Southwest becomes latest US airline to ban emotional support animals

American airline Southwest becomes the latest airline to ban passengers from bringing emotional support animals onto the aircraft.

Department of Transportation ignites ban

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From 1st March, low-cost airline Southwest will follow the lead of fellow American airlines Delta, United and Alaska in banning emotional support animals.

The airlines implemented bans following the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) change to the categorisation of emotional support animals, no longer classifying them as service animals. This means the airline will be able to deny passengers from bringing animals aboard that they claim provide emotional support.

Emotional support or service animal?

Unlike an emotional support animal, a service animal is defined as “an animal trained to assist a person with disabilities”. Southwest has stated that they will still permit trained service animals on board. However, the airline emphasised that the only accepted species are dogs. It will also be a requirement of passengers travelling with a service dog to provide a DOT Service Animal Air Transportation form.

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The change also comes after increasing concerns over passengers taking advantage of the emotional support animal scheme. Passengers avoided paying relevant fees by claiming the animal was for emotional support.

Travellers may still carry animals like cats on board, but they will no longer qualify as support animals. Instead, they will travel under the pets programme, which will incur an additional travel fee.

No more pigs or poultry

The new rule will also put an end to the transportation of unconventional animals. Previously, airlines like Southwest had seen peacocks and ducks, to the occasional pig, onboard.

Pigs or poultry
“Almost any animal, including pigs, were permitted previously” | © Scott McCartney

The change to the policy also allows for the prevention of untrained animals boarding. There have been a number of instances involving untrained animals, which was the last straw for many airlines. In some cases, animals have escaped to cause delays and  have even attacked passengers and staff.

Do you think Southwest is right in joining the crackdown on emotional support animals? Or do you think there should still be some leniency regarding taking animals on board? Share your thoughts with us below! 

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