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United Follows Delta’s Lead, Tightens Rules on Emotional Support Animals

United Follows Delta’s Lead, Tightens Rules on Emotional Support Animals
Jeff Edwards

Just days after the airline refused to allow a passenger to board with a “therapy peacock,” United Airlines announced it will crack down on passengers who abuse allowances for service animals.

United Airlines became the second legacy carrier in as many weeks to announce strict new policies pertaining to emotional support animals. In January, Delta Air Lines officials unveiled new requirements for passengers traveling with service or support animals.

“The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” Delta VP John Laughter said in a statement announcing the new rules. “As a leader in safety, we worked with our Advisory Board on Disability to find a solution that supports those customers with a legitimate need for these animals, while prioritizing a safe and consistent travel experience.”

Flyertalk’s own resident flight attendant, Amanda Pleva lauded the airline’s decision. She also called for more airlines to step up to the plate for the sake of fellow passengers, crew members and the animals themselves.

“It’s time to say goodbye to the onboard zoo environments we’ve been fostering,” she wrote in support of the stricter rules for comfort animals on US airlines. “It’s long past time we concerned ourselves not so much with the comfort of people who care only about themselves, but the rest of us who want a comfortable, but most importantly safe, flight.”

On Thursday, United Airlines followed suit. The carrier added additional requirements for so-called comfort animals, but left the rules for service animals (which are generally protected by federal law) unchanged.

“Beginning March 1, 2018, United will require additional documentation for customers traveling with an emotional support animal,” the airline announced on its website. “Currently, customers must provide 48 hours’ notice to the Accessibility Desk and a letter from a licensed medical/mental health professional. For travel on or after March 1, customers will need to also provide a veterinary health form documenting the health and vaccination records for the animal as well as confirming that the animal has appropriate behavioral training.”

The move to crack down on abuses of the current policy comes just days after the airline denied boarding to a passenger traveling with an emotional support peacock. Though the resplendent bird named Dexter had a paid ticket, the peafowl didn’t meet the airline’s criteria for a comfort animal – even before the new, stricter rules go into effect next month.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (2)


  1. jonsg

    February 5, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Hooray for that. Too many “MUTTLEY…DO something! Oh. You did. … Anyone got a paper towel and a plastic bag?” moments for family pets passed as “emotional support animals” with the aid of $20 certificates from internet letter mills.

    Now, perhaps, those with _genuine_, proven, needs for service and emotional support animals can hold their heads up in confidence at boarding, instead of being mistaken for the freeloaders who have been messing things up for them.

  2. jybrick

    February 16, 2018 at 6:39 am

    So now it will have to be a service peacock. But what will really change?

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