Emotional Support Animal & Pet Policies: United Airlines
Following the example of many other airliners, the United Airlines emotional support animal policy is more restrictive and requires signed documentation if you want to bring any service animals or therapy animals on board. The change is brought about due to multiple incidents involving animals on planes, where in many cases the animals were not trained for such occasions, or the passengers tried to bring their pets presenting them as therapy animals.
While all research indicates that this type of treatment holds vast benefits to persons with psychological or psychiatric mental health problems such as anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, some of the animals used for this purpose are not suitable for flying due to pressure changes or large crowds of people. Passengers should also never bring uncertified and untrained animals on board, and shouldn’t bring animals that are not needed.
Most of the policy changes have happened due to people who do not need emotional support animals trying to misuse the formerly relaxed policy, creating significant discomfort for the other passengers and for the animals themselves.
What are the New Restrictions?
As to comply with the new policy, you will need to have your service animal or your emotional support animal certified and to have all of the necessary documentation, including a signed doctor's note from a licensed medical professional or mental health professional.
In the case of the former, the ESA support documentation should prove that the animal is trained to handle large crowds, such as the airport, and know how to behave during taxi, takeoff properly, and landing, when they will have to be contained in a kennel or similar container in front of the passenger's seat. All animals on planes that exhibit inappropriate behavior will be denied boarding.
For customers traveling with emotional support animals or service animals, the doctor's note will prove that they are in need of such animal and that bringing it aboard is a necessity. Without this type of document, United Airlines customers will need to pay an additional charge for transporting pets aboard, which may cost between $95 and $125 for each flight.
Even if the animal is certified and there is an apparent medical reason for bringing them on a plane, the animal must fit in front of the passenger seat and must not protrude into the aisles. Any animal too large to fit this space will not be allowed boarding.
Make Sure to Inform the Airliner
Customers that want to travel with United Airlines should download the form from their website and send a copy of the form to the airline at least 48 hours before departure alongside a copy of the ESA certificate and the doctor's note. They should also keep one copy of the form by their side at all times, as well as all other documents, in case they are asked for them while boarding.
Any person going abroad should know that not all countries have the same requirements for emotional support animals, and while most will allow service dogs without significant issues, this will not be the case for all animals.
Make sure to inquire about international travel well in advance, as you will need about one week to get a confirmation from the countries such as the United Kingdom or Ireland, and even more for some countries in the Middle East and Asia.