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Alaska Airlines Grounds All Emotional Support Animals

Alaska Airlines Grounds All Emotional Support Animals
Joe Cortez

After the U.S. Department of Transportation put a very strict limit on the definition of service animals, Alaska Airlines is taking the standard one step further. The Seattle-based airline will no longer allow flyers to board with “emotional support animals,” reserving the cabin for booked pets and service dogs.

Alaska Airlines is no longer in the business of carrying emotional support animals, leaving the cabins reserved for those who purchase space to carry on their pets, or have a documented service dog for support. In a press release, the Seattle-based airline announced they would no longer accept emotional service animals on bookings starting Jan. 11, 2021.

Emotional Support Animal Grounding in Direct Response to DOT Changes

Alaska is changing their policy in direct response to a ruling from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The agency announced starting in 2021, airlines would no longer be required to accommodate emotional service animals under the same standard as service dogs.

Because flyers have tried to pass everything from pets to pigs to peacocks as “emotional support animals,” the rule was changed to limit passenger abuse of the loophole. Alaska’s new policy comes after direct feedback from flyers and crewmembers, in addition to a 2017 incident at Portland International Airport (PDX) where a dog allegedly mauled a child waiting on an Alaska flight.

“Earlier this month the DOT said it will no longer require airlines to make the same accommodations for emotional support animals as is required for trained service dogs,” the press release from Alaska reads. “Changes to the DOT rules came after feedback from the airline industry and disability community regarding numerous instances of emotional support animal misbehavior which caused injuries, health hazards and damage to aircraft cabins.”

For reservations on or after Jan. 11, those traveling with service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, will be required to fill out a form attesting to their training, vaccinations and behavior. Flyers will be allowed to board with up to two service dogs.

While the policy goes into effect on Jan. 11, 2021, there will be a limited sunset window for flyers to complete travel with emotional support animals. Travelers will still be able to board with an “emotional support” animal for tickets booked before the Jan. 11 deadline, and only for flights departing on or before Feb. 28, 2021. After which date, emotional support animals will no longer be accepted.

Alaska Leads Way in Barring Emotional Support Animal Travel

As an airline, Alaska has worked over the years to limit the definition of “service animal.” In 2018, the carrier and two other airlines required additional paperwork for support animals, including statements signed by a veterinarian and mental health practitioner.

View Comments (16)

16 Comments

  1. Gizzabreak

    December 29, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    This is, perhaps, a good example of a ‘woke’ idea being invented before anyone knew what a ‘woke’ idea was … and being put to bed by common sense as an example of how most other more recently invented ‘woke’ ideas should be handled.

  2. AsiaTravel2019

    December 29, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    All hail! The great fraud has ended. All of the pet travel scammers will now receive their comeuppance. Behold!

  3. Scottyrocket

    December 30, 2020 at 1:26 am

    So sad to hear I can’t take my emotional support skunk with me on my vacation. :-(

  4. bigbadjoe

    December 30, 2020 at 4:15 am

    At last somebody has decided enough is enough and made a stand for common sense. I fully support the admission of well trained and well adjusted service animals such as guide dogs. I’m afraid that if you feel that you cannot fly without your emotional support peacock or micropig or similar then you need to get a grip of your anxieties or not fly at all.

  5. prwdmd

    December 30, 2020 at 4:25 am

    Thank God!!! Finally airline getting wise to the emotional support animal trick where people pretend they need their dog or other pet to be able to fly. I know so many people who used this ruse, faked a mental issue, so they can travel with their huge dog, board first, and not have to be separated during the flight. Total BS. Hopefully other airlines will follow suit.

  6. Danwriter

    December 30, 2020 at 7:19 am

    Finally…

  7. GoProf

    December 30, 2020 at 7:22 am

    Good for them.

  8. donna538

    December 30, 2020 at 7:42 am

    It’s about time. There is too much abuse.

  9. Mediaink

    December 30, 2020 at 8:57 am

    This is long overdue, and hopefully every airline will adopt the same policy. We are an active duty family who has always paid to travel our pets for overseas duty, and most military members do the same, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of dollars if it’s a dog in cargo. We paid $400 to bring our cats home from in Japan in the cabin, even though we have ESA letters for them. Watching people abuse this over the years has been irritating, because typically it’s a ploy to avoid paying for transportation. I hope Delta jumps on the bandwagon soon.

  10. isisthecat47

    December 30, 2020 at 9:47 am

    I know someone who abused this. She found a “service dog” harness online for her dog and got a doctor friend to sign a letter for her. She just didn’t want to pay for the dog to travel with her. (And no, we’re not friends anymore).

  11. Alecreid

    December 30, 2020 at 11:34 am

    To be a little more transparent here. The new DOT rules will actually make it easier for some people to travel with psychiatric service dogs. PSDs will now be classified the same as any other service dog, and owners only need to personally attest, via a new DOT form, that the animal is required for a disability and has been task-trained. A doctor’s letter will no longer be required by the airline (nor can the airline demand one). Passengers now only need to provide 48 hours’ notice before departure to travel with a service dog. They no longer need to check with an agent before departure (they can check-in online or at the curb) and are no longer required to arrive 2 hours early with their service animal (they can arrive at the same time as any other passenger)

    The only real change is that only dogs can be classified as service animals on Alaska – cats, horses, etc., will not be allowed.

  12. am1108

    December 30, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    I’m happy that the DOT and some airlines are standing up to the bs… There are many people who are defrauding companies and I believe they try to push the envelope when they try to bring horses, etc. I don’t need to ramble on but this extends beyond the airlines to hotels, car rental, etc.

  13. ijgordon

    December 31, 2020 at 8:49 am

    It’s unfortunate that it came to this due to passenger abuse of the policy. But I can’t really fault the passengers when the airline was charging $300 r/t for you to carry on your own pet and put it in front of your own seat. In many cases that’s more than the ticket cost in the first place. Will be interesting to see if these fees change in this new environment.

  14. SamirD

    December 31, 2020 at 9:32 am

    In the civilized world, loopholes that are abused get closed. It’s good to see some abuse limiting actions being put into place. Too bad the civilized world is facing a large deficit of such action and it is actually ruining civilization.

  15. mvoight

    January 4, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    isisthecat47- I would have reported him to the AMA.

  16. HawaiianGuy

    January 5, 2021 at 4:41 pm

    Long overdue. I have NO problem whatsoever with LEGITIMATE service animals accompanying their owners. Not all of us are animal fans. I’m sick and tired of putting up with emotional cripples who just can’t go anywhere without their stupid mutt slobbering and shedding on bystanders, or worse….These people have been coddled and tolerated for far too long. If I’ve gotta follow the rules then EVERYONE has to follow the rules. NO EXCEPTIONS.

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