Earlier this year both Delta and United updated their policies when it comes to emotional support animals, and then just a few weeks ago Alaska updated their policy. Airlines have seen a huge spike in the number of passengers traveling with emotional support animals, and they’re starting to crack down on this.
With Delta, United, and Alaska having all added restrictions, there was one obvious airline missing.
American Airlines has just announced that they’re making changes to their emotional support animal policy. In updating their policy, American notes that they’ve seen a 40% increase in the number of people traveling with service and support animals between 2016 and 2017.
In addition to the current requirements, for tickets issued on or after July 1, 2018, American will require customers traveling with support animals to complete the following paperwork:
- Mental Health Professional Form
- Behavior Guidelines
- Animal Sanitation During 8+ Hours Form (only required if your flight is scheduled to be over 8 hours)
On top of that, American is banning the following types of animals as service animals:
- Sugar gliders
- Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game birds, & birds of prey)
- Animals with tusks, horns or hooves (excluding miniature horses properly trained as service animals)
- Any animal that is unclean / has an odor
American’s new documentation requirements won’t prevent anyone who is currently traveling with an emotional support animal from continuing to bring it onboard. They’re simply trying to make you jump through some additional hoops, in hopes of fewer people having the follow-through to complete the paperwork in time. A mental health professional form is already required, so the only real addition here is having to sign a piece of paper with behavior guidelines.
Personally I can’t imagine this will have a big impact on those traveling with emotional support animals, and I’d be surprised if it leads to a decrease in the number of people traveling with these types of animals.
American has also uploaded a video or their “Tell My Why” podcast to explain the new rules, featuring Albert Rizzi, founder and chief executive officer of My Blind Spot, Inc., and Suzanne Boda, American’s Senior Vice President, Los Angeles:
It’s peculiar to me that Suzanne talks about how they wanted to take their time with these changes and not just jump into them like the other carriers did, yet American copied their competitors exactly in terms of the new requirements.
American is just matching their competitors here, and is essentially adding a layer of documentation for anyone wanting to travel with an emotional support animal. Personally I can’t imagine having to fill out one extra form will greatly change the number of people traveling with animals. I guess we’ll see the impact over time.
What do you make of American updating their policy on emotional support animals? Do you think this will decrease the number of people traveling with emotional support animals?