Last month, we brought you the news that the Department of Transportation (DOT) was changing the rules about what constitutes an “emotional support animal.” Effective January 11, 2021, only trained dogs can be categorized as service animals and the new ruling gives the airlines discretion as to which animals they can permit on board, effectively closing the “emotional support animal” loophole that meant some people would bring along their emotional support hamsters, peacocks, and even a random kangaroo here and there. This past week, Alaska Airlines became the first to ban “emotional support animals” outright from their flights, and wasted no time in implementing the change, which goes into effect on January 11 for new bookings. February 28, 2021 is the last day emotional support animals will be permitted on board to accommodate folks who have existing bookings.
Alaska had been looking for a way to restrict emotional support animals for years now, citing often unruly and untrained, sometimes exotic creatures that could be a safety threat to passengers and crew members. Numerous physical altercations with flight crews, damage to cabins and even injuries were cited in the Alaska Airlines announcement.
Alaska will still allow trained service dogs who serve owners battling psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, etc. The pooches will require service training and certification, and have all vaccinations in order to accompany their handler. Each person with service dogs will be permitted to travel with up to two qualified dogs.
Pets (dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits) are still permitted to fly in the passenger cabins, so long as they are in a regulation carrier. Pets are subject to a fee ($100 each way).
With this announcement, we’re wondering which airlines might be next. Will Alaska’s announcement make you more or less likely to fly with them? Tell us in the comments below.
Update 1/6/2021: American Airlines became the second airline to join Alaska Airlines in banning most emotional support animals from the main cabin.