Can You take Emotional Support Animals on United Airlines?
No, United Airlines is not one of the emotional support animal airlines.
United Airlines emotional support animal flying is no longer an option due to a new rule in the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) from 2021 by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). According to the rule, airlines are not required to recognize ESAs as service animals. As a result, many airlines have chosen to change their pet policies to no longer allow ESAs on board as anything other than regular pets.
Airlines that have adopted this new emotional support animal policy include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.
Is United Airlines Banning Emotional Support Animals?
Yes, United Airlines have banned emotional support animals (ESAs).
They have done so after the ACAA was changed to no longer require airlines to allow ESAs the same privileges as trained service animals or psychiatric service dogs. This means that to bring an ESA on a plane, the owner must follow standard pet policies and pay pet fees associated with bringing a pet on a plane.
In the past it was ESAs were allowed on a plane with an ESA letter from a mental health professional, but this is no longer the case as the new rule enables airlines only recognized dogs who have received service animal training as therapy animals.
What is the United Airlines Pet Travel Policy?
Let’s review the United Airlines emotional support animal and pet travel policies.
Pets in the United Airlines Plane Cabin. Pets flying in the cabin are to be kept in an FAA-approved carrier for the flight duration. The animal must be either a cat or a small dog, and it must be able to fit inside the pet carrier comfortably.
They must be able to stand and lay naturally, and the carrier must be able to fit under the seat. The animal must be well-groomed and free of odors and not display disruptive behaviors such as excessive barking, growling, or relieving itself in the carrier.
The kennel must also be leakproof and well ventilated to allow air circulation for your pet. An in-cabin pet will also count as a carry-on item, so it is important to plan accordingly.
Pets in the United Airlines Plane Cargo. For dogs and cats that are too large to travel in the cabin or are traveling unaccompanied, United Airlines will transport them under their PetSafe Program in the cargo hold.
United’s PetSafe program, however, has been indefinitely suspended for improvements, so at this time, only active-duty military on Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders and State Department Foreign Service Personnel (FSP) on current reassignment can fly with animals in cargo and they must be checked as baggage.
How do I Fly With my Pet on United Airlines?
These are the steps to take for United Airlines emotional support animal and pet flying:
- Ensure your Pet’s Gear Meets the Specifications. United Airlines has specifications for pet carriers, harnesses or leashes, and food bowls, if applicable, as well as animal ID cards and certificates of health or rabies vaccination records. If the animal is too large, it is not allowed in the cabin but is permitted in cargo, and you will need to make the gear you have for your pet suitable for cargo flight.
- Make Reservations. This is recommended to be done 48 hours in advance to allow time to process the paperwork required for pets to board a plane with United Airlines. If reservations are not made within 48 hours, it is needed for you to bring hard copies of the appropriate paperwork so they can process it at the airport.
This is also a great time to make sure your flight is booked appropriately. Choosing the most direct flight can significantly reduce the stress your pet will endure during air travel, and if there is a layover or airline change, it will be necessary to make reservations on every airline you will be using during your travels.
- Arrive Early. You may require a little more check-in time than normal if flying with an animal. This is because the agent will need to examine the health forms and required documents as well as the animal’s behavior and pet carrier to ensure it is suitable for flight. It is recommended to arrive 3 hours early to check in with an animal.
- Go through Security. At this point, you will remove your shoes, bag, etc. and remove your pet from its cage and carry it through the security checkpoint. If you are traveling with a service dog or psychiatric service dog, you will lead it through the checkpoint on its leash.
- Pick up your Pet Immediately. Once you have arrived at your destination, grab your checked baggage and go straight to the specified cargo location to pick up your pet. They will be stressed out, and seeing you will help calm their nerves.
What Pets are Allowed on a United Airlines Flight?
The only permitted in-cabin pets are cats and dogs that can fit in a travel carrier underneath the seat. They have breed restrictions, however. This includes snub-nosed breeds of cats and dogs like Himalayans and pugs and breeds deemed dangerous like Pit Bulls and Belgian Malinois.
How do I Travel With a Service Animal on United Airlines?
This is done similarly to traveling with a pet. However, no pet fees are associated with service animals or psychiatric service animals.
There are some additional documents required like the DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form, United States Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation Form, and, depending on where you are traveling, vaccination and rabies forms as well as proof of microchip.
Once you have led the dog through security, you will meet with the agent, who may ask fact-finding questions about the nature of the dog’s training and do a quick behavioral assessment to ensure it is fit for flight.
After this is all done and you board the plane, it is essential to know those flying with animals are not allowed to sit in exit rows, and it is recommended to sit in a window seat, so your animal is less likely to wander into the aisle. The dog is to remain on the floor space by your feet or under your seat. It may sit in your lap if it is smaller than a two-year-old.
How do I Submit Service Animal Documents to United Airlines?
According to United’s website, “these forms can be completed electronically and saved to your reservation once you’ve booked your flight (for domestic U.S. flights only).”
Once the reservation is made, and the documents are saved, you should be set, but it is always recommended to bring hard copies of all of the required documentation in case of technical difficulties.
What are United Airlines’ In-Flight Requirements for a Service Animal?
To fly on United Airlines with a service dog, the dog must be well-groomed and free of offensive odors. Any disruptive behavior will not be tolerated.
This includes eating from tray tables, excessive barking, growling, biting, lunging, or encroaching on neighboring seats.
The dog must be able to sit at your feet or under your seat and may sit in your lap if smaller than a two-year-old. It is also to be leashed for the flight’s duration and not wander into aisles or walkways.
How Much is Flying With a Pet on United Airlines?
Here are the United Airlines emotional support animal and pet fees:
- United Airlines Fees for Pets Flying in Cabin: $125 service charge each way and an additional $125 service charge for each stopover of more than four hours within the U.S. or more than 24 hours outside of the U.S.
- United Airlines Fees for Pets Flying in Cargo: Prices will vary depending on the animal’s weight.
- United Airlines Fees for Flying with Service Dogs: There is no fee for flying with a service dog.