Welp! Alaska Airlines announced Tuesday it will no longer accept emotional support animals in the passenger cabin on its flights.
Alaska Airlines will soon no longer allow emotional support animals (ESAs) on any flights.
According to a release from the airline, the decision was made “following recent changes to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) rules.” In early December, DOT announced, among other changes, that airlines are allowed to treats ESAs as pets, not as service animals. This distinction allows airlines to strip ESAs of the privileges that are given to service animals onboard flights — which include boarding for free, ignoring weight, size, and capacity restrictions placed on passenger pets traveling in the cabin, and sitting outside of a carrier for the flight.
Alaska Airlines is one of the first airlines to announce, following the DOT’s decision, that they will no longer accept emotional support animals on their flights, and that, instead, ESAs will be treated as regular passenger pets. The ban goes into effect on Jan. 11, according to the airline’s release.
“Earlier this month the DOT said it will no longer require airlines to make the same accommodations for emotional support animals as is required for trained service dogs. Changes to the DOT rules came after feedback from the airline industry and disability community regarding numerous instances of emotional support animal misbehavior which caused injuries, health hazards, and damage to aircraft cabins,” Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy at Alaska Airlines, said in a statement.
“This regulatory change is welcome news, as it will help us reduce disturbances on board, while continuing to accommodate our guests traveling with qualified service animals,” he added.
While the ban goes into effect on Jan. 11, Alaska Airlines will accept emotional support animals under its current policy for reservations booked prior to Jan. 11, 2021, for flights on or before Feb. 28, 2021. No emotional support animals will be accepted for travel after Feb. 28, 2021.
The airline is also embracing the DOT’s other changes, which include only accepting trained canines as service animals, allowing service dogs of any breed on board, limiting the number of service dogs an individual can bring onboard to two, and accepting psychiatric service dogs on board in addition to canines trained to help those with physical health issues.
Following DOT’s new rules, Alaska Airlines will also start requiring passengers with service animals to “complete a DOT form, which will be available on AlaskaAir.com beginning Jan. 11, attesting that their animal is a legitimate service dog, is trained and vaccinated and will behave appropriately during the journey.”
This is unfortunate for the people who actually need their animals as support. But I’m sure that were some taking advantage of the system by saying their pet was a service animal so that they could have flown for free.