If you want to fly on United Airlines with your emotional support animal (ESA), psychiatric service dog (PSD), or pet, this is a helpful guide on what you should know before boarding your flight.  

For owners of emotional support animals, there was disappointing news in 2021. The U.S. Department of Transportation changed its regulations for ESAs on flights, effectively allowing U.S. airlines to end their ESA programs. As a result, United Airlines has stopped recognizing emotional support animals. 

That means ESA owners can no longer board flights free of charge. Their emotional support animals will be treated as pets under UAL’s policies and be subject to fees ($125 each way) and other restrictions. Only small pets are allowed to fly in the cabin, so owners of larger dogs that are ESAs will no longer be able to board. 

However, owners of psychiatric service dogs don’t need to worry – the DOT’s regulations still protect them. PSD owners can board flights with their service dogs free of charge as long as specific requirements are met, which we’ll cover in this guide. 

Whether you’re planning to travel with an ESA, PSD, or just a regular pet, read on to learn about what you should know before flying with United Airlines. 

Good News! All airlines accept Psychiatric Service Dogs on all flights.

If you are interested in a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter, we are happy to connect you with a licensed healthcare provider so they may assist you.

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Psychiatric Service Dogs on United Airlines Flights

Psychiatric service dogs are similar to emotional support animals in that they provide support for invisible disabilities, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, autism, or learning disorders. The notable difference between a PSD and an ESA is that a PSD must be trained to perform tasks relating to the owner’s disability. 

ESA owners frequently ask whether their ESAs can become PSDs. The answer is yes, it is possible, but specific requirements have to be met. The ESA owner must have a need for a dog to perform tasks relating to their disability. There are many tasks that PSDs are called on to perform, such as providing pressure therapy, calming with tactile stimulation, reminding their handler to take medication, preventing oversleeping, interrupting dissociative “spells” and providing a buffer in crowds. 

A psychiatric service dog must also be fully trained before it is considered a service dog. That includes being trained to behave without any issues in diverse public settings. Not all ESAs have the appropriate temperament and abilities to become PSDs. 

If you think a PSD may be right for you, or you already have a PSD but would like backup documentation, the healthcare professionals who work with ESA Doctors can help. If you qualify, a licensed healthcare professional will provide you with a signed PSD letter. A PSD letter is a document from a licensed healthcare professional that states whether you have a qualifying disability under federal disability rules for owning a psychiatric service dog.  

If you’re brand new to the topic of flying with a PSD, click here for a helpful guide.  

united airlines esa pet policy

(Disclaimer: The information in this article is for educational purposes and should be confirmed directly with the airline. ESADoctors.com is not associated or affiliated with this airline or any of its subsidiaries.)

United Airlines Requirements for Psychiatric Service Dogs 

PSDs are allowed to accompany their handlers in the cabin free of charge on United Airlines flights as long as certain requirements are met. 

As discussed, a PSD must be fully trained before it can board. The PSD has to be adequately harnessed and remain under the control of the handler at all times. On United, the PSD must also be at least four months old. 

Onboard the flight, the PSD should be able to sit in the floor space in front of your seat or otherwise within your personal space. Your PSD can’t encroach into the aisles or the foot space of other passengers. Smaller dogs can be put into kennels that are appropriately sized. If you think the extra space in an exit row may be helpful, PSDs are unfortunately not allowed to sit there.  

Finally, if you use multiple PSDs for your disability, note that United limits the number of service dogs a passenger can have to just two. 

United Airlines Documents Required for Psychiatric Service Dogs

Passengers with psychiatric service dogs on United Airlines need to submit the proper form(s) before boarding a flight. The first form is the DOT’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form. This form requires the PSD’s handler to make specific certifications, including that the PSD has been properly trained and vaccinated (note that you won’t be able to travel within 30 days of your dog’s rabies vaccination, so plan ahead). 

DOT Form - Service Animal Health Behavior Training Form - Download -- ESA DoctorsDownload the DOT Form – Service Animal Air Transportation Form (pdf) here.

The second form is only needed if your flight is longer than 8 hours. For these flights, you also need to submit the DOT’s Service Animal Relief Attestation Form. This form requires the handler to certify that their PSD will not relieve itself on the flight or can do so in a sanitary manner. 

DOT Form - Service Animal Relief Form - Download -- ESA DoctorsDownload the DOT Form – Service Animal Relief Attestation Form (pdf) here.

Each of these forms should be submitted to United Airlines at least 48 hours before departure. If you booked a flight last minute and your flight is less than 48 hours away, you can submit the form to the gate agent before you board. United requires passengers with PSDs to carry copies of these forms with them during travel. 

There may also be additional requirements depending on the particular flight and destination (especially for Hawaii, Guam, and international destinations). You should speak with United directly to make sure you have everything you’ll need for these flights. 

How to Get your Psychiatric Service Dog Letter from ESA Doctors

Three easy steps to get an ESA Letter with ESA Doctors

Your ESA may qualify as a PSD

What about Therapy Animals?

Therapy animals are trained to assist other people, often in group settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. Therapy animals are not considered service animals and will be subject to United Airlines’ policies for normal pets. 

Flying with Pets on United Airlines

Small dogs and cats that are pets can board UA flights for a $125 service charge each way, with an additional $125 service charge for stopovers of more than four hours within the U.S. That means it costs $250 for a roundtrip flight with no stopovers to fly with your pet in the cabin. Pets are not allowed in the cabin on flights to and from Hawaii and some international cities.

If you own a pit bull, you should know that United Airlines does not allow for them in the aircraft’s cabin. 

You should inform United that you plan to bring a pet during the booking process. These are some other requirements you should be mindful of when flying with a pet on United: 

  • Puppies and kittens must be at least 16 weeks old. 
  • For additional pets, you will need to buy an extra ticket and pay an additional $125 fee each way. 
  • If your pet can’t fit in a kennel, it can alternatively travel in cargo on United’s PetSafe program
  • You should have a health certificate and proof of your pet’s latest rabies vaccinations. 

Pets in the cabin must be in a kennel with the appropriate dimensions:

  • Hard-sided kennels can be a maximum size of 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches high (44 cm x 30 cm x 19 cm). 
  • Soft-sided kennels can be 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm). Soft-sided carriers can slightly exceed those dimensions if they can collapse enough to fit underneath a seat. 

Only one pet is allowed per kennel, and the dog or cat must be able to stand up and turn around comfortably within the kennel. Your pet must stay in the kennel with the door closed at all times while in the airport, at the gate, and while boarding the plane. During the flight, the kennel must stay in the floor space underneath the seat in front of you. 

Final Tips

The key to having a stress-free flight with your ESA, PSD, or pet on United Airlines is to be prepared. PSDs and pets fly on United Airlines frequently without any incident, and there’s no need to worry if you have your paperwork completed and your PSD or pet is capable of handling airports and flight cabins without any issues. United Airlines will happily accept your PSD or pet as long as you follow their rules. 

Space for pets on flights is limited, so make sure you book your flight and inform United Airlines that you have a pet during the booking process. Before making any final plans, you should also double-check to confirm United Airlines’ current policies, as they are subject to updates and can vary by flight and destination. 

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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