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American Airlines has today said that it’s following in the footsteps of Alaska Airlines and effectively banning most emotional support animals from its aircraft from next week.
In an announcement that was released at 09:00 Central Time today, American Airlines confirmed that from 1 February 2021, it will only permit animals into its cabins that conform to the definition of a “service animal” as set out by the US Department of Transportation’s new rules and it will stop taking reservations for passengers with animals that don’t conform to this definition from 11 January.
Per American Airlines:
“The DOT’s new rule defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability — a narrower definition than in the past. When the rule goes into effect Jan. 11, American will no longer authorize new travel for animals that do not meet that definition, such as emotional support animals. Existing bookings involving emotional support animals will be honored through Feb. 1, when the airline’s new policies go into effect.”
In addition, the airline says that from 1 February 2021 it will ask customers traveling with service animals to complete a DOT form attesting to the dog’s behavior, training, and health and that it will require this form to be submitted electronically 48 hours in advance of a flight (unless the reservation is booked within 48 hours of travel). A service animal’s authorization will be valid for one year or until the expiration of its vaccinations.
This is mostly very good news as it should see the end of passengers bringing ridiculous animals onboard in the guise of an emotional support animal and although this new rule will undoubtedly affect the few passengers who genuinely feel the need for an emotional support animal when the fly, it’s a rule that has been needed for some time.
Interestingly, however, although the main part of American’s announcement appears to clearly eliminate the option for travelers to bring anything other than a service animal onboard, a one-sentence paragraph towards the end of the announcement appears to leave the door open for some non-service animals to travel in its aircraft cabins. This is what that line says:
“Animals that previously traveled as emotional support animals and no longer qualify as service animals may travel as carry-on pets or as cargo pets, as long as they meet the requirements.”
If you follow the link that American Airlines supplies for “carry-on pets” this is the information that’s provided:
“Depending on the animals’ breed, size and requirements, they can travel as a carry-on, be checked or transported with American Airlines Cargo. With the exception of a few breed restrictions, you can only travel with cats and dogs.”
There also follows a list of dog and cat breeds that cannot be transported.
All of this would appear to suggest that while American’s new rule will prevent people from bringing goats, snakes, turkeys, and all other kinds of unacceptable members of the animal kingdom into its aircraft cabins, there will still be the option for some dogs and cats to be brought on board even if they’re not service animals. Essentially, if your emotional support animal conforms to American’s rules on carry-on pets, it can still travel in the cabin with you.
If you were hoping that this rule would mean the end of non-essential animals sharing an American Airlines cabin with you, prepare to be disappointed.
American Airlines will effectively ban most emotional support animals from its cabins from 1 February 2021 but it appears to have left the door open for some dogs and cats to continue to be transported in its cabins as pets as long as they conform to its breed and size requirements.