Delta Air Lines is joining the growing club of United States-based carriers banning emotional support animals. This follows the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) issuing a final ruling on emotional support animals in aircraft cabins. That ruling says airlines no longer have to recognize emotional support animals as service animals.
Delta joins the club of airlines banning emotional support animals
Alaska Airlines and American Airlines have already moved to ban emotional support animals. Now Delta is getting aboard. Effective January 11, emotional support animals will no longer be accepted on any Delta Air Lines flight. Delta will continue to fly trained service dogs. In that case, the passenger will have to submit DOT paperwork confirming their dog is trained and healthy.
“We applaud the DOT for making this change and acknowledging the concerns that Delta and many other stakeholders have raised for the past several years,” says Delta executive Allison Ausband.
“The DOT’s final rule enables airlines to put the safety of all employees and customers first while protecting the rights of customers who need to travel with trained service animals.”
The Department of Transportation says it received over 15,000 comments and statements while considering its final ruling. The ruling on emotional support animals, issued on December 2, allows airlines to recognize emotional support animals as pets rather than service animals.
“The final rule defines a service animal as a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” says the Department of Transportation.
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Airlines welcome the Department of Transportation’s ruling
Airlines are cheering the DOT on from the sidelines. Delta’s security boss, David Garrison, says;
“Delta’s updated policy follows a nearly 85% increase in animal incidents since 2016, including urination, defecation, and biting. We strongly believe this policy change will enhance the overall travel experience for everyone.”
Airline lobby group, Airlines for America is also onboard. Airlines for America CEO Nicholas Calio says;
“The Department of Transportation’s final rule will protect the traveling public and airline crewmembers from untrained animals in the cabin, as well as improve air travel accessibility for passengers with disabilities that travel with trained service dogs.”
Disability advocacy group criticizes the ban on emotional support animals
But not everyone is happy with the ruling. The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) says it is disappointed. The lobby and advocacy group says the ruling runs contrary to the protections afforded by the Air Carrier Access Act.
“Once again, in an almost systemic manner, DOT has decided to prioritize the airline industry and corporate interests over the rights afforded to people with disabilities under the law,” Executive Director of NDRN, Curt Decker, said.
“The DOT rule will only serve to exacerbate existing inequities for people with disabilities participating in air travel. It will instead almost exclusively accommodate the interests of the airline industry.”
Delta says the ban is in everyone’s interests
But Delta Air Lines argues the final rule enables airlines to protect all employees’ and customers’ safety while still looking after passengers with bona fide service dogs.
“Our top priority is the health, safety, and comfort of Delta customers and our people,” says David Garrison.
Delta says from January 11, they will no longer accept new bookings for emotional support animals. The airline says passengers who hold a ticket with their emotional support animal for travel before January 11 can still travel as planned.
From January 11, Delta will happily accommodate service dogs regardless of breed if it is specifically trained to assist a person with a disability. As per its current policy, Delta notes they will continue to deny boarding to any trained service animal that poses a threat or demonstrates aggressive or inappropriate behavior.