Although many of the efforts they’ve been making are milquetoast, such as making the owner of an animal sign a form saying their animal can behave there’s a cultural shift at the airlines from one where ‘anything a passenger brings on board goes’ if they mention having a special need to one where there are limits.
Passengers had gradually learned that any animal could be brought on board without paying a pet in cabin fee, and without putting the pet underneath the seat in front, by claiming to need an accommodation. That created a reaction from other passengers assuming that anyone with an animal on board was scamming the system rather than having a genuine need.
Airlines were scared of federal repercussions under the Air Carrier Access Act. Steps to reform support animal rules have stalled for years. Under the current administration airlines have been in touch with the Department of Transportation to figure out what they can do under current law and regulatory guidance.
American Airlines surveyed their employees about emotional support animals. It seems to me to be a survey where they basically knew the results before asking the question, but the survey allows them to present these answers as their front line employees speaking rather than as their own position. It’s more rhetorically effective.
What they find is that American’s employees believe the current state of affairs where a flight departing a hurricane region could easily adopt the call sign ‘Noah’s Ark’ is disruptive. Bear in mind that American Airlines framed the policy options in asking the question, but employees agree the best approach is to allow service animals as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act — and not other animals — on board outside of existing ‘pet in cabin’ guidelines. In other words, accommodate passengers under the ADA instead of applying the more ambiguous Air Carrier Access Act rules.
That seems a reasonable policy response, using existing legal frameworks to provide for people with real needs while eliminating untrained animals of all stripes from the passenger cabin. Do you agree with the majority of American’s employees? What do you think?