Emotional Support Animal & Pet Policies: Alaska Airlines
In May of 2018, Alaska Airlines emotional support animal policy was changed to resemble the changes made by other airlines such as Delta and to impose stricter restrictions on support animals that were taken on board.
This strengthening of the policy was to be expected, as there was a steady increase in the number of animals that were taken on airplanes, directly proportional to the number of incidents caused by said animals. While the director of customer advocacy for Alaska Airlines, Ray Prentice, focused on both passenger safety and animal safety, from the policy itself we can conclude that the goal was not to decrease the amount of ESA that was allowed. Instead, it was to filter out any passengers that were not bringing legitimate emotional support animals on board but rather their pets, which has caused a lot of problems.
What do you Need to Bring an ESA into the Plane?
With the new guidelines, all passengers will need verified documents for the service animal, as well as an emotional support animal letter from a licensed medical professional that prove that the passenger is being treated for anxiety or other mental or medical issues. All of these documents should be submitted to the airline at least 48 hours before the flight.
There is no specification on the types of animals that can travel by plane, but it is clear that all animals will need to be certified with proof that they can behave nicely and that they will pose no problems that can endanger other passengers, or the animal itself.
This shouldn’t be an issue for the overwhelming majority of cases, especially if the passenger has a service dog, as dogs are the easiest type of animals to get certified to become emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals.
In addition, don't forget to fill out and submit the advisory health advisory form to the airline.
Keeping Your Emotional Support Animal Safe
Although these rules will not be applicable for all animals on planes, as there are miniature horses that are ESA certified, there are now stricter rules about animal safety during taxi, takeoff, and landing. The new service animal policy cites that all emotional support animals will need to be kept safe in the front of the passenger’s seat, or in a carry-on bag or transporter underneath the seat in front of them during these times. Once the plane is in the air, any pet that is capable of comfortably being in the lap of the passenger can be placed there, or in any other place that is needed to help their mental health or psychological disabilities.
While animals that have a certificate are not expected to make any incidents, all animals on planes that exhibit inappropriate behavior will be removed from the flight prior to departure.
More Airliners on the Same Page
As the number of people bringing emotional support animals on a flight steadily increases, more companies are expected to follow Alaska Air by making a similar service animal policy. It will be crucial for airline customers to get their ESA or service animals certified as well as to obtain a signed document or a doctor's note from a medical professional.