American Airlines To Implement An Emotional Support Animal Ban

Another United States-based carrier is moving to ban emotional support animals in its cabins. This follows a Department of Transportation (DOT) final ruling on the subject. On Tuesday, American Airlines announced changes to its policies and procedures for travel with emotional support animals and service animals. American’s new policy will line up with the DOT’s final ruling.

American Airlines is cracking down on emotional support animals traveling in aircraft cabins. Photo: Denver International Airport

From February, American Airlines will only allow trained service dogs in the cabin

In early December, the DOT issued a final rule on traveling with service animals. The carriage of animals in airline cabins has long been controversial. It was open to abuse. The Department of Transportation said it received over 15,000 comments on the matter before its ruling.

“The DOT’s new rule defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability,” says a statement issued by American Airlines.

“When the rule goes into effect on January 11, American will no longer authorize new travel for animals that do not meet that definition, such as emotional support animals. Existing bookings involving emotional support animals will be honored through February 1, when the airline’s new policies go into effect.”

Emotional Support Dog Getty
New rules will see sights like this end on American Airlines flights. Photo: Getty Images

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The new rule will close a loophole that was wide open to abuse

The policy change at American Airlines follows Alaska Airlines banning the carriage of emotional support animals one week ago. It will put an end to practices such as a rabbit flying business class to Japan, miniature horses hitching a ride across the country, and opossums jetting to Texas for a family Thanksgiving get-together.

From February 1, American Airlines will ask passengers needing to travel with service dog to complete a DOT form attesting to the dog’s behavior, training, and health. That form will need to be electronically submitted 48 hours before travel unless travel is booked within the 48-hour window. American Airlines will issue an authorization to travel for the service animal. That authorization remains valid for 12 months or until the expiry of the dog’s vaccines – whichever is sooner.

“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,” says American Airlines’ executive Jessica Tyler.

American Airlines says many animals previously falling into the catch-all emotional support animals category can now travel as carry-on pets or in the cargo hold. In certain circumstances, American Airlines will still fly dogs or cats in the cabin. In this case, the animal remains in its kennel for the duration of the flight, and the kennel must fit under the seat in front of you.

Pet dog with glasses checks in
Some passengers preferred that their pets travel in style. Photo: Getty Images

Many will welcome the crackdown on emotional support animals

United States-based airlines are embracing the new DOT final ruling. It will see the practice of untethered and poorly trained animals traveling in airline cabins in the United States end. The final ruling means only bona fide trained dogs can travel as service animals. The DOT ruling notes the use of service dogs is not restricted to passengers with physical disabilities. Bonafide psychiatric service dogs will also remain good to fly.

While not everyone will welcome the change of policy at American Airlines, many people will. American Airlines says it is reaching out to passengers who may be impacted by these changes.

What do you think? Should airlines ban emotional support animals from their cabins? Is American Airlines making the right move here? Post a comment and let us know.