US-based Southwest Airlines is the latest major airline to revise its policies on emotional support animals on flights.
The airline announced this week that effective March 1, 2021, it will accept only trained service dogs for travel and will no longer transport emotional support animals.
It comes after the US Department of Transportation announced last month that it will no longer consider emotional support animals as service animals on flights.
With this latest policy 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.
“We applaud the Department of Transportation’s recent ruling that allows us to make these important changes to address numerous concerns raised by the public and airline employees regarding the transport of untrained animals in the cabins of aircraft,” said Steve Goldberg, Senior Vice President, Operations and Hospitality. “Southwest Airlines continues to support the ability of qualified individuals with a disability to bring trained service dogs for travel and remains committed to providing a positive and accessible travel experience for all of our Customers with disabilities.”
While emotional support animals will no longer accept emotional support animals for travel effective on March 1, 2021, the airline said customers may still travel with some animals as part of the airline’s existing pets program for a charge; however, the animals must meet all applicable requirements regarding in-cabin stowage and species (dogs and cats only).
Customers who hold existing reservations for travel with emotional support animals after February 28, 2021 may contact Southwest for more information and assistance.
As part of its policy revisions, customers traveling with trained service dogs now must present a complete, and accurate, DOT Service animal air transportation form at the gate or ticket counter on their day of travel to affirm a service animal’s health, behavior, and training. Customers should complete the form, which will be available both on the airline’s website and at airport locations, after booking their travel.
Southwest’s move to ban emotional support animals on planes follows similar policy revisions from other major US airlines.
According to the Associated Press, the Department of Transportation estimates that under the new rules airlines will scoop up $59.6 million a year in pet fees.