Southwest Airlines Updates Policy On Emotional Support Animals

Filed Under: Southwest

Over the past several months we’ve seen major US airlines crack down on emotional support animals. The first airline to do this was Delta, as they announced changes in January that kicked in for travel as of March.

Since then, other airlines have followed suit, as UnitedAlaska, and American, all added restrictions on emotional support animals as well. Airlines have seen a huge spike in the number of passengers traveling with emotional support animals, so they’ve been trying to lower those numbers.

Now yet another US airline has announced that they’re updating their policy.

Southwest Airlines updates emotional support animal policy

Southwest Airlines is changing their policy for emotional support animals as of Monday, September 17, 2018.

As of that date, Southwest Airlines will add the following restrictions for emotional support animals:

  • They will be limited to only dogs and cats
  • They will be limited to one per customer
  • They must remain in a carrier or be on a leash at all times

Customers traveling with ESAs may still be asked to present a complete, current letter from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional on the day of departure.

Southwest trained service animal & psychiatric service animal changes

Southwest will also be adding restrictions for trained service animals. Specifically, Southwest will only accept dogs, cats, and miniature horses, as trained service animals, and not unusual or exotic animals.

Southwest will also begin formally recognizing psychiatric support animals (PSAs). Up until now the airline has informally accepted PSAs as trained service animals, and they’re now formalizing that.

PSAs are individually trained to perform a task or work for a person with a mental health-related disability. A credible verbal assurance will be sufficient to travel with a PSA.

Bottom line

We’ve seen several airlines add restrictions on emotional support animals, and that mostly comes in the form of them requiring more paperwork of those traveling with ESAs. None of that will prevent people from taking advantage of ESA loopholes, though the goal is that it at least minimizes it.

Southwest Airlines actually isn’t even being as strict here. They’re not requiring any additional paperwork, but are just adding restrictions as to the type of animals you can bring onboard, and also adding restrictions like limiting people to one animal, and requiring animals to be on leashes or in carriers.

Unlike other carriers, Southwest doesn’t require you to submit paperwork in advance, and the only thing you should do if you’re traveling with an emotional support animal is to indicate it in your reservation in advance, though even that is only suggested.

So assuming you travel with an emotional support dog or cat, this update shouldn’t mean all that much.

  1. I don’t get why this is allowed at all, unless the animal is kept in a carrier. A lot of people are petrified of dogs and dogs tend to take up A LOT of the already extremely limited space in the cabin, even in business class. If you’re afraid of flying and still need to fly, it’s not exactly difficult to get some medicine from a doctor to help you deal with it, or to speak with a mental health professional. I just think that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and I can only imagine the chaos in the cabin should an emergency occur with a dog in there…

    Btw, thanks Lucky for an excellent site. OMAAT is my most visited website, by far, with the exception of Gmail and Google Calendar 🙂 I’m really looking forward to your next trip report! 🙂

  2. When will airlines either ban ESA or be REAL pet friendly, as bring anything anytime.
    Let’s face it, ESA = Certified Pet. Is this even fair if Rednecks can’t bring their emotional support AR-15.

    Now service animal, that I respect.

  3. Never understood why this is allowed, it’s the absolute height of snowflakery, and must be a real pain for the other passengers

  4. They should lower pet fees to something like $20-40. Then many ESAs will go away. On Southwest, you can buy a ticket for $29 or $39 and then have to pay $95 to bring a pet in the cabin in a carrier. It is not surprising people resort to ESAs.

  5. There are three ads on this page wanting me to click and find out if I qualify for an emotional support animal. I copied the link and it appears that Google placed the ads on my chrome browser based on the content of this page. Two of the ads are identical and seem aimed at mental health needs. But the third one blatantly says, “Want to fly with your pet for free? Learn how.” They all link to I didn’t want to go too far into their website, but it appears that a $79 fee and a picture of your animal will earn you animal a “registered emotional support animal” identity card for your animal. They do note on their website that a letter from a healthcare or mental health professional would be required before using the ID card to fly for free. Yes, it’s time to charge these emotional support animals the same fare as an emotional support human would cost you.

  6. There are currently 5 ads to register my emotional support animal on this page. A few minutes ago it was 3 ads. Looks like we’re going to the dogs. Fast!

  7. Crikey – What about my Goanna Anna? I mean – how much can a koala bare? She’s probably seen a cockatoo but I’ll go if dingoes.

  8. Emotional support my ass. Miniature horses? And what support do you expect a chihuahua to give. To this day I prefer to share my space with humans, not animals. Accidents will, and have happened. What jackass thought it was a good idea to allow animals on the plane?

  9. The USA is nuts to allow this kind of foolishness. It used to be the only animals allowed on board were dogs for blind people. We need to go back to that rule. If somebody wants to bring their pussy cat or dog, they can pay for it to go in the pet area of the baggage hold. Or they can walk!

  10. And I might add, the majority of those requiring “Emotinal Support” Animals are Neurotic, Self-Absorbed Women. Go ahead and flame away, but you know I’m right (spent the last 35 years in the Airline Biz).

  11. USA, a country going to the dogs, cats, and horses. What insanity is this? No wonder Americans opt for rightwing wackos like Trump when faced with ‘human rights’ tyranny like this! What about the rights of those who are allergic to hairs from these pets? And where exactly does a miniature horse fit in the cabin? I fly SW with fair frequency and am pissed off that I might have to sit next to a stinking pet one day. WTF!!!

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