Back in January Delta launched new procedures which were being covered as though they were a crackdown but in reality only amounted to requiring advance notice to travel with the animals, proof of health and vaccinations, and insisting passengers (merely) attest that their animal can behave.
Two weeks later United copied Delta’s policy right after a viral video of a peacock being denied carriage on United Airlines (and few at the time seemed to notice it was denied under the old policy!).
It was surprising at the time that we didn’t see anything out of American, copying United copying Delta. However I think the advance notice requirements that were being reported were problematic for American’s lawyers as they tried to reconcile doing something about emotional support animals with the requirements of the Air Carrier Access Act.
Now we see what American has done and they’ve gone far further than Delta or United — while offering a provision for last minute travel that wouldn’t have otherwise allowed for advance notice.
- Animals have to fit under seat, at feet, or on lap No one with an emotional support animal can sit in an exit row.
- No blocking of aisles, occupying a seat or eating from tray tables
- Must leash and control the animal at all times. Animals who growl, attempt to bit, or lunge at people will be treated as pets “and all pet requirements and applicable fees will apply.” I’m not sure that this will be enforced except in the most egregious cases.
- 48 hours advance notice although last minute travel can be booked inside this period with an emotional support animal.
- Must have a form completed by a licensed mental health professional or a letter from the professional dated within a year of travel.
The letter has to state there’s “a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and are currently a patient” as well as “[s]how the need for emotional support or psychiatric service animal for air travel and /or activity at your destination” and “[p]rovide proof of their licensing as a mental health professional or medical doctor (including date, type and state of license).”
- There’s also a behavioral guidelines form and an ‘animal sanitation form’ for 8+ hour flights where you have to say the animal won’t need to relieve itself during long haul travel.
In addition these animals are banned as support animals:
|Ferrets||Rodents||Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game birds, & birds of prey)|
|Goats||Snakes||Animals with tusks, horns or hooves (excluding miniature horses properly trained as service animals)|
|Hedgehogs||Spiders||Any animal that is unclean / has an odor|
American put together a podcast for employees explaining the new policy.
While what United and Delta have done are pretty weak sauce here, American’s policy is serious if it’s actually enforced. I’d still like to see a requirement for insurance on the part of the animal’s owner, in fact I’d rather have that in lieu of some of the paperwork-style hurdles that are being thrown in front of owners.