This can be done entirely online, although some state laws require a relationship between the client and a medical professional to be established for at least 30 days before the client can obtain a letter.

The process generally involves being diagnosed with a mental disability, like anxiety or depression, and being prescribed an ESA as treatment.

Second, the licensed mental health professional will likely have to fill out forms provided by the airline and submit them.

Lastly, most airlines will require a person to submit the forms at least 48 hours before departure so they can be verified before the flight.

How do I Fly With My Emotional Support Animal?

Which Airlines Allow Emotional Support Animals?

Here is a list and review of the emotional support animal airlines:

  • LATAM Airlines. LATAM is one of the emotional support animal airlines but it only accepts dogs and cats as ESAs. Depending on the size and breed of the pet, it may be able to travel in the cabin, in the aircraft hold, or with LATAM Cargo. They allow small dogs and cats in the cabin but the weight of the animal plus the pet carrier is not to exceed 15 pounds and must remain in the kennel for the duration of the flight.
    Passengers are allowed one pet per person, and the pet cannot be sedated for the flight. There is a temporary restriction on dogs coming from countries that are considered high risk for rabies, including emotional support dogs and service dogs, dogs transported in the hold, and dogs transported in the cabin. Their pet fees range from $150-$300, depending on the size of the animal.
  • Volaris Airlines. Volaris permits ESAs as long as the owner presents an ESA letter. According to esadoctors.com regarding an ESA letter, “The ESA letter should be dated within one year of the departure date. The ESA letter should be on the licensed professional’s letterhead and also contain their license number.
    If you are able to provide Volaris with a valid ESA letter, your animal may board the cabin free of charge.” They also allow psychiatric service dogs (PSD) as long as the US Department of Transportation’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form is completed and a PSD letter is provided.
    Volaris requires vaccination records and a health certificate from a veterinarian. Still, if your return flight is more than 5 days after the issuance of the animal health certificate, you will need to present another more up-to-date certificate for your return.
    The total weight of the pet and carrier combined cannot exceed 22 pounds, and Volaris has a lengthy list of breeds they do not allow on their flights, so it is best to check their website before booking.
  • China Airlines. Each flight has a maximum capacity of eight pet carriers, and each passenger who occupies a seat is permitted up to two carriers. Passengers traveling to the USA (including Hawaii and Guam) must follow the requirements and regulations announced by the CDC.
    The pet’s container must be large enough for the animal to stand and must be covered by absorbent bedding. Only one door is allowed on a kennel, a live animal sticker must be clearly displayed, and the animal must be provided with food and water inside the carrier. Some breed restrictions include snub nose dogs and cats, Pit Bulls, and Fila Brasileiros.
    The airline requires health certificates to be presented before departure, and when flying with an ESA, they must sit at your feet without obstructing aisles and other passenger’s seats.
    Emotional support animals are only permitted on board flights to and from the United States, and customers must request to travel with an emotional support animal on an international flight before their flight. The cost ranges from $6-220 for pets to fly as checked luggage.
  • KLM Airlines. KLM is also among the emotional support animal airlines. Pets in the cabin are not to exceed 20 pounds and remain in the kennel for the duration of the flight. Animals are not allowed in the cabin if the passenger is flying Premium Comfort Class or Business Class on an intercontinental route, as it is impossible to put a kennel underneath a seat in these classes.
    The cost ranges from $80-$450 per pet carrier, but there are restrictions on what kind of animal a person can bring. Exotic animals like peacocks or snakes are not allowed, nor are dogs that, when combined with their kennel, weigh more than 165 pounds.

What Airlines Have Banned Emotional Support Animals?

Here is a closer look at the airlines that have banned emotional support animals:

  • Alaska Airlines. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA. However, customers can check them as pets or train them to be psychiatric service animals as those are allowed. Alaska’s pet fees are $100-105 depending on whether or not a flight is leaving Canada.
  • Allegiant Air. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA. Pet owners may fly their ESA as a pet, but the animal must fit the size restrictions of flying in the cabin because Allegiant does not fly animals in the cargo hold. Allegiant only charges $50.00 per one-way flight, which is cheaper than the rest but is non-refundable.
  • American Airlines. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA. ESAs are not allowed the same way service dogs are, so passengers must book reservations and pay pet fees to bring their ESA on board. Carry-on fees are $125 per kennel, and cargo pet fees vary and will be verified before departure.
  • Air Canada. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA, and pets are only allowed in the economy class as that is where the most space for pets is available. Although ESAs are not allowed, pets still are, so passengers must book their ESA like a pet and pay the requisite fees of between $50-60.
  • Delta Air Lines. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA. Owners of ESAs will have to reserve a spot for their ESA as a pet and make arrangements ahead of time. Pet fees range from $75 -$125 depending on where the flight is departing.
  • Frontier Airlines. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA. Frontier also does not allow PSDs, so an owner of an ESA must reserve a spot as if the animal was a normal pet. The pet fee for pets is $99 for a one-way charge.
  • Hawaiian Airlines. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA, but they do allow pets. To travel on Hawaiian Airlines with an ESA, the owner must reserve a spot ahead of time as if it were a regular pet. Pet fees are between $65-$225 per one-way flight.
  • Jet Blue. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA. ESA owners will have to book them like normal pets as they only allow service dogs and small dogs in the cabin. Pet fees are $125 per segment of the trip.
  • Southwest Airlines. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA. Southwest does not allow psychiatric service dogs, so ESA owners must book their ESAs like they are normal pets. Pet fees are $95 per pet carrier per one-way trip.
  • Spirit Airlines. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA. Animals will have to meet the size requirements for flying in the cabin since Spirit does not fly animals in the cargo hold. ESA owners will have to book spots as if the ESA is a regular pet. Pet fees are $110 per pet container.
  • Sun Country. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA. They still enable pets and service dogs, so a customer may reserve their ESA a spot as a pet or have them certified as a service dog.
  • United Airlines. Does not allow ESAs after the final rule outlined in the ACAA. ESA owners will have to reserve a spot for their animal as a normal pet. They offer cabin flights for small dogs or PetSafe flights for animals too large for the cabin. Pet fees are $125 per pet carrier, and if a layover is more than 4 hours within the US or 24 hours outside of the US, an additional $125 will be required.

Can an Airline Deny an Emotional Support Animal?

Can an Airline Deny an Emotional Support Animal

Yes, and most airlines have shifted toward doing so after the ACAA was amended to no longer require air travel providers to accept emotional support animals on their flights.

There are several reasons airlines give for making this move. A commonly cited reason is the story about a flight attendant who was bitten by a dog involving an injury that required stitches.

Other airlines citing disruptive behavior from emotional support animals and complaints about people with unconventional ESAs, like snakes and miniature horses, as these are difficult, if not impossible, to reasonably accommodate.

How Much do Airlines Charge for Emotional Support Animals?

The typical fee for bringing a pet on board an airline is $100 to upwards of $1,000, depending on the animal’s size, its kennel, and the length of the flight.

The exception to these fees is trained service animals. They are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are permitted free of charge on airlines as they are considered assistance animals, not pets.