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Southwest Airlines announced they will join other airlines in banning emotional support animals from unrestricted onboard access.
When the U.S. Department of Transportation updated their guidelines for 2021, airlines were no longer required to give onboard access to properly documented emotional support animals. Although most immediately changed their policies, Southwest Airlines continued to allow passengers to book flights alongside ESAs.
That was until Tuesday.
Southwest Airlines Co announced that, consistent with new regulations from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the carrier is making changes to its policies regarding trained service animals and emotional support animals. Effective March 1, 2021, the airline will accept only trained service dogs for travel and will no longer transport emotional support animals.
With the change, Southwest Airlines will only allow service dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability to travel with their handler. Disibilities can include a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability and only dogs will be accepted (including those for psychiatric service) — no other species will be accepted as a trained service animal.
“We applaud the Department of Transportation’s recent ruling that allows us to make these important changes to address numerous concerns raised by the public and airline employees regarding the transport of untrained animals in the cabins of aircraft,” said Steve Goldberg, Senior Vice President, Operations and Hospitality. “Southwest Airlines continues to support the ability of qualified individuals with a disability to bring trained service dogs for travel and remains committed to providing a positive and accessible travel experience for all of our customers with disabilities.”
As part of this change, Customers traveling with trained service dogs now must present a complete, and accurate, DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form at the gate or ticket counter on their day of travel to affirm a service animal’s health, behavior, and training. Customers should complete the form, which will be available both on the airline’s website and at airport locations, after booking their travel.
Additionally, Southwest will no longer accept emotional support animals for travel effective on March 1, 2021. Customers may still travel with some animals as part of the airline’s existing pets program for a charge; however, the animals must meet all applicable requirements regarding in-cabin stowage and species (dogs and cats only).