Pigs might fly, but they shouldn’t do so as service animals
Southwest Airlines has updated its policies governing passengers traveling with service and support animals.
In doing so, the Dallas-based airline joins fellow US carriers American Airlines, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, Chicago-based United Airlines and New York-based JetBlue Airways, all of which have implemented their own guidance for the use of service and support animals. The new rules for Southwest are slated to go into effect Sept. 17.
According to the airline, the new guidance distinguishes between three categories of animals:
Emotional support animals (ESA), which provide a psychiatric or mental health need to the passenger;
Trained service animals, which provide aid to passengers with physical impairments like deafness or poor vision; and
Psychiatric support animals, which are “individually trained to perform a task or work for a person with a mental health-related disability.”
Southwest’s new policies will limit ESAs to cats and dogs, which must remain in a carrier or on a leash at all times during the flight. ESAs will also be limited to one per customer. Passengers must present a current letter from a doctor or licensed mental health practitioner certifying the animal is legitimate and safe to fly on the day of departure.
The new guidelines go into effect after months of controversy stemming from a surge in the numbers of passengers traveling with ESAs, which increased by 56% in just one year from 2016-2017, according to data provided by Airlines for America (A4A). In 2017, the group estimated US airlines have accommodated more than 750,000 ESAs since 2012…