American Airlines updates support and service animal policy.
American Airlines is once again updating its policy on emotional support and service animals to specify what kinds of pets and how many can travel on board its aircraft.
The changes, which take effect April 1, are the airline’s latest attempt to rein in the surging number of support animals being brought on planes. The updates announced Friday are the result of ongoing talks between the airline and the US Department of Transportation, according to a representative for American Airlines.
Passengers who require service animals will now be able to bring up to three on board providing the animal is a dog, cat or – in some circumstances – a miniature horse.
The Americans with Disabilities Act classifies miniature horses as service animals that should be accommodated where reasonable, forcing airlines to carefully address how to do that within the tight confines of plane.
In comments submitted to the Department of Transportation last summer, American Airlines pushed back against the idea that the breed of horses was suitable for air travel. Miniature horses are classified as livestock, unable to manage their “elimination functions” the way trained dogs can, and pose safety issues like the ability to puncture evacuation slides with their hooves, the airline argued.
The Fort Worth-based carrier said that “while called ‘miniature’, they are still large animals in the context of air travel space allotments.” And though they’re not as commonly used as service animals as dogs, some people prefer miniature horses because they can live up to 35 years.
Passengers travelling with emotional support animals will now be limited to one. The only emotional support animals permitted on flights will be dogs and cats, and passengers will be required to fill out a veterinary health form before flying that specifies the animals have been vaccinated.
Service and support animals both fly free in the aircraft’s cabin under federal regulations.
American Airlines’ new changes come after the airline announced updates in May 2018. Previous guidelines for emotional support animals that could fly with passengers were more broad.