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In the past few years, there’s been a surge in the number of animals on airplanes, with the largest increase coming in the number of emotional support animals. With backlash growing and incidents increasing, airlines finally started cracking down in early 2018 with Delta, United, AlaskaAmerican Airlines, JetBlue and Southwest all rolling out restrictions. Since then, Delta has tightened its policy and then tightened it yet again.

Now, AA is back with further restrictions on the type, number, age and documentation required for both service animals and emotional support or psychiatric-service animals. These changes go into effect on April 1, 2019 regardless of when you booked your travel.

Four policies are changing on that date:

  • Animal types limited to only dogs and cats. Trained miniature horses are permitted only as a service animal
  • Limit of one emotional support or psychiatric service animal per person
  • Animal must be four months or older
  • A new Veterinary Health Form will also be required for emotional support or psychiatric-service animals, in addition to the other forms required

In addition to these new restrictions, AA requires that the animal must be “clean and well-behaved” and be able to fit at your feet, under your seat or in your lap. For animals traveling in a pet carrier, the bag must be able to fit under the seat in front with the animal in it.

Image of globe-trotting cat Grace with her airline-approved pet carrier. Photo by the author.
Globe-trotting cat Grace with her airline-approved pet carrier. Photo by the author.

Emotional support or psychiatric-service animals can’t be in an exit row, protrude or block aisles, occupy a seat or eat from tray tables. For those that don’t fit, the passenger will have to buy a ticket for the animal, transport it as a checked pet, or rebook on a flight with more open seats.

AA’s new changes mostly are matching policies we’ve seen implemented at Delta, which banned support animals younger than four months back in December. However, AA hasn’t copied Delta’s complete ban of pitbull-type dogs and all animals on flights longer than eight hours. Instead, American Airlines requires travelers to fill out an Animal Sanitation Form for flights of eight hours or more.

Once these rules go into effect, there will be up to four forms required to fly with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal:

All forms must be submitted to the Special Assistance Desk at least 48 hours before travel. If requirements aren’t met, the traveler will need to pay the fee to transport the animal as a pet.

We at TPG love our pets and want to make traveling with them as easy, safe and affordable as possible. Here’s our coverage on how you can do so when you need to travel with your pet:

Featured image by JodiJacobson via Getty Images

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