Emotional Support Animals Banned From Flying With Southwest
Photo By Pauline Andan via UnSplash
Southwest Airlines announced on Jan. 25 that emotional support dogs will no longer be allowed on their flights, effective March 1. This is the last of the major airlines to make this decision following American Airlines, United and Delta.
The airline describes an emotional support animal as one that “provides support for an individual with a mental health-related disability and is not trained to perform a specific task(s) or work.” As of March 1, only trained service dogs will be allowed to travel on Southwest flights.
This policy change comes after the Department of Transportation (DOT) made a final rule on the official definition of a service dog to “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
The DOT made this final decision on Dec. 2, 2020 after many travelers were “fraudulently representing their pets as service animals,” to avoid paying extra fees. The airline has recorded instances of customers bringing hamsters, pigs, miniature horses and even peacocks onto flights labeled as emotional support animals.
Starting March 1, only dogs that fall under the DOT description of a trained service animal will be allowed on Southwest flights without the extra fees.
The new policy also requires the customer flying with the dog to present a complete Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation form at the ticket counter or gate on the day of travel.
Additionally the policy states that therapy animals that provide affection or comfort to an individual with a disability may be eligible to fly for an additional fee of $95 each way. The animals are limited to small dogs and cats, must be vaccinated and must remain under the seat during the flight.
In a statement made on Jan. 25 Senior Vice President of Operations and Hospitality, Steve Goldberg, applauded the DOT for making this change after concerns raised by Southwest customers and employees.
“Southwest Airlines continues to support the ability of qualified individuals with a disability to bring trained service dogs for travel and remains committed to providing a positive and accessible travel experience for all of our Customers with disabilities,” said Goldberg.