61% of Flight Attendants Say Emotional Support Animals Misbehave In-Flight
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
A new survey revealed that 61% of flight attendants said onboard emotional support animals (ESA) have caused some sort of in-flight disturbance. More than half described these disturbances as aggressive or threatening behavior by the animal.
The Association of Flight Attendants surveyed 5,000 flight attendants across 30 airlines between July 20-August 6, 2018 and found that ESAs pose safety, health and security issues on flights. Survey responses indicated that one in four flight attendants has dealt with ESAs urinating and defecating in the cabin. Additionally, the flight attendants reported they’ve had animals snap at their heels, bark and lunge at other crew members and passengers.
The AFA survey also noted flight attendants’ concerns over the discrimination and bias against passengers traveling with service animals. The organization recently urged the Department of Transportaion to take action to protect the rights of passengers with disabilities and limit the abuse of “emotional support animal” designation in the system. Of all the survey respondents, 82% believe the airline industry needs to establish a consistent policy and define requirements supporting passengers with disabilities and veterans.
“The DOT really needs to act here because this is under the Air Carrier Access Act, which is essentially aviation ADA,” said Taylor Garland, an AFA spokeswoman. “The way the regulation is written based off that act, it defines a service animal as both a working service animal and as an emotional support animal.”
Garland explained that because of that, the airlines are somewhat limited in what they can require of passengers for these animals, such as paperwork and documentation. Unlike service animals, which go through specific training to help individuals with disabilities, emotional support animals are not required to have any specialized training — and are not limited to dogs. One passenger even tried to bring her emotional support peacock onboard a United flight earlier this year.
After seeing an increase in the number of and types of these animals on board their aircraft, many US airlines, including Jet Blue, Delta, Southwest, have tightened their ESA policies this year. Many carriers have limited emotional support animals to dogs and cats only. Delta said that since 2015 it’s transported 150% more service and support animals and has seen an 84% increase in the number of reported onboard disturbances.
But the patchwork of policies between the different airlines can be confusing for passengers.
“The problem is only growing and is something that needs to be addressed on an industry-wide level through regulation instead of individual airline policies,” Garland said.
The AFA suggests the DOT should require ESA owners to provide a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating that the passenger is under his or her care for the condition requiring the animal, like anxiety and depression. Moreover, the organization thinks ESAs should remain in a carrier that can collect urine and feces.
“We’ve really reached a point where there is clear abuse in the system, and it’s affecting first, passengers with disabilities and veterans who have legitimate needs for these animals and a reason for these animals to be traveling with them,” Garland said. “And, it’s also threatening the health and safety of the other passengers.”
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees