American Tightens Service Animal Policies, Bans 13 Types of Animals
In mid-January, Delta cracked down on service and emotional support animals. In early February, United also imposed new restrictions after a passenger tried to bring a peacock on board as an emotional support animal. And then in April, Alaska tightened its own emotional support animal policy. But, there's been an eerie quiet from American Airlines in the months since. Today, the world's largest carrier broke that silence.
American Airlines announced on Monday a comprehensive set of new restrictions on both service animals and emotional support animals for flights ticketed after July 1, 2018. Starting then, 13 types of animals will be banned and new emotional support animal restrictions will require passengers to consent to sharing medical records with the airline.
Limits on Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals
The following types of animals will no longer be permitted to travel as service or emotional support animals:
- Sugar gliders
- Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game birds and birds of prey)
- Animals with tusks, horns or hooves (excluding miniature horses properly trained as service animals)
- Any animal that is unclean / has an odor
Also, service animals and emotional support animals "must be able to fit at your feet, under your seat or in your lap." The animal can't "protrude into or block aisles" or "occupy a seat." And exit row seats won't be an option for those with large service animals as "you won’t be able to sit in an exit row when traveling with your service or emotional / psychiatric support animal."
In addition, emotional support animals and service animals "must be trained to behave properly in public; they must be tethered by leash and / or harness and under your control at all times." Animals that display any of the following will be banned from the cabin: "growling; biting or attempting to bite; jumping on or lunging at people"
Further Limits on Emotional Support Animals
In addition to the above restrictions, if you're planning to travel with an emotional support animal, you must file paperwork with American Airlines at least 48 hours before your flight — a rule the DOT allows airlines to enforce. Currently, American Airlines requires a one-page ESA form that must be signed by your mental health professional. For tickets issued on or after July 1, 2018, American Airlines is requiring a three-form packet to be filled out:
- Mental Health Professional Form
- Behavior Guidelines
- Animal Sanitation During 8+ Hours Form (only required if your flight is scheduled to be more than 8 hours).
American notes that "documentation validation will include American Airlines contacting your mental health professional." Indeed, the new ESA "Behavior Guidelines" form requires passengers to consent to "collecting and processing personal information, including medical information, for use in authorizing travel with the emotional support animal."
The form also requires that the passenger agree to "reimburse American Airlines for any such loss, damage, or expense" in the case the animal "exhibits any unsafe, untrained or inappropriate behavior" or violates any of the other listed rules.
American says that the number of its customers traveling with a service or support animal has increased more than 40% from 2016 to 2017.