Delta Air Lines Bans Emotional Support Animals

Filed Under: Delta

In early December 2020, the US Department of Transportation issued a final ruling regarding emotional support animals (ESAs), allowing airlines to no longer accommodate emotional support animals if they don’t want to.

Alaska Airlines recently became the first major US airline to announce a ban on emotional support animals, and then American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines, followed days later. Delta Air Lines has now become the latest airline to introduce a similar policy change.

Delta bans emotional support animals

It has been announced that Delta Air Lines will no longer accept emotional support animals on its flights, and will instead only transport service dogs.

There’s one major thing that makes the Delta policy different than the American and Alaska policy, based on my reading of the announcement — Delta won’t allow emotional support animals ticketed starting January 11, 2021, but it sounds like any emotional support animal confirmed for travel before then will be honored.

In other words, it sounds like you can still travel with an emotional support animal for the next 11 months if you ticket your travel now (if someone has a different read on the press release, please let me know, because Delta is a bit vague).

Under the revised policy:

  • Customers traveling with a trained service dog should submit DOT documentation via attesting to the dog’s health, training, and behavior, 48 hours prior to departure; a customer may also present the documentation at the ticket counter on the day of departure
  • Customers traveling with a trained service dog on flights scheduled for eight hours or more also have to submit a DOT Relief Attestation form, attesting that the dog will not relieve itself in the aircraft, or can go without causing health or sanitization issues
  • Delta will lift its ban on pit bull type dogs that meet documentation requirements for trained service animals

Will emotional support animals become service dogs?

While emotional support animals will be banned, don’t expect this to be the end of dogs over 20 pounds in the cabin of planes. Ultimately people have historically used the emotional support animal loophole for one of two reasons — to save on the cost of bringing a dog into the cabin (compared to paying the pet fee), or to get a dog over 20 pounds into the cabin (which is otherwise the weight limit).

As I noted in a separate post, odds are good that many people may choose to recategorize their emotional support animals as psychiatric service animals. Here’s how the DOT defines psychiatric service animals:

Psychiatric service animals are treated the same as other service animals that are individually trained to do work or perform a task for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.

Owners of dogs are allowed to train their own psychiatric service animals, so there’s no need to have these dogs trained by an outside party:

It is our understanding that the vast majority of emotional support animals are dogs, and dogs can be task-trained to perform many different tasks and functions. We also note that the rule does not require service animal users to incur the cost of training by third party schools or organizations; service animal users are free to train their own dogs to perform a task or function for them.

And you can self-certify your need for a psychiatric service animal:

Psychiatric service animal users will no longer be required to provide a letter from a licensed mental health professional detailing the passenger’s need for the animal, nor will they be required to check in one hour before the check-in time for other passengers.

I’m not making a judgment call here one way or another, but rather I’m simply pointing out that those celebrating the end of dogs in airplane cabins will likely be disappointed.

Yes, there will now only be dogs in cabins (rather than peacocks, pigs, etc.), but I would expect that there will still be a significant number of dogs traveling in the cabins of planes under these rules.

Bottom line

Delta Air Lines is banning emotional support animals for flights booked as of January 11, 2021. Based on my reading of the policy, though, emotional support animals will still be accepted for the duration of the schedule as long as they’re ticketed by then (unlike at Alaska and American).

This policy update follows a recent ruling by the DOT giving airlines the right to do this, and Delta is the third major airline to add this restriction, after Alaska and American.

While I know many will celebrate this change, don’t get too excited — psychiatric service animals continue to be allowed, and that includes dogs. While this will lead to the end of animals other than dogs in airplane cabins, I wouldn’t expect a huge decrease in the number of travelers with dogs.

What do you make of Delta Air Lines’ emotional support animal policy change?

  1. All our entitled, white millennials with self-diagnosed anxiety issues can’t bring their emus for free? Delta and the like need to get canceled!

  2. @Endre

    I’m not usually one to agree with you, but +1.

    It’s sad how younger generations (generally) behave.

  3. Yes, the winter flights from NYC-MIA with 75% preboarding as disabled are just full of young millennials and their little sniveling, sh*tt*ng purse poodles. /s

  4. Gee, thanks for the racist comment Endre. What a way to start a new beginning for 2021. Had you just used the term millennial by itself your point would have better received. While I agree that hopefully the days of having to sit beside a wide array of wildlife are over I don’t feel that this forum is a place for racist comments.

  5. This will reduce the volume, as most people will read and interpret the policy as it is, without reading the details. Those that are determined to milk the system for their benefit with no valid medical or similar need will continue to do so.

    Next up, to the comment above, let’s see the airlines do something about all those milking the system for pre-boarding vs those that genuinely have a need (and likely frustrating / getting in the way of those that have such a need)

  6. When a 2 year old kid can get thru the flight w/ a small teddy bear but a grown man needs a 50-lbs peacock…

  7. Can you translate what this means for if you’re just flying with your pet because you’re moving or going somewhere for an extended period of time?
    Is the whole schtick with the emotional support animal so that people didn’t have to pay or didn’t have to worry if there were already other animals on the same flight?
    This is confusing.

  8. People should be forced to submit real (not self issued) documentation regarding the service dog. A document issued by a psychiatrist who attests the medical need for the animal PLUS an affidavit to the DOT under the penalty of perjury.

  9. ESA have been a joke from day 1. It was accelerated when the airlines placed more restriction and upped the fees for transport in the cargo hold. Given the drama and trama of flying, especially during COVID… if you are that emotionally fragile, you shouldn’t be on an airline right now… Even post COVID, the entire experience will be terrible, with no service, and even more restrictions…

  10. It is very unfortunate that TPG and OMAT continue to tell people how to unethically bypass all the well thought out rules that the DOT have brought into play to restrict the sham of “support animals” in the cabin.

    Very few pets are actually “support” – this is just a way to bring onboard an animal for free that should be either left behind or in the hold.

    It is irresponsible for all these pets to be in the cabin. In the case of an emergency not only will the idiots grab their luggage from the overhead but the dogs will be underfoot or possibly creating a disturbance of their own. Purely from a safety aspect pets should be banned from the cabin.

    Rightly the DOT says keep the cabins free of superfluous animals. Deliberately violating these rules should have serious consequences.

  11. I’ve seen hunters bring their hunting dogs on board as their emotional support animal. Too cheap to just pay the fee to get the dog onboarding. I saw had a neighbor once sitting in first class with her emotional support poodle in her lap. Its just a scam by cheap people. They’ll catch on to the psychiatrist support animal quickly.

  12. I have to say that some of these comments are a bit offensive. I have smaller white dog that, based on the biased assumptions above, would be considered a fluff poodle for a pathetic female millennial. What you all do not know, and blatantly make false & unfair assumptions about, is that my dog is in fact a service animal for me due to chronic health issues. I previously had her professionally trained to be a therapy dog for elderly and hospitals but, after living alone in nyc and having health issues, I trained her to perform specific tasks if I fell ill. She has been my savior many times. What bothers me about these comments is that you all are making generalizations based on nothing. If you were to look at me, you would assume I was one of those single, female millennials. Just don’t judge … be grateful for your health and put out good energy.

  13. Just because you can’t “see” someone’s psychiatric disability, you shouldn’t assume that they are pretending to need a service dog, that’s like seeing someone that doesn’t have an “obvious”
    physical disability and assuming their handicap
    placket is a scam. There will always be people that try to beat the system, but you should give everyone the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

  14. A lot of these comments are very ignorant. Yes, some people take advantage of the situation, as typically happens when people think they can get away with it. The small “fluffy” dogs are the only ones you be seeing on the planes since those are the only ones that fit under the seat.

    As for people putting down millennials as entitled and all sorts of ignorant comments. We have been one of the most economically unlucky generations, and many people forget, the majority of Millennials are not inheriting a trust fund, just the ones that are “social media famous” which is by far the minority.
    I myself have now been affected by not just 1 but 2 massive recession in 2008 when I graduated from college (which I paid for myself and have finally been able to pay off) and couldn’t get a professional job, and now during COVID when women are being disproportionately hit by lay offs. So in 2008 had to bartend for over a year (being sexually harassed by drunken a$*holes on a daily basis) till people were hiring again. So glad I listened to the generations before us that told us we had to go to college to get a decent job. This is actually only true for a handful of jobs by the way; I’ve only actually been asked about my college education once in an interview, in my over 10 years in the work force.
    I’m glad all your male privilege has given you the belief that you are the expert on other generations and sexes obstacles and life styles. Get a F***ing clue, or better yet, just stop giving comments on things you clearly know nothing about!

  15. @ash

    Unfortunately I have to take some exception to your comment “The small “fluffy” dogs are the only ones you be seeing on the planes since those are the only ones that fit under the seat.”

    If that statement was true not very many people would object. I perhaps have flown a bit more than you over the last 50 years and have never seen a small fluffy dog. But I have seen Collies, Shelties and Labradors. And certainly not in first class , but in restricted seating like on Condor for example. If you have ever been seated in 30″ seat pitch when the person behind has a Lab stuffed into their footspaceas well as their feet then you would understand how uncomfortable that is for the person in front on a 10 hour flight. If you think kids kicking the seat back is fun, try sharing it with a fully grown dog and owner.

    If someone is paying for a pet onboard there is a size restriction but there is no size restriction on support animals. That’s another reason we hate those that bend the rules for themselves – being generally from the ‘entitled generation’.

    My generation also graduated when there were less jobs than graduates. It’s tough and we certainly have all experienced rotten ‘first jobs’ that we hated but endured until something decent opened up.

    It sounds like you now have a better life so I wish you well.

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