Monday, 24 September, 2018

American Airlines changing standards for emotional support animals

American Airlines changing standards for emotional support animals American Airlines changing standards for emotional support animals
Russell Knight | 16 May, 2018, 06:37

"I can spot a fake emotional support animal a mile away", veteran flight attendant Heather Poole, author of "Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet", told NBC News.

American Airlines on Monday announced those and other restrictions as part of a new emotional support animal policy effective July 1. "Unfortunately, untrained animals can lead to safety issues for our team, our customers, and working dogs onboard our aircraft", the airlines said in a statement.

Reptiles, hedgehogs, insects, and rodents are also banned, as well as any "animals with tusks, horns or hooves (excluding miniature horses properly trained as service animals)".

The airline said the animal did not fit its guidelines for support animals. They said the increased number of customers also brought an increase in the number of onboard incidents involving those animals.

The airline says insects, goats, and hedgehogs are just some of the animals that can not travel as comfort animals. Owners had been allowed to fill out paperwork the day of their flight, or even at the airport, a spokesperson for American Airlines said.

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"Only one emotional support animal may be held on the lap of a guest with the disability, provided that the animal is no larger than a two-year-old child", the airliner says.

For emotional support animals, customers must contact the Special Assistance Desk with all required documentation at least 48 hours before their flight. But NBC News found a cottage industry of websites where doctors are willing to write letters certifying that a traveler would benefit from having an emotional support animal, or ESA, during the flight.

American Airlines noted a 40 percent increase in the number of people flying with support animals. The airline says it will have procedures in place to accommodate last-minute bookings. This includes not only insects, goats and hedgehogs, but also ferrets, spiders, and non-household birds, like chickens and hawks. Other airlines, like United and Delta, have also updated their animal policies in recent months.

Passengers will now have to notify the carrier 48 hours in advance and then sign a waiver.

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