American Airlines’ New Emotional Support Animal Restrictions

Filed Under: American

Over the past year we’ve seen the major US carriers add several new restrictions to traveling with emotional support animals. It’s interesting that these changes have come in several phases, as some airlines have updated their policies three times.

American Airlines has just announced their latest updates to traveling with emotional support animals, which kick in for travel as of April 1, 2019. This follows American’s May 2018 emotional support animal policy changes.

American says that they are making these changes to “protect customers who have a legitimate need as well as the team members who work every day to keep all customers safe.”

So, what are the changes being made this time around? As of April 1:

  • A traditional service animal may be a dog, a cat, or in some limited circumstances, a miniature horse
  • A passenger may bring only one emotional support animal onboard an aircraft
  • American will require a veterinary health form, along with immunization details, for emotional support animals
  • Animals under four months of age will no longer be permitted to travel as service or support animals; this is because animals under this age haven’t received the necessary vaccinations

For what it’s worth, these changes are in addition to American’s May 2018 changes, where American started requiring passengers to fill out mental health professional forms, behavior guideline forms, and animal sanitation forms for flights of eight hours or more.

At that point American also banned several types of animals from acting as service animals, including goats, hedgehogs, snakes, sugar gliders, and more.

Bottom line

American is largely just following the additional restrictions that some other airlines put in place late last year. Typically they’d follow the competition sooner, but they didn’t in this case.

These all seem like fairly reasonable restrictions for them to add. Those who still want to travel with their dog or cat won’t have issues doing so, so this shouldn’t impact a vast majority of people traveling with ESAs.

  1. This is unbelievable why are people allowed to take miniature horses on board? Why just ban snowflakes from the airline so the rest of us can avoid this inconvenience

  2. Stop making fun of my horse and I
    We can’t be separated from each other if I am going to make it through the day
    She keeps me antidepressant free and shield me from most human beings

  3. I’ve yet to see an animal anywhere except the US where I’ve taken 11 domestic sectors and seen a ESA on 7 of them.

    It’s so weird the rest of us don’t need ESA’s

  4. Still trying to understand why an “Emotional Support AR-15” is not allowed but horses can.

  5. @jj – miniature horses are used by people who need a animal that can brace themselves to bear most of the weight of the human during standing or sitting or when going up stairs. Smaller people can use a large dog, but for others a miniature horse is required. They are well trained, calm and docile, wear a diaper, and can also wear slippers indoors to keep their hooves from damaging floors or carpets.

    (They’re also adorable, but that’s not the issue here.)

    The necessity of one as an emotional support animal (instead of a dog or cat) is questionable, but as a physical support animal they can be necessary for some people.

  6. Damn, I knew I should’ve booked that award ticket for April 1 instead of March 31. Ugghhhh.

  7. This whole emotional support animals surging in the past few years is baffling. I was at this buffet at a high end hotel and there was this huge goldie poodle with a ‘support’ vest on it. The owners just carried on eating while the dog was wondering around on the leash around the table. The owner made zero interactions with the “emotional support animal”. We didn’t have our son with us at that time but had we been seated near the dog, it would’ve triggered his allergies. I fear the day where we are in a cabin with multiple emotional support animals and it’ll be us who will have to get rebooked.

  8. How are people supposed to get over their disorder if they rely on a freaking animal to get through the day? Go on Amazon and buy a book to teach you how to manage anxiety like an adult. If you have a chemical imbalance in your brain that causes anxiety or depression, get on some meds. An animal does not magically fix a chemical imbalance in the brain.

  9. “…or in some limited circumstances, a miniature horse.” For goodness sake! What absolute stupidity. If they have a horse let them ride into the sunset to get to their destination. I already find it objectionable to have an animal in the cabin apart for seeing eye dogs. Neigh!

  10. A recent flight pbi-ewr the “emotional support animal” sitting next to me was for some reason terrified of my 18 month old daughter and her car seat. I felt bad for the dog but the owner was adamant that we needed to move (should note she was already kicked out of her emergency exit row seat). We did not. She wound up in the last row of the plane, it was awesome.

  11. I would much rather travel next to a dog, cat or horse than many people. Though i realize children are wonderful, they cause uncomfortable travel which i have yet to endure from an animal.

  12. Everyone knows the majority of emotional support animals are just pets. The owners don’t want to pay the outrageous fees to bring them on the plane and/or are afraid to let them go as cargo for fear they will die en route. We all know this, the airlines know this. Yet they continue to charge CRAZY fees each way for a pet who also counts as your carry on item. Yet people can bring their lap sized offspring on the plane free of charge and take as much crap on the plane for the kid as they want AND can board early. If the airlines restricted the number of small pets allowed in the cabin, made it safer for the larger animals to go as cargo, and made it all AFFORDABLE for the common folk, this would not have become the problem that it has become. You see something happening enough times and you think “why should they get away with it (not paying and getting the big dog on the plane) and I can’t ?”

  13. Some people shouldn’t fly if they need an emotional support animal. Yes, I said what most people are thinking!

  14. I see all these comments here about emotional support animals. But every time I’ve been on a plane, or in an airport, and seen one, all kinds of people comment about how cute the dog, cat, horse, whatever is. So myself and all these folks negative on them are in the minority it seems to me.

    People are nuts. This country is nuts.

  15. You need to read the policy further about if a passenger is allergic to pet dander, who gets bumped off. The person who bought their ticket last. So the pet might go, and because you are allergic, bought the last ticket, either suffer or get bumped! Crazy!

  16. I was on a Southwest flight from SFO recently and there were ELEVEN dogs and TWO cats on board. One of the dogs was a doberman pincer in the front row; I was horrified and not just a little bit scared. (There were also two other large dogs in the row behind me, on each side.) I don’t think breeds that make the top 10 most dangerous should be allowed onboard. It’s a giant lawsuit waiting to happen when one of these “he’s never bitten anyone ever” dogs decides to chomp on someones’s leg for lunch.

    Not to mention I personally know someone who will never be able to fly again because of bad allergies that would make for an emergency landing were she on my flight. With that many animals on board, good luck finding a seat far enough away from any of them. It’s sad to me that airlines cater more to people who need their emotional support animals with them (95% of whom I would bet are abusing the system) than people with legit allergies.When I wrote to Southwest about how out of control the situation had become, they said it was law, blah blah blah. I told them it was time for me to start flying other airlines that were buckling down on the abuse of the emotional support animal policy.

  17. Yeah, I don’t understand all this “support animal” stuff. A cat or a dog I understand. A miniature horse, well that’s stretching it a bit. I’ve flown with my cat in the cabin (though it’s been awhile); but only to move from one state to another. The cat was always in a cat carrier. Also, I think they only allowed one or two pets in the cabin on each flight. Is this all really necessary??? 11 dogs and 2 cats sounds awful.

  18. Miniature horses are specifically mentioned in the ADA law. The ADA definition of service animal is limited to dogs. However, many people are unaware that the regulations make one exception to this definition to recognize miniature horses that have been individually trained to perform a task or service for a person with a disability as service animals.

    Individuals with disabilities may choose miniature horses as an alternative to dogs for various reasons including religious observance and allergies to dogs. Miniature horses can be trained to perform many of the same tasks as dogs.

  19. The “emotional” support scam is as bad as the “handicap” parking abuse. STOP IT.

  20. We have a daughter deathly afraid to fly alone. She has been removed from flights due to her panic attacks. We spent thousands of dollars on therapy without success, even more flying with her as a companion. Today she is flying with her ESA, a very small (<10 lb.), well behaved dog, and she is able to travel alone, without fear. Not every flyer who uses a ESA is a phony.

  21. Restaurants, hotels, airplanes. What jackass duped the public into thinking it was OK to take animals out of a kennel and let them mingle with the general public?

  22. With airlines charging extra for baggage why aren’t they charging extra for emotional support animals? Just saying….

  23. American’s new ESA policies are basically a way to force ESA pax into just paying for an in cabin pet. Now you have to make an appointment with your psych doc to have the AA form filled out, then make an appointment with the vet to have that AA form filled out, and then hope AA approve it all 48 hours before the flight. Assume the pax has UHC PPO – $50 for the appointment, then +/- $50 for a vet appointment. This is for each flight. Might as well just pay the $125 each way and have them just be an in cabin pet.
    Compare this to SWA – they just need an ESA letter signed by the psych doc dated within a year. I know some folk do take advantage of ESAs, but for those who have legitimate ESAs, these new policies place far too many burdens on those pax.

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