Step by step guide to flying with your ESA – What to expect at the airport.
Flying with your emotional Support Animal (ESA) for the first time can feel stressful. In reality, the experience can be quite easy if the handler is well prepared and the ESA is well behaved and calm on the plane. This guide is a helpful resource for ESA Dog training for those who need it.
Things to do before you get to the airport
Contact the airlines and/or consult their website a few weeks or more before your flight. If you are unsure of the airline’s policy, you may even contact them prior to booking your tickets. They will let you know their specific requirements are for flying with an emotional support animal. On December 2, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced new rules that give airlines the option to no longer recognize emotional support animals. These rules went into effect on January 11, 2021. As a result, some airlines are no longer accepting emotional support animals on flights. The good news is that there are still airlines that will accommodate ESAs free of charge for passengers with ESA documentation.
You can click here to read more about which airlines are still accepting emotional support animals and which are not. If you’re flying on an airline that no longer has an ESA program, the ESA must meet the airline’s requirements for normal pets and a pet fee will be assessed each way. The information in the article below may no longer be accurate and is maintained solely for archival purposes. Please check with your airline directly prior to booking a flight to confirm what their current policy is for ESAs as it may change. It is better to contact the airline ahead of time so you feel confident that you have all required documentation needed for your trip.
When you are at the airport or on the airplane, it is recommended that your ESA wear an easily identifiable vest. Although this is not required by law, it may make your travels easier. The airlines encourage this because it makes identifying your dog as an emotional support animal much easier and may prevent unnecessary confrontations. You can contact ServiceDogCertifications.org for ESA vests and identification cards.
If you are traveling with an airline that is currently accepting Emotional Support Animals, we would be happy to connect with you with a licensed healthcare provider to see if you may qualify.
What to do once you get to the airport
Once you arrive at the check-in counter, you can inform the airline representative again that you are traveling with an ESA. Airline personnel will then be able to help assist you and help you travel through the airport with your ESA without any delays. You will be required to produce an ESA Letter from a licensed mental health professional. This is something that you should send to them ahead of time. A letter from your medical doctor may be accepted as well, though typically a letter from a licensed mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, counselor, social worker, LMFT, etc) is preferred. If you do not have access to a therapist, you can fill out our ESA Questionnaire here. A licensed mental health professional will be in touch with you shortly.
Preferably, the airline will have verified your official ESA letter and should be aware that you will be traveling with an ESA. This is also why it is important for you to notify them ahead of time since some airlines have their own template that needs to be filled out as well.
What to do once you get inside the airport
When you get to your designated gate, we recommend that you notify the airline attendants there that you are traveling with an ESA. If your animal is larger and requires more room, they will help seat you in the bulkhead so you and your ESA can sit comfortably. If you require this help, we recommend getting to your gate 30 minutes before boarding. Once you have boarded the plane, the airline typically requires that your dog (or other animal) should be on the floor between your knees and the seat in front of you. If your animal is small in size, they may allow you to carry your ESA during the flight.
We hope you can now see that flying with your ESA is not too intimidating! We hope this helps!
Benefits of emotional support animal certification for your dog or pet
- Unfettered access to apartment housing even if they have a no-pet policy
- Live in the apartment of your dreams even if they a specific no pet policy
- Waive any dog or pet deposits for apartments
- Waive any additional monthly dog fees
- Free airline travel for your dog (domestic travel) – fly with your dog in cabin