Emotional Support Animal & Pet Policies: Southwest Airlines
Emotional support animals, as well as service animals in general, are a great help for any person that has anxiety, chronic depression, as well as mental or psychological problems of any kind. As the number of patients that opt for this type of treatment increases, so does the number of emotional support animals that are brought on board of airliners.
With this steady increase of animals on planes, there has been a rise in the number of incidents caused by these animals, forcing several airliners to tighten their service animal policy. Southwestern Airlines, following the examples of Delta and Alaska Air, has formulated a new system that will restrict the type of animals capable of being taken on a flight, as well as protocols and demands about the documentation and safety of these animals.
Southwestern aims to focus on both passenger safety and animal safety, and will in the future only accept animals that will be able to fit the transporter carrier under the seat. The senior vice president of operations and hospitality at Southwestern, Steve Goldberg, has stated for LA Times that the company will aim to create clear guidelines will ensure the safety and comfort of their passengers. Although the new policy explicitly mentions cats and dogs, it is presumable that other ESA certified service animals of the same size will be able to be brought on board, but this was not confirmed and should be inquired about before departure.
Additionally, all pets will need to pay an extra pet fare that will start at $95 per flight, and the airline has stated that will not be possible to transport animals in the cargo bin and will only accept any emotional support animals inside the cabin.
What Documents & Health Professional Letters Will You Need?
As to ease the process of bringing an ESA on a flight, you will need to get your animal certified as well as to obtain signed documents from your doctor as to prove the requirement for bringing such an animal on board.
The stated new guidelines are as follows:
- The passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition (DSM IV)
- The passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger’s destination
- The individual providing the assessment and letter for the emotional support pet is a licensed mental health professional, and the passenger is under his or her professional care
- The date and type of the mental health professional’s or medical doctor’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.
Individuals with experience on bringing their support animal on airplanes will notice that these requirements model on those made by other airlines, and especially compared to their previous guideline as formerly passengers were able to bring miniature horses on board, which created several issues, including weight restriction problems.
Any human-animal bond is strong, and when this bond is preserving your mental health against problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder or severe agoraphobia, you will want to do everything in your power to bring your emotional support dog on board. Customers traveling Southwestern airlines will need to be familiar with the new restrictions concerning animals and provide proof that their ESA is trained and that it will not cause any disruptive behavior. Sending all documents in advance and having your cat or dog ESA certified will ensure that the animal will only bring comfort to you, while not causing any problems for other passengers or the airliner.