Alaska Airlines Is Tightening Its Emotional Support Animal Policy

Apr 19, 2018

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Alaska Airlines is tightening its policy for passengers traveling with emotional support and psychiatric service animals.

The carrier announced on Thursday that it’s getting set to implement the new policy for new reservations beginning next month. For tickets purchased after May 1, 2018, passengers traveling with emotional support or psychiatric service animals must provide animal health and behavioral documents, as well as a signed document from a medical doctor or mental health professional. The required documentation must be provided to Alaska at least 48 hours prior to departure.

It’s worth noting that this change does not apply to Alaska’s policy for traditional service animals.

“Alaska is committed to providing accessible services to guests with disabilities and ensuring a safe environment for all flyers,” said Ray Prentice, Alaska’s director of customer advocacy. “We are making these changes now based on a number of recent incidents where the inappropriate behavior of emotional support animals has impacted and even injured our employees, other guests and service animals.”

Alaska says that in recent years, the number of emotional support and psychiatric service animals traveling on the carrier has increased drastically. It predicts that approximately 150 emotional support and psychiatric service animals travel on Alaska Airlines every day.

Prentice said that because of the uptick in the number of animals traveling, the airline has seen an increase in the number of incidents from animals that haven’t been adequately trained to “behave in a busy airport setting or on a plane.”

If you book a new reservation with Alaska on or after May 1, and are traveling with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal, you must email or fax Alaska the following three documents at least 48 hours prior to departure. (All documents will be available on alaskaair.com starting April 30):

  1. Animal Health Advisory Form — Acknowledges Alaska’s recommendation that all emotional support and psychiatric service animals travel with a veterinary-issued health certificate.
  2. Mental Health Form — Currently required, this is a letter issued by a mental health professional or medical doctor approving the use of an emotional support or psychiatric service animal.
  3. Animal Behavior Form — A signed affidavit affirming the emotional support or psychiatric service animal is trained to behave in public and that the owner accepts all liability for any injuries or damage to property.

This move from Alaska to tighten its restrictions on emotional support and psychiatric service animals follows similar moves from other US carriers. In January, Delta further restricted its support and service animal policy, and in February, United followed suit. If you’re going to travel with an emotional support animal, check out this guide for how to best do it.

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