**Update: 01/11/20 @ 16:18 UTC – A JetBlue spokesperson shared information about its policy; details below.**
Both United Airlines and JetBlue have now joined other major carriers in the United States in prohibiting emotional support animals (ESAs) from boarding a plane. The companies join American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Delta Air Lines with this move. These actions come about after the Department of Transportation (DOT) revised the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) last month.
Changing the definition
The act’s revision now narrows the definition of service animal. Ultimately, emotional support animals will no longer be recognized as service animals.
United says that no emotional support animals will be transported on its services after February 28th. The airline will only continue to accept emotional support animals for reservations booked before January 11th for travel on or before February 28th.
Notably, United is limiting the type of service animal allowed on board the aircraft. Service dogs trained to assist passengers with disabilities will continue to be permitted, in accordance with DOT rules.
“A service animal is a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is over the age of 4 months and 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. Service animals are accepted in cabin for qualified individuals with a disability. Qualified individuals with a disability are only permitted to travel with a maximum of two service animals,” United shared on its website.
“A service animal should sit in the floor space in front of the customer’s assigned seat and cannot protrude into the aisles or the foot space of adjacent travelers. Customers may use an approved in-cabin kennel for smaller animals provided its use meets stowage requirements. Exit row seating is prohibited.”
Meanwhile, JetBlue will no longer accept bookings for emotional support animals for flights after January 11th. Simple Flying reached out the the carrier for comment. The airline shared that it is always committed to serving those customers who require assistance or accommodations. Nonetheless, it is keen to maintain a safe and comfortable experience for all on the plane.
“For existing itineraries for travel through February 2021 that have indicated an emotional support animal will join the customer, JetBlue will allow the travel of the animal if all required and appropriate documentation was submitted as requested of those customers by December 20, 2020,” a JetBlue spokesperson told Simple Flying.
“Customers who planned to travel with an emotional support animal on or after March 1, 2021, will need to consider other options that will be offered by JetBlue including shifting their animal’s designation to an in-cabin pet as long as they meet all of JetBlue’s pet requirements.”
Altogether, those traveling with service dogs must complete official paperwork at least 48 hours before their flight. Moreover, they need to attest that the animal has been properly trained. If passengers booked travel less than 48 hours before departure, they are advised to provide the DOT forms to a gate agent.
What are your thoughts about airlines changing their stance on emotional support animals? How would this move impact your travel plans? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.