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Southwest Airlines the Lone Hold Out for flying Emotional Support Animals

Southwest Airlines the Lone Hold Out for flying Emotional Support Animals

Scott 14 January 13, 2021
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Last week Alaska Airlines was the first airline to ban emotional support dogs under a new Department of Transportation (DOT) ruling. This week United, American, Delta, Frontier, Jetblue, Spirit, Allegiant have joined in banning the companion cabin animals. Currently only Southwest Airlines, Sun Country and Air Canada are accepting emotional support animals.

Southwest Airlines says it applauded the new DOT rule that “permits common-sense limits on the transport of animals in the aircraft cabin.” But the airline, now the world’s largest , says that as of now, “Our Emotional Support Animals policy has not changed. Southwest will announce this year any changes and timelines for those changes to our policies.”

The airlines that are barring Emotional Support Animals (ESA) say they are simply reacting to the DOT rules change which limits support animals in the cabin to trained service animals, such as guide dogs for the blind. United says, “This change will further ensure a safe and accessible travel experience for our customers.”

In reality, the airlines themselves pushed for the change over the last year. The airlines, led by their lobbying organization, Airlines For America, did a concerted job of turning public opinion against emotional service animals and their owners, who supposedly brought aboard “comfort turkeys, gliding possums, snakes, spiders, and more.”

For most airlines, the new no-fly policy for ESAs started on January 11, although previously booked animals will be allowed to fly through February. United says, “Our new policy goes into effect on Jan. 11 and – beginning Feb. 1 – United passengers will be asked to complete a DOT-authorized form prior to travel that confirms their service animal’s training, health and certification.” petition has nearly a thousand signatures. Signer Kay G. wrote, “The fact that many people joke about the seriousness of how this will affect DISABLED travelers is barbaric. Our ESA IS PART OF OUR MEDICAL TREATMENT PLAN.” (ESA owners typically need to get a certifying letter from a medical professional.)

With Southwest Airlines apparently still a holdout, and with advocates threatening lawsuits, will the ban on emotional support animals stick? One thing is for sure; COVID-19 lockdowns have bonded owners and animals even more tightly. When people start traveling, they won’t want to go without their canine companions.

We are hopeful that Southwest Airlines will maintain their position to accept emotional support animals on their flights, they have always had the most fun atmosphere in the airline sector. Considering the amount of travelers in 2019 that flew with ESA’s it may be a good financial decision for South West. Other airlines charge about $100 each way to fly your pet in the cabin, this could be a huge win for SW.


14 Replies to “Southwest Airlines the Lone Hold Out for flying Emotional Support Animals”

  1. I think it is very Unfortunate that these airlines do not accept ESA’s as Service animals. Those of us that have an ESA have it for a reason! Flying without it can arise fears in us and start unwarranted anxieties that we Do Not need on our trip! Please respect us and reconsider your ban!!

    1. Hi Judith,
      My name is Susan Stanford. I also have an ESA Support Animal. Back in January of this year I flew on United to Nevada for work. My ESA Animal flew with me in the cabin. I no issues with United then. I was supposed the fly to Denver for work on October 23, 2023 on United Airlines. When I called United about the DOT form for my ESA to fly with me to Denver; even though she had just flown with me prior to now. I was told she could no longer fly with me in the cabin. I totally agree with you, that we need our service animals with us. ESA Service Animals are Service Animals it does not matter what service they provide. United Airlines will no longer get my business, nor will I ever fly with them again. We need our ESA Service Animals with us always. We do have them for a reason. God Bless you Judith. Stay Blessed and Much love.

      From Susan Stanford and Carly.
      From Little Rock, AR.

      1. Hi Susan,
        ESA’s are not service animal because they lack training to assist. From here on in just refer to your dog’s as Psychiatric Service Animals since they are trained to assist your psychiatrically.

  2. I think it is Very Unfortunate that Southwest airlines does not accept ESA’s as Service animals. Those of us that have an ESA have it for a reason! Flying without it can arise fears in us and start unwarranted anxieties that we Do Not need on our trip! Please respect us and reconsider your ban. Thank you

  3. I don’t ordinarily fly but I will definitely fly with an airline that allows my ESA to fly with me. I have mental problems that my small dog helps me with. I would not be comfortable flying without her.
    I agree that some people take advantage of the ESA law but then they make it hard for people like me who really need their ESA animals with them.
    Someone should find a way to adjust the law to stop the idiots from taking advantage of the law.

    1. Get her trained as a medical support dog if she helped you with anxiety or mental illness problems she will be accepted as a medical support dog along with a letter from your psychiatrist source psychologist.

  4. Well, I was just enquiring about which airline would support a traveler bringing an emotional support dog on board, yes or no. But reading down further, I believe it said that the flyer would be able to bring his or her support animal onboard when they prepared for the flight by going to a mental health provider who would write out a letter of support for the mental health patient. I’m hoping this is correct? Thank you

  5. I wish to fly again but have severe anxiety problems and see under a psychiatrist care. He is willing to give me a letter for my anxiety and ptsd problem. I have a chihuahua which I would like to be able to fly in the cabin with me otherwise my anxiety and stress will be very severe and prevents me from flying. Will a letter from my psychiatrist be sufficient and allow me to fly in a Airline suitable carrying case for my dog to accompany me? I am very confused as to what I need to make this happen. Please help. Sincerely

  6. I suffer from panic attacks, anxiety & other mental problems..I need my girl with me @ all times..She has been my emotional support for 11 years. All airlines should accept our babies on board with us. They also suffer from anxiety & panic when put in the baggage areas.

  7. I have a very small chihuahua (less than 7 lbs) I go everywhere with him I don’t know what would happen if I was not allowed to fly with him. He keeps me grounded where I feel safe not to much anxiety but much better with him than without him I also have PTSD which I know he warns me when someone is getting upset mad or just wanna pick a fight with me so I can remove myself from that situation! Without my dog in my life I don’t where my life would be right now without him in it scared to even think about it. Just cuz some others abused we all have to pay for their mistakes rather purposely done or to ignorant to know better we all should not have pay for the others if we have proper documents and our dogs due not exceed over 200 lbs

    1. Hi Jeannie,
      Did you apply for your DOT Number (Department of Transportation) prior to your flight. In order for a service dog to fly you have to register your dog with DOT.

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