This article will provide a guide to flying with your emotional support animal (ESA) or service dog (including psychiatric service dog) on Spirit Airlines. In 2021 there were significant changes for both ESA and service dog owners introduced. We’ll also go over whether Spirit Airlines lets you board the cabin with a regular pet if your animal friend doesn’t qualify as an ESA or service dog,
In early 2021, U.S. airlines ended their support for emotional support animals. That was due to a change in regulations by the U.S. Department of Transportation, subsequently weakening protections for travelers with ESAs. On flights with Spirit Airlines, ESAs are now treated as normal pets, which means you have to pay pet fees ($110 each way) and are subject to pet restrictions. In short, only pets that can fit in a small carrier are allowed to board the cabin.
Service dogs and psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) are still allowed to fly in the cabin of airplanes free of charge, and they are not subject to the same size limitations. There is a new process for flying with service dogs that requires you to submit a special form to Spirit Airlines in advance. Service dog owners are not accustomed to submitting documentation for their dogs, but the new DOT rules require them for air travel.
Whether you own an ESA, PSD, or regular pet, we will cover what your options are for Spirit and how to have a smooth travel experience.
Good News! All airlines accept Psychiatric Service Dogs on their flights.
If you are interested in a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter, we are happy to connect with you with a licensed healthcare provider so they may assist you.
What are Spirit Airline’s Requirements for Service Animals?
If you fly with a service dog on Spirit Airlines, you will need to submit the Department of Transportation’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form to Spirit before the flight. You will need to submit the form online to Spirit Airlines at this link at least 48 hours before your departure. Make sure the form is dated on or after the date you purchase the flight.
The form requires you to make certifications regarding your need for a service dog, including your service dog has been properly trained, will be under your control at all times, and is up to date on its vaccinations. The form also requires the name of the dog’s trainer (which can be the owner) and veterinarian (but you do not need your vet to sign the form).
The DOT Form is a federal form, so you want to be sure the information you submit is accurate. If you need to know whether you have an ADA-eligible disability for purposes of owning a psychiatric service dog, a licensed healthcare professional can evaluate you and issue a PSD letter if you qualify. For more information about qualifying for a PSD and whether you are eligible for one as an ESA owner, read further below.
Spirit Airlines Policies for Service Dogs on Flights
Once you’re at the airport or on the plane with your service dog, there are some specific rules to be aware of on Spirit Airlines. You should note that only dogs can serve as service or psychiatric service animals. ADA and DOT rules do not permit other types of animals to be service animals.
In addition to the DOT Form, you should be aware that Spirit Airline staff are also allowed to verbally confirm your dog is a service animal. They can ask two questions:
- Is the dog a service dog required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Note that your right to privacy is protected: staff cannot ask for further information about the nature of your disability or that you have your dog demonstrate its task.
Service dogs have to be well behaved at the airport and during the flight at all times. If it demonstrates aggressive or disruptive behavior, Spirit Airlines can take that as a sign that your service dog has not been trained to function in public settings and can deny boarding.
Some examples of behaviors that your service dog can’t exhibit are:
- Jumping on other passengers
- Relieving itself in non-designated areas at the airport
- Emitting a strong odor
Keep in mind that for international flights, there may be additional documentation needed and other requirements. You should call the airline regarding service dog policies on international flights and research what rules they have at the destination country.
Some other requirements for Spirit to keep in mind for service dogs:
- Service dogs are not allowed to sit in the emergency exit row.
- If the service dog needs to be on your lap, it cannot be larger than a two-year-old child.
- The service dog must remain in your foot space.
- The dog cannot extend into other passenger’s foot space.
- The service dog cannot extend into the aisle.
If you have a larger service dog, you can buy an extra seat for additional space, but note that your service dog is never allowed to sit in any passenger seat. The service dog must either be in your lap if necessary or in your foot space.
Does your ESA qualify as a Psychiatric Service Dog?
In short, no, an ESA does not qualify as a psychiatric service dog. The DOT’s regulations clearly distinguish between an emotional support animal and a PSD, even though they are frequently used to treat the same types of mental illnesses and learning disabilities.
Unlike an ESA, a psychiatric service dog must be trained to perform one or several tasks related to the handler’s disability. That may include: providing comfort during times of crisis with pressure pawing or licking, reminding the handler to take medication, interrupting self-harming behaviors, and breaking the handler out of dissociative “spells.”
A PSD has to be capable of performing its duties at all times and must be well-behaved in public environments such as crowded streets, airports, and planes. If a service dog misbehaves, the airline can take that as evidence the PSD has not been properly trained.
A PSD assists with mental and emotional health disabilities. Under the DOT’s rules, a disability for purposes of owning a psychiatric service dog means having a condition like depression, anxiety, PTSD, or autism that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
A licensed healthcare professional can evaluate whether you have a qualifying disability. ESA Doctors can pair you with a licensed professional who will assess your mental and emotional health and give you a PSD letter if you qualify. A PSD letter is a document with a healthcare professional’s assessment of whether you have a qualifying disability for purposes of owning a service dog.
How to Get your Psychiatric Service Dog Letter from ESA Doctors
Can Pets Fly on Spirit Airlines?
If you have an animal companion that is not a service dog, it may still be able to fly in the cabin on Spirit Airlines. Spirit Airlines allows small domesticated pets (dogs, cats, birds, rabbits) to travel on domestic flights. Dogs and cats can also fly to Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands in the cabin.
If you have a pet, you will need to check-in at the ticket counter. There is a fee of $110 each way for pets. Other things to consider when flying with Spirit Airlines are:
- “Exotic” pets like snakes, spiders, and rodents are not allowed.
- You can have 2 pets per pet carrier, but only one pet carrier per guest is allowed.
- Your pets must be able to stand upright and move around comfortably in the carrier.
- Your pet must remain in the carrier for the entire flight.
- Pets have to be at least 2 months old and fully weaned.
- Your pet must be harmless, inoffensive, odorless, and not require attention during the flight.
- Pets can be removed if they become offensive or cause a disturbance.
- The pet cannot be ill, violent, or in physical distress.
- Pets are not allowed in the first row and the emergency exit rows.
- The combined weight of your pet and its carrier cannot exceed 40 pounds.
Pet carriers cannot exceed 18 x 14 x 9 inches and must fit under the seat. Only soft-sided containers are allowed on Spirit Airlines (and not the type that allows the pet’s head to remain outside).
The information on this page is for general informational purposes and should be confirmed directly with the airline. ESADoctors.com is not associated or affiliated with this airline or any of its subsidiaries.
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