Home Blog Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Airline Travel Guide : Always up to date

Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Airline Travel Guide : Always up to date

October 21, 2020
Estimated Read Time - 11 mins 40 secs
Woman with her Dog trying to catch a plane
dog ready to travel after reading emotional support animal airline guide

As the popularity of flying with Emotional Support Animals increases, airlines are cracking down, and specifications, expectations, and guidelines are getting tighter and tighter.

If you’re going to fly with your Emotional Support Animal (ESA), you will want to be informed on what type of documentation you will need for the airline of your choosing. Not being properly informed can lead to frustration, large pet travel fees, rejection, and, sadly, even worse in the case of Pebbles the hamster. For this reason, we have gathered ESA guidelines from some of the most traveled airlines. We will be sure to update here every few months, so you are always in the know. We hope this helps when you are determining what is best for you and your ESA. So, without further ado here is your Always up-to-date, Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Airline Travel Guide.

Jetblue Plane before flying with service animal onboard

JetBlue

What types of ESA’s are accepted? Dogs, Cats, and Miniature Horses

Can I just show up at the airport with my ESA Letter? No. JetBlue must be notified of emotional support animal travel and receive the required documentation no later than 48 hours prior to departure. download forms (additional documents may be required depending on travel destination) If you still need your legitimate ESA Letter click here to get started.

Can I use the same documents I used last time I traveled? Documents must be submitted for each reservation you are traveling. They are not kept on file. (Required documentation for Emotional Support Animals must always accompany the animal when traveling, and is to be presented upon request to a JetBlue Complaints Resolution Official for review.)

Can I travel with more than one ESA? No. Customers are limited to ONE Emotional Support Animal, and the animal must be added to the reservation when booking online, or you can notify JetBlue of the animal’s travel at 1-800-JETBLUE.

Can my ESA sit on my lap? It depends. All animals must remain on the floor unless the animal is small enough to sit fully on the owner’s lap without touching any part of the seat or adjacent customers.

What if my ESA has to go to the restroom at the airport? Upon request, assistance will be provided by a JetBlue crewmember to and from the animal relief area.

What if my ESA misbehaves? The behavior will be assessed at the airport to ensure safety requirements are met before approving the animal for travel. While an ESA may not undergo the intense training that a Service Dog does, the animal is expected to behave appropriately in a public setting.

JetBlue was very responsive on Facebook when we had a question for them. So, if you need a quick answer, they are going to be available.

Please review JetBlue’s updated COVID-19 safety protocols before travel, so you can be fully prepared for what to expect.

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Southwest plane ready to leave with emotional support animal traveling

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is quickly becoming one of the most preferred airlines amongst ESA owners because they are very friendly and accommodating.

Can my animal be in the cabin with me? Yes. Animals used for a customer’s emotional support are accepted in the cabin. The animal must be in a kennel or on a leash at all times.

Can I travel anywhere I want to go with my ESA? Almost. Emotional Support Animals will be allowed to travel on flights to/from all domestic and international destinations except for Jamaica. No animals will be allowed to travel to/from Jamaica on Southwest Airlines under any circumstances due to country-specific regulations.

What types of ESAs are accepted? Dogs and Cats. Southwest Airlines does not allow unusual or exotic animals, including, but not limited to, rodents, reptiles, insects, hedgehogs, rabbits, sugar gliders, etc.

Do I need any forms in addition to my ESA Letter? Nope! As of August 2019, Southwest Airlines does not require additional forms for flying with an emotional support dog or cat. You will always need a legitimate ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. (not more than 1 year old)

Get Started on my ESA Letter Qualification

Do I need to submit documentation in advance? No. Advanced notice is not needed with Southwest, but letting them know you are traveling with an ESA helps the airline better prepare for the number of Customers who will need help. If you would like to add your ESA to your reservation, you can contact their Customer Relations Department at 1-855-234-4654 or can also reach Customer Relations on Twitter @SouthwestAir. Either way, a Representative will be able to assist you.

Can I travel with more than one ESA? No. Customers are limited to one ESA per passenger.

Can I sit in the Emergency Exit seat? No. Customers traveling with an emotional support animal cannot sit in an emergency exit seat. An Emotional Support Animal cannot block the aisles or sit in the emergency exit rows.

What if my ESA misbehaves? The animal must be trained to behave appropriately in a public setting and under the handler’s control at all times. An animal that poses a direct threat to others’ health or safety, causes a significant disruption of cabin service, or engages in disruptive behavior will be denied boarding. Examples of disruptive behavior include (but are not limited to):

  • Scratching, excessive whining, or barking
  • Growling, biting, lunging
  • Urinating or defecating in the cabin or gate area

Major thumbs up to Southwest for a very quick response on Facebook Messenger. Their response was also informative and helpful in resolving our questions.

Click here for Southwest Airlines Coronavirus (COVID19) Travel Information.

emotional support animal traveling on american airlines

American Airlines

What Type of documentation do I need? To travel with an emotional support animal in an American Airlines airplane cabin, you must submit all required forms to the Special Assistance Desk at least 48 hours before your flight. The airline will notify you upon document approval. If you don’t complete or meet all of the requirements, your animal may be able to fly as a pet. All applicable fees will apply. All documents must be with you at all times. Get Qualified for an ESA Letter

What types of ESAs are accepted? The animal must be a cat or dog that is four months or older.

Can I fly with more than one ESA? No. Customers are limited to one ESA per passenger.

Can my ESA sit next to me on the seat if it is empty? No. The animal must be able to sit at your feet, under your seat, or in your lap. (their website states that lap animals must be smaller than a 2- year-old child)

Can I bring my ESA in a crate? Maybe. If the animal is in a crate, it must be able to fit under the seat in front of you with the animal in the crate. Be sure to confirm with the airline ahead of time to ensure your crate is approved.

What if my ESA misbehaves? The animal must be trained to behave appropriately in public and will not be permitted in the cabin if they display any form of disruptive behavior that can’t be successfully controlled or corrected, including, but not limited to:

  • Growling
  • Biting, or attempting to bite
  • Jumping on or lunging at people
Can my ESA roam the aircraft? No. The animal must be in the owners control the entire time by leash or harness.

There was a slight delay when we tried to connect with AA via Facebook, but they did eventually respond and help us with our inquiries.

Click here for American Airlines Coronavirus (COVID19) Travel Information.

Delta Plane leaving with emotional support animal onboard

Delta

Delta complies with the Air Carrier Access Act by allowing customers to travel with emotional support animals (ESA) without charge in the cabin. Still, you MUST submit all of the paperwork at least 48 hours before a fight. This includes veterinary health forms and immunization records, a signed letter from a licensed doctor or mental health professional, and signed certification of training. Documentation can be provided with a digital copy, and a professional license number is recommended, but not required. You can upload your documents here.

If you have questions, you can call 404-209-3434.

What types of ESAs are accepted? Small cats, some dogs, and household birds traveling on flights within the United States (excluding Hawaii), Canada, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Delta does not accept exotic or unusual service or support animals. Additionally, they do not accept pit bull-type dogs as service or support animals.

Can I travel with multiple ESAs? No. One ESA per passenger.

Can my ESA sit on my lap? Yes. Your ESA may sit at your feet or on your lap as long as the animal is not outside of the footprint of the seat.

Does my ESA have to be a certain age? Yes. Your ESA must be four months or older. Delta Air Lines requires all dogs and cats-including service and support animals, to be current on all vaccinations. Dogs and cats can be vaccinated against rabies at a minimum of 12 weeks (three months) of age and must wait an additional 30 days for the vaccine to become effective.

Can I travel Internationally with my ESA? Not always. Be sure to check with the airline ahead of time as some restrictions may apply depending on the destination.

Can my ESA roam the aircraft? No. The animal must remain in control of the owner onboard the aircraft.

What if my ESA misbehaves? Your animal is expected to be well-behaved. Delta will only refuse transportation of the animal if it engages in disruptive or aggressive behavior such as:

  • Growling
  • Biting
  • Jumping on passengers, flight attendants, or staff
  • Relieving themselves in the gate area or cabin
  • Barking excessively, not in response to a handler’s need or distress
  • Eating off seatback tray tables

Is there a flight time restriction with my ESA? Yes. You and your ESA may not travel on flights more than 8 hours long. So, if it is a long trip, make sure to book connecting flights.

If you need an answer from their website, good luck! We ran into a few roadblocks when we tried, but it is possible that they have fixed the issues. Delta responded within 5 minutes of asking a question on Facebook Messenger. If you need a quick answer, that would be a great place to start if you plan on getting answers on their website, good luck! We ran into a few roadblocks when we went that route.

Click here for Delta Airlines Coronavirus (COVID19) Travel Information.

Alaska Airlines plane serving customers with emotional support animals

Alaska

Alaska Airlines welcomes guests who qualify to travel with an Emotional Support Animal in the cabin. Certain documentation requirements must be met. These documents need to be submitted at least 48 hours before departure and kept with you for the entire journey.

What types of ESAs are accepted? Cats, Dogs, and Miniature horses. Other animals will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and must not pose a safety threat and/or public health concern. There are also some restrictions on travel to Hawaii. Animals not accepted as trained Emotional Support Animals are snakes and other reptiles, ferret, rodent, and spiders.

Does my ESA have to be a certain age? Yes. The minimum age for an Emotional Support Animal is four months old.

Can my ESA sit on my lap? Maybe. Emotional Support Animals are expected to be seated on the floor space below a guest’s seat or, if no larger than an infant, sitting in the guest’s lap, if needed, to accommodate your disability. The animal’s size must not exceed the footprint or personal space of the guest’s seat or foot area during the entire flight.

Can I travel with multiple ESAs? No. Each guest is limited to one ESA per flight.

What if my ESA misbehaves? If your ESA engages in disruptive behavior such as (but not limited to) the following, your animal will be subject to Alaska Airlines pet policy:

  • Barking excessively, not in response to a handler’s need or distress
  • Aggressive behaviors towards other guests or animals (e.g., biting, growling, snapping, lunging, etc.)
  • Freely wandering or running around
  • Relieving themselves in the aircraft cabin or places other than designated pet relief areas
  • Jumping on guests or employees
  • Occupying an aircraft seat or seatback tray table
  • Eating off seatback tray tables
  • Not responsive to owner/handler’s commands

When should I check-in? If you are traveling with an Emotional Support Animal, you must check in one hour prior to the check-in time for the general public and advise the customer service agent upon arrival at the airport to ensure we have your animal accounted for onboard the aircraft.

Can my ESA roam the Cabin? No, ESAs must be under the control of the owner at all times in the airport and onboard the aircraft.

Can I sit in an Emergency Exit row with my ESA? No. Guests traveling with an ESA are not permitted to sit in an emergency exit row. The airline recommends choosing a window seat, so the animal is safe from foot traffic.

Alaska Airlines responded within 5 minutes of us sending a message on Facebook. Their website is also VERY user-friendly and helpful. They even include this handy pet animal relief area list.

Click here for Alaska Airlines Coronavirus (COVID19) Travel Information.

emotional support animals traveling on united airlines

United

Emotional Support Animals are accepted in the cabins of United Airlines for qualifying individuals with a disability. When traveling with an ESA, you will need to submit all required documents at least 48 hours before your flight. In addition to providing a letter from a licensed medical/mental health professional, customers will need to provide a veterinary health form documenting the health and vaccination records for the animal and confirm that the animal is trained to behave properly in a public setting. (Additional documentation beyond United’s requirements may also be required for an animal traveling to an international destination, Hawaii, or specific other locations.)

What types of ESAs are accepted? Cats and dogs. (any other animal species would need to comply with DOT regulations and will be evaluated for accommodation on a case-by-case basis)

Can I travel with multiple ESAs? No. United allows one ESA per passenger.

Does my ESA have to be a certain age? Yes. Four months of age.

Can my ESA travel for more than 8 hours at a time? Whether an ESA is safely capable of traveling on flights eight hours or more will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

What if my ESA has a potty accident on the airplane? Passengers may be held responsible for the required cleaning fees.

Can my ESA sit on my lap? No. Your ESA must sit at your feet without protruding into the aisle, the foot space of adjacent passengers, or certain other areas that must remain unobstructed to comply with safety regulations. You also have the option of using an approved in-cabin kennel for smaller animals.

Can I sit in an Emergency Exit row? No. Exit row seating is prohibited.

Click here for United Airlines Coronavirus (COVID19) Travel Information.

emotional support animal waiting to travel with owner

The common denominator in traveling with any of the above airlines is that you will need to have an ESA Letter from a licensed medical/mental health professional. We would love to help!

We wish you and your ESAs the safest and best of travels!

Disclaimer: Always verify policies and guidelines directly with the airline of your choosing. American Service Pets is not associated or affiliated with these airlines or any of their subsidiaries.

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