Where Emotional Support Dogs Are And Are NOT Allowed On A Plane

Image: Axel Breuer, Pexels

Josh Ocampo, Aug 14, 2019

LifeHacker – In May, a man was attacked by an emotional support animal while flying on Delta; according to a lawsuit filed by the passenger, the animal tried repeatedly to sit on its owner’s lap before the attack—though ESAs are required to remain on the floor per Delta’s rules—while attendants ignored the airline’s policy.

Most airlines have language on their websites that detail behavioral requirements. Fortunately, most airlines offer the option to purchase an additional seat to make room for an emotional support animal.

Below you’ll find important seating policies for a few major U.S. airlines:

American Airlines:

  • Animals must be able to fit at your feet, under your seat or in your lap. (According to AA’s website, lap animals must be smaller than a 2-year old child).
  • If the animal is in a kennel, it must fit under the seat in front of you with the animal in it. They cannot be seated in an exit row, block aisles, occupy seats or eat from tray tables. [As we recently reported, the best way to avoid having to share your space with an animal may be to request an emergency exit row seat. See further tips below. – Ed.]
  • If your animal doesn’t fit, you can buy a ticket for the animal or check the pet in cargo.

Delta:

  • Animals must be seated below the passenger’s seat or in your lap and their size must not exceed the “footprint” of the seat. They cannot occupy a seat or eat from tray tables.
  • On its website, Delta also says that it does not accept emotional support animals on flights that are eight hours or longer.
  • If you have an animal that exceeds the space allowed, you may have to purchase an additional seat.

JetBlue:

  • Animals must remain on the floor unless they are small enough to “fit fully on the customer’s lap without touching any part of the seat or adjacent customers.”
  • They also cannot occupy a seat or exit row. If you fly via JetBlue’s Mint service, you cannot fully recline your seat, so that you can accommodate your animal.
  • Animals carriers are allowed in Mint during take-off or landing, so they must be stowed in the overhead compartment bin.

United:

  • Animals must be seated in the floor space below the passenger’s seat and cannot block an aisle or occupy a seat. Exit row seating is also not allowed.
  • Like Delta, emotional support animals are not allowed on flights of eight hours or longer. Animals also cannot weigh more than 65 pounds or be younger than four months.
  • They will also have to remain leashed throughout the flight.

If you still have concerns about your particular animal—or are traveling internationally—look at your airline’s website for exact requirements, and contact them to confirm. American, Delta, JetBlue, and United each have accessibility assistance lines so you can phone them directly with any concerns. Read more. 

How to tell if there’s going to be an emotional support dog on your plane 

Headline Health – Let’s face it, no one wants to sit next to someone’s dog on a long flight. Or a short one.

The one foolproof way to avoid having a dog next to you is to get a seat in the exit row, where companion animals are not permitted.

Another possible approach is to stroll through the gate area before boarding and check for dogs. If you see an animal you don’t wish to fly next to, you could try a friendly approach to get info from the owner. Smile and ask, “what’s you dog’s name?” They’ll almost certainly be happy to tell you. Then ask, “are you flying to … ” and name your destination. You may even be able to casually observe the passenger’s boarding pass and learn their seat number.

If it turns out that the dog is going to be on your flight, at least you have advance notice. You could ask the gate agent to put you in an emergency row. You could observe the passenger with the dog and see if they are in the same boarding group as you; if they are, ask to be reseated. This may give you a less desireably seat (such as a middle or something in the back of the plane), but you may prefer this to travelling with a dog.

One tactic to avoid is to assert that you are allergic to dogs; this is likely to get you, not the dog, removed from the flight.