Alaska Airlines Leads The Way With Emotional Support Animal Ban

Alaska Airlines is leading the way with a ban on emotional support animals. From January 11th, the airline will no longer accept emotional support animals on its flights. The carrier will, however, accept and transport official service dogs.

Alaska Airlines Getty
Alaska Airlines will no longer allow emotional support animals onboard from early 2021. Photo: Getty Images

Alaska Airlines bans ESAs

Emotional support animals (ESAs) will no longer be allowed on Alaska Airlines flights booked from January 11th, 2021 onwards. The carrier will only transport service dogs. These service dogs are specially trained animals that are trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability.

The revised policy means Alaska customers will only be allowed to travel with a maximum of two service dogs per guest in the cabin. This includes psychiatric service dogs. Customers will need to complete a form from January 11th that attests their animal is a trained and legitimate service dog. The dogs also must be vaccinated, and the attestation indicates the dog will behave appropriately during the journey.

Alaska Airlines, Capacity, Flights Cut
Alaska Airlines is the first US airline to ban ESAs. Photo: Getty Images

Any reservations booked more than 48 hours prior to travel will require the form to be sent via email. Reservations booked less than 48 hours prior to travel will require the form to be submitted in person at the airport.

Emotional support animals will be accepted for reservations booked prior to January 11th, 2021, for flights on or before February 28th, 2021. No emotional support animals will be accepted onboard a flight after February 28th, 2021.

Airlines no longer have to transport ESAs

Earlier in December, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has taken a harder stance on service animals. ESAs are no longer considered service animals, which means that airlines do not have to transport them in the same manner as service animals.

This meant that airlines could choose whether to accept ESAs as specialized pets at a cost with size or weight restrictions in effect, or else ban them outright, which Alaska Airlines has done.

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The US DOT has taken a stand against emotional support animals. Photo: Getty Images

Alaska Airlines and the DOT are not banning support animals entirely. Passengers with disabilities will still be allowed to transport their trained service dogs or legitimate psychiatric support dogs.

ESAs are a point of contention

Emotional support animals have been a point of contention in the airline industry for years. Customers and flight crew alike have reported scores of people who abuse the ESA policy and travel with misbehaving animals that have climbed up and down and over meals in Delta One, attacked an American Airlines flight attendant, attacked another passenger on a flight, and others.

While not all ESAs have been problematic, such as a rabbit that flew to Japan in business class, the abuse from many customers has led to condemnation over the ESA policy.

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Some pet owners have misused the ESA policy to fly their pets for free. Photo: Getty Images

Those who do have legitimate psychiatric reasons to travel with a support animal will need to work with the airline to figure out what attestations they will need to be able to fly with them. Psychiatric service dogs do not require a lot of attestations, which is another loophole in this policy that, undoubtedly, some will take advantage of. So, it is not the complete end of ESAs on Alaska Airlines.

Are you glad to see Alaska Airlines’ change in policy on ESAs? Do you think these regulations on traveling with animals should be further tightened? Let us know in the comments!