Southwest Has Banned Emotional Support Animals

Southwest airplane on a runway

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In news that was entirely expected, Southwest has announced that it’s following in the footsteps of Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines by banning emotional support animals from its flights.

The Announcement

In an announcement made yesterday afternoon, Southwest confirmed that from 1 March 2021, it will only accept trained service dogs for travel and will no longer transport emotional support animals.

The airline has stopped taking reservations for customers who wish to travel with emotional support animals with immediate effect and it is encouraging anyone holding existing reservations for travel with emotional support animals after 28 February 2021 to contact the airline for more information and assistance.

Per Southwest:

With this revision, Southwest Airlines® will only allow service dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability to travel with the Customer. The types of disability include a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability and only dogs will be accepted (including those for psychiatric service) — no other species will be accepted as a trained service animal.

As part of this rule change, Southwest customers traveling with trained service dogs will now have to present a “complete, and accurate, DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form” at the gate or ticket counter on their day of travel to confirm that their service animal’s health, behavior, and training is in compliance with DoT and Southwest’s rules.

Pets Can Still Fly…But At A Cost

Southwest points out that customers can still travel with some animals in the cabin as part of the airline’s existing pets program, but they’ll have to be prepared to pay for the privilege.

In brief:

Southwest Airlines allows small vaccinated domestic cats and dogs to travel with passengers in its cabins as long as the animal can fit under the seat ahead of the passenger and is being transported in an appropriate carrier.

Pets are not allowed to travel in-cabin on international flights or any itinerary that includes an international flight.

Pets are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity is reached. Six pets are allowed per flight with a limit of one pet carrier per paying customer traveling on the same flight.

A pet that engages in disruptive behavior may be denied boarding. Examples of disruptive behavior include (but are not limited to):

  • Scratching, excessive whining, or barking
  • Growling, biting, lunging
  • Urinating or defecating in the cabin or gate area

All pets that are permitted to travel in-cabin with Southwest are subject to a $95 fare each way per pet carrier.

Bottom Line

Southwest is no longer taking bookings for emotional support animals and emotional support animals will no longer be allowed to fly from 1 March 2021. With Southwest now joining Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, and United in banning emotional support animals, the days of people using the emotional animal policy to fly their unruly pets around the country for free are mostly over. No doubt some people will continue to try to find ways to “work” the system, but at least the system is now making life a lot harder for them.