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 United, Alaska, 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.
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.