Spirit, Frontier and JetBlue join rush to ban emotional support animals
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.
Spirit and Frontier are the latest airlines to designate dogs as the only acceptable species of service animals on board, formally relegating emotional support animals to “pet” status on flights.
For more TPG news, deals and points and miles tips delivered each morning to your inbox, subscribe to our daily newsletter.
Frontier Airlines made the same move in a Monday afternoon announcement, saying its change is “in line with new regulations recently issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).”
Alaska Airlines was the first carrier to reflect updated DOT guidelines on Dec. 29, quickly followed by the “Big 3” U.S. airlines — American, Delta and United — in early January 2021. JetBlue also recently updated its animal travel policy.
In the final days of 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) ruled that emotional support animals (ESAs) will no longer be considered service animals moving forward, amending an Air Carrier Access Act loophole which often allowed travelers to bypass paying pet fees for air travel.
“This final rule is intended to ensure that our air transportation system is safe for the traveling public and accessible to individuals with disabilities,” the DOT stated in the ruling published on Dec. 2, 2020, which went into effect 30 days after date of publication in the Federal Register.
Service dogs must still meet a host of requirements before being allowed on board, according to the DOT; airlines retain the right to refuse boarding to any aggressive animal and its owner, regardless of service designation.
Service animals are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability,” as defined in the DOT’s Dec. 2 statement. In contrast, people hoping to earn ESA status for their pet simply need a doctor’s note stating that the animal is medically necessary for the owner’s comfort and support.
U.S. military veteran: Why I’m glad the DOT will change emotional support animal requirements
The ESA loophole surged in popularity in recent years, as airlines began to increase travel fees for everything from seat selection to checked baggage. Travelers discovered that designating their pets as emotional support animals was a handy way to avoid paying pet fees, which can exceed $100 on a one-way domestic flight.
However, a number of issues have arisen from untrained animals enjoying service animal privileges. Animals have attacked passengers on flights. One notorious incident occurred when United Airlines denied boarding to a traveler who tried to bring an emotional support peacock on a flight departing from Newark International Airport (EWR). The exploitation reached a peak in recent years, with lawmakers, airlines and many travelers uniting in outcry against the lax policies.
That being said, animal lovers can still get their furry fix in some airports that offer trained therapy animals to help soothe anxious travelers.
Featured photo by Jetlinerimages/Getty Images.
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