You likely know that you can fly with a service animal on any airline in the United States. This class of animals is protected by federal law. However, if you may wonder if the same protections extend to flying with emotional support animals. The answer is a little more complicated than you may expect but the Air Carrier Access Act is a federal law and it does provide ESA air flight rights for people.
Is It Okay To Fly With a Support Animal?
As you may already know, federal law does not treat emotional support animals as service animals currently. Therefore, they do not enjoy the same protections regarding where you can take them. However, many organizations recognize the importance of these valuable companions, including airlines.
Perhaps because they understand that flying can be a serious source of stress, most major airlines operating in the U.S. have rules regarding flying with emotional support animals. This is good news for people who want to bring an ESA with them. The not so good news is that the rules are different from every airline carrier. With that said, the Air Carrier Access act affords you and your ESA rights, so you can travel with your animal, have them in the cabin of the plane and pay no pet airline pet fees.
Typically, however, you will need an ESA letter from a reliable organization like United Support Animals. With this in hand, you will typically be allowed to fly. It is a good idea to contact the airline of your choosing well before your flight or before you book the ticket and understand their ESA rules. The support team at United Support Animals are experts on ESAs and airline carrier rules so contact us to obtain the information you need.
How Can You Get an ESA Letter?
United Support Animals is the leading ESA Agency in the US and we provide ESA letters to help with airlines and housing. United Support Animals will provide a free pre-screening to help you get started and ensure that you are eligible for an ESA letter. The full process requires less than 24 hours, can be completed entirely online and involves only a nominal fee to receive the letter.
It is critical to go thru your ESA process with an agency like United Support Animals as the ESA Letter you obtain will be 100% guaranteed to afford you the federal rights you are entitled to regarding an ESA.
What Are the Rules for Different Airlines?
The rules are different for each airline and they change from time-to-time It is a good idea to double-check before you fly. These are the rules for major airlines:
- American Airlines: They allow support animals with a valid ESA letter. The ESA must be a cat or a dog, older than four months, well-behaved and groomed. It must also be able to fit either under the seat in front of you or on your lap. For the latter case, the animal should be no larger than a two-year-old child. You can buy a seat ticker for larger animals.
- Delta Airlines: You will need to submit your letter at least 48 hours before the flight. Additionally, the documentation must be less than one year old. The animal needs to be able to fit at your feet or in your lap.
- JetBlue: Like the other airlines, you need to submit a letter no less than 48 hours before the flight. They will not allow you to buy a seat for your ESA. It will need to fit at your feet or in your lap. The airline will assess the animal’s behavior and safety at the airport.
- Southwest Airlines: The animal must be leashed or in a carrier at all times. For the latter, it must be stowed under the seat. Your ESA must be well-behaved and not encroach on other passenger’s flying experiences or safety. They do not explicitly require 48 hours for the letter, but this is still a good rule of thumb.
- United: The ESA must be documented and be either a cat or a dog. It must be at least four months old. On a case-by-case basis, United may deny ESAs over 65 pounds in weight. Your animal must be sanitary and well-behaved.
Although the rules are largely consistent, they are set by each airline. Therefore, it can get a little complicated and difficult to keep track of. That is why United Support Animals is here to help usher you thru the process. It is always a good idea to review the rules before you fly.
What About International Flights?
International flights can get a little trickier. The destination country may have its own laws regarding emotional support animals. Even if this doesn’t affect your flight, it may affect your ability to enter the country. Some destinations will require quarantine for passengers flying with emotional support animals. Again, make sure you check the relevant laws for your international destination before departing. The same applies to Hawaii which has unique laws about animals entering the state.
Could This Be Changing?
The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed a rule change in 2020 that clarified some of the text and intents of the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act but the update ultimately preserves your legal right to an ESA and all of the benefits thereunder.