Updated January 2021
In this article, we’ll review which airlines have programs to accept emotional support animals (ESAs).
2020 ended with major news for ESA owners: starting on January 11th, 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) would no longer require airlines to accommodate emotional support animals. In the years prior to this rule change, all airlines were required by law to accommodate owners of ESAs with proper documentation from a licensed mental health professional.
This was a disheartening development for millions of ESA owners around the world and a setback for people suffering from invisible disabilities. Not all hope is lost; ESA owners may still be able to fly with their emotional support animals. The new DOT rules may allow airlines to discontinue their ESA programs but do not mandate that they do so. Some airlines have already confirmed that they will continue to accommodate emotional support animals.
We’re in the early stages of seeing how the DOT’s new rules will impact ESAs and air travel. Many airlines have not yet provided an official statement on whether they will ban ESAs or continue accepting them. If you are traveling with an airline that is currently accepting Emotional Support Animals, ESADoctors.com can connect you with a licensed healthcare provider to see if you may qualify.
This post will be updated periodically to include airlines that have confirmed their emotional support animals policies. Airlines often revise their ESA policies. If you have travel plans with your ESA, you should always call ahead to confirm what your airline’s current policy is before booking.
Airlines Accepting Emotional Support Animals
Disability-progressive and ESA friendly airlines can continue to accept ESAs on flights, even though they are not legally obligated to. The following airlines still accept emotional support animals:
Air Canada will continue to allow disabled passengers to fly with their emotional support animal past January 11th, 2021. An Air Canada representative let us know that the airline cares about disabled passengers and will not be denying access to those traveling in and around Canada and the United States.
Southwest Airlines has thankfully indicated through social media that it has no plans to change its emotional support animal policy. That’s great news for ESA owners and will likely make Southwest a preferred airline for assistance animal owners. Hopefully, additional passenger-friendly airlines will follow suit and continue to accommodate ESA owners. To fly on Southwest with your Emotional Support Animal, you must have an ESA letter.
Sun Country Airlines
Sun Country Airlines has stated that they are still allowing emotional support animals. They do not have plans to discontinue access for disabled passengers flying with an ESA. To book a flight with an ESA, book your tickets on their website at SunCountry.com, fill out their ESA forms and return it to them 48 hours prior to your departure.
Volaris has also indicated that it has no plans to discontinue its ESA program. That’s great news for ESA owners who travel to/from Mexico.
WestJet is another option for travelers with emotional support animals. Westjet has flights in Canada, the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
To fly with an emotional support animal, you will need an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. The LMHP will also need to fill out forms provided by the airline. Most airlines require that ESA documents be submitted at least 48 hours before departure. If you need an ESA letter or airline forms completed, one of the friendly licensed professionals that ESA Doctors work with can help.
Which Airlines are No Longer Accepting ESAs?
The following airlines have announced they will no longer recognize emotional support animals:
- Alaska Airlines
- Allegiant Air
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Jet Blue
- Spirit Airlines
- United Airlines
Airlines that no longer recognize ESAs will treat your animal companion as a normal pet. Pets are subject to fees and the airline’s restrictions regarding size, weight, and breed. Some pets are not allowed to fly in the cabin and can only travel in cargo. And certain animals may be completely prohibited from flights.
These airlines have severely hampered many ESA owners’ ability to fly, either because they can’t afford the fees (which can cost as much as $175 each way) or because their ESA is too large to board the cabin. After January 11th, 2021, you should call your airline or check their website before booking to confirm whether they still recognize emotional support animals.
What Does the Future Hold for ESAs and Air Travel?
The DOT’s rule changes were vehemently opposed by many disability advocacy groups and ESA owners throughout the country. The changes were a result of sustained lobbying efforts by airlines who complained about the cost and inconvenience of allowing ESAs to board at no cost.
As mentioned, however, the new DOT rules are permissive and not mandatory. That means that airlines can continue to voluntarily allow emotional support animals, even though they are not legally obligated to do so. These airlines will certainly enjoy an advantage when it comes to ESA customer loyalty. Airlines may also continue to accept ESAs but with modified procedures, if they choose.
There is also hope that with leadership change at the DOT, regulations regarding ESAs and other types of assistance animals will be reconsidered with a more favorable view towards the disabled. While they may have faced a setback for air travel, ESA owners still enjoy federal rights for housing, and individual states continue to enact additional protections for ESA owners. More individuals and therapists than ever are discovering the benefits of emotional support animals for mental health. The trend towards utilizing ESAs for this purpose is unlikely to slow down.