Flying with Your Emotional Support Animal
If you want your emotional support animal (ESA) to travel with you in the cabin of a commercial carrier airplane, an ESA letter is essential.
What is an emotional support animal letter for flying?
Written by a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or registered therapist, an ESA letter states that you have an emotional or mental disability that materially limits your primary life activities. The letter, often referred to as an ESA prescription, states that the animal you have been prescribed is necessary for air travel.
What Information Should Be Included?
Your ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional must include:
- The date
- The mental health professional’s license type, license number, state that issued the license, and the date that the license was issued
- Your name, indicating that you under the care of the licensed mental health professional
- A statement that you have a mental health related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
- A confirmation that your emotional support animal is needed as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at your destination.
- The mental health professional’s signature
The letter must be on the letterhead of the licensed mental health professional providing the ESA prescription.
What Does My Emotional Support Animal Letter for Flying Entitle Me To?
You and your emotional support animal are protected by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) that prohibits air carriers from discriminating against passengers with disabilities. Some of the benefits of this include:
- Your emotional support animal will be able to travel in the airplane’s cabin during the flight.
- Your emotional support animal will sit in close proximity to you.
- You will not be charged the extra fees associated with pets flying with their owners.
- You can request a bulkhead seat (or a seat other than a bulkhead seat) and typically be accommodated.
- Within reason (commonly based on not obstructing the aisle) your ESA cannot be discriminated against based on breed, size, or weight.
- The airline will provide reasonable accommodation for a larger ESA, including, if necessary and possible, allowing you to sit in premium seats with more leg room.
- You will have access to a Complaints Resolutions Official (CRO) at the airport (in-person or via a communications device such as a phone) to address disability-related complaints.
Your proper ESA travel letter is all you need. The airline is prohibited from asking you about the extent of your condition or intimate details about it. They must accept the letter as evidence of your disability. The ACAA applies to air carriers that provide regularly scheduled services for hire to the public.
Traveling with an ESA Letter for Flying
When flying on a commercial carrier with your emotional support animal, there are requirements that vary slightly between airlines such as:
- You must have a proper ESA letter with all the necessary information.
- Your ESA letter must be dated with a year of the planned flight(s).
- You must provide documentation for your emotional support animal at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled flight.
- You must check in at least 1 hour in advance.
The airline might also have rules regarding ESA animals, such as:
- Some airlines are OK with the use of an approved in-cabin kennel.
- Some airlines will not allow any animal to occupy a seat designed for human passengers.
- Some airlines require any animal to stay on the floor next to your seat, without, for safety reasons, protruding into the aisle.
- Some airlines prohibit any animal in the exit row.
- Some airlines require a health certificate for certain destinations such as Hawaii.
Most airlines have lists of banned animals such as
- Generally, if you want/need specific seat assignments, such as a bulkhead, or other accommodations, such as pre-boarding, contact the air carrier with requests as long before the flight as possible.
- Your ESA must have acceptable behavior in a public setting. If the airline feels that your emotional support animal’s actions are inappropriate or disruptive, they may refuse to permit the animal in the cabin. Although not required, consider getting your ESA trained.
- Consider purchasing a vest or harness that identifies your ESA as an ESA. It is not required, but sometimes that can help in a busy environment such as an airport. Do not misrepresent your emotional support animal as a service animal.
Will an ESA Travel Letter Work with Hotels?
If you’re traveling with an emotional support animal, securing accommodations can be more complicated than traveling without one. Your ESA travel letter does not grant you and your emotional support animal access to hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and other business areas.
Emotional support animals are not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as service animals are. A service animal is trained to do specific tasks for people with disabilities and can go almost anywhere their owner goes. Emotional support animals are covered under the Air Carrier Access Act which only deals with access to commercial airplane cabins.
While planning your trip, you may find a number of hotels and motels that have generally pet friendly or specifically ESA friendly policies. Before booking a room, call the hotel manager and inquire about emotional support animal restrictions and amenities. Some hotels, among other stipulations, might require additional fees.
How Long is My Emotional Support Animal Letter for Flying Valid?
Your ESA letter for flying expires 12 months from the date on the letter. If you present a letter that is past the validity date, the airline you are traveling with might demand:
- That you pay a pet fee.
- That your ESA animal not be in the cabin, but in the luggage compartment under the plane.
- That your ESA animal not be allowed on the plane at all
Don’t wait any longer to travel with the emotional support of your companion animal. Get Started Now, It’s fast, simple, and secure.