Delta Air Lines tightens rules for traveling with service and support animals

Featured image courtesy Delta Air Lines

On January 19, Delta Air Lines announced new rules for passengers traveling with service and support animals. The tighter rules are in response to unruly behavior by dogs and other animals the airline must allow on board by law.

A service animal is trained to assist people with disabilities, such as blindness, hearing loss, diabetes, seizures, or reduced mobility. Support animals, which are not trained, provide comfort and companionship to people with emotional, psychiatric, cognitive, or psychological disabilities.

The new rules take effect Thursday, March 1, and require that all customers traveling with a service or support animal show a health certificate from a veterinarian 48 hours in advance. The certificate verifies that the animal is in good health and its vaccinations are current.

Currently, passengers bringing support animals on board must provide a letter from a doctor or mental health professional explaining the need for support. Starting March 1, they’ll also need to provide a signed document confirming that their animals can behave outside a kennel while traveling in the plane’s cabin.

In 2017, Delta employees reported more aggressive service and support animals aboard flights. Some lunged and bit passengers, which is not the typical behavior of a trained service or support animal. During a flight from to Atlanta to San Diego in June 2017, an emotional support dog attacked a passenger who sat in a window seat and couldn’t escape. The dog bit the man’s face, resulting in 28 stitches.

The tightened rules are also intended to crack down on abusing the policy. Federal law requires airlines to allow service and support animals to fly for free. Otherwise, passengers must pay at least $100 to either carry on or check an animal, and many try to avoid the fees. An animal in a kennel counts toward the luggage allowance, too. So, for example, if I’m carrying my pet into the cabin, I’m allowed one more bag. If I have more bags, I must check them, which adds more fees, depending on my frequent flier status.

For more information, read the updated rules on Delta’s Service and Support Animals page.

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