Alaska Airlines Emotional Support & Service Animal Policy Changes

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a rule on December 2nd (read more here) that airlines in the US would no longer be required to transport emotional support animals (ESA) and they only need to accept trained dogs as service animals.

Pony

Alaska Airlines announced yesterday that it would only accept emotional support animals through February 28, 2021, for tickets issued by January 11. Also, the airline will only accept trained dogs as service animals from January 11.

You can access Alaska Airlines here.

Here’s the announcement:

Following recent changes to U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) rules, Alaska Airlines will no longer accept emotional support animals on its flights. Effective Jan. 11, 2021, Alaska will only transport service dogs, which are specially trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.

Earlier this month the DOT said it will no longer require airlines to make the same accommodations for emotional support animals as is required for trained service dogs. Changes to the DOT rules came after feedback from the airline industry and disability community regarding numerous instances of emotional support animal misbehavior which caused injuries, health hazards and damage to aircraft cabins.

“This regulatory change is welcome news, as it will help us reduce disturbances onboard, while continuing to accommodate our guests traveling with qualified service animals,” said Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy at Alaska Airlines.

Under the revised policy, Alaska will accept a maximum of two service dogs per guest in the cabin, to include psychiatric service dogs. Guests will be required to complete a DOT form, which will be available on AlaskaAir.com beginning Jan. 11, attesting that their animal is a legitimate service dog, is trained and vaccinated and will behave appropriately during the journey. For reservations booked more than 48 hours prior to travel, guests must submit the completed form via email. For reservations booked less than 48 hours prior to travel, guests must submit the form in person to the Customer Service Agent upon arrival at the airport.

Alaska will continue to accept emotional support animals under its current policy for reservations booked prior to Jan. 11, 2021, for flights on or before Feb. 28, 2021. No emotional support animals will be accepted for travel after Feb, 28, 2021.

For more information about travel with pets, visit AlaskaAir.com.

Conclusion

It was unfortunate that DOT had to make this ruling, but passengers abused ESA’s a lot (from turkeys to miniature horses), and most were not trained at all.

I would assume that all the US airlines will institute similar rules as Alaska that follow the DOT’s policy change.

I have never quite understood why so many travelers in the US “need” emotional support and service animals when flying compared to the rest of the world?

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