Southwest Airlines is the latest to join the ban on Emotional Support Animals (ESA) following the DOT Rule Change. Here's what you need to know about the policy changes.
According to the new policy, emotional-support animals are no longer free to roam about the cabin on Southwest Airlines. The airline said that it will let passengers bring trained service dogs in the cabin, but it will no longer accept emotional support animals, starting March 1.
Passengers who want to bring a dog or cat on board as a pet will have to pay a fee, and the animal must be kept in a carrier that fits under an airplane seat. Pets that previously traveled as emotional support will still be allowed to travel, but only as part of the airline's pets program. Only small cats and dogs are allowed in the cabin and owners are required to pay a $95 fee per pet. Similar to other airlines who have made updates, they say trained service dogs are still allowed in the cabin but will also require new DOT animal transportation documentation to confirm that the animal meets training, behavior, and health qualifications. The move follows a DOT decision that allows airlines to ban animals that owners claim provide emotional support following a long debate about how these animals were causing significant disruptions in cabins and potentially undermining the use of legitimate service dogs. Airlines said some passengers simply abused the old rules to avoid pet fees.
Southwest is the last of six largest U.S. airlines to update its animal policy after the Transportation Department rule change. We've covered those policy changes as they were released as well. See these resources for more details: Delta & United Airlines Ban Emotional Support Animals Alaska & American Airlines Ban Emotional Support Animals on Flights