Is the emotional support animal ban leading to better flight experiences?
Consider a dog caregiver to avoid the flight, passenger conflict
It’s been a year since the U.S. Department of Transportation (Department or DOT) took steps to remove emotional support animals from flights due to unruly pets and passenger conflict. Although 2020 had a 60% decrease in air travel overall, those who were traveling with pets could largely only allow service animals.
In order to approve service animals, passengers are required to fill out a specific DOT form up to 48 hours in advance of the date of travel (if the passenger’s reservation was made prior to that time). Airlines could also require a passenger with a disability to provide the forms at the passenger’s departure gate on the date of travel. Pet owners have to confirm that the service animal (a dog) is properly trained and healthy beforehand.
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Some emotional support animal (ESA) owners are still griping about the change. On one hand, it makes sense. ESAs are supposed to ease anxiety, phobias and depression. And for passengers who have aviophobia or aerophobia, having that ESA on board may be the relief they need.
But, in addition to ESAs not having to have any proper training like service animals do, there was also an uncomfortable amount of issues regarding passenger-to-passenger conflict. One example is Dana Holcomb, who was kicked out of first class on an American Airlines flight simply for being allergic to dogs. The 53-year-old had just celebrated his birthday and was coming home to Texas when he found out that the passenger next to him was bringing her support dog.