Southwest Airlines tighens rules on emotional support animals

Southwest Airlines is the latest airline to tighten its policies on passengers traveling with trained service and emotional support animals.

The new rules go in to effect Monday, September 17, 2018.

Under Southwest Airlines’ new rules, each customer will only be able to travel with one emotional support animal (or ESA) and ESAs will be limited to only cats and dogs.

During travel, the airline will always require each ESA to be kept in its carrier or be kept on a leash.

Customers traveling with ESAs will continue to be required to present a complete, current letter from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional on the day of departure.

As part of these new policies, Southwest is also recognizing fully-trained psychiatric support animals (PSAs) as trained service animals.

The airline said it informally accepted PSAs as trained service animals in the past. Now the airline will formally accept this type of service animal. PSAs are animals that are specially trained to perform a task or work for a person with a mental health-related disability. To travel with these animals, the airline will require only a credible verbal assurance.

When it comes to traditional trained service animals, Southwest says it is going to adopt the DOT guidelines and accept only dogs, cats, and miniature horses.

“For the health and safety of our Customers and Employees, unusual or exotic animals will not be accepted,” the airline said in a statement and, “As is the case today, the Customer with the disability must be able to provide credible verbal assurance that the animal is a trained service animal.”

“We welcome emotional support and trained service animals that provide needed assistance to our Customers,” said Steve Goldberg, Southwest’s Senior Vice President of Operations and Hospitality said in statement, “However, we want to make sure our guidelines are clear and easy to understand while providing Customers and Employees a comfortable and safe experience.”

Southwest’s new rule announcement comes affter Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, and United have also updated their policies.

What do you think of the new rules? Fair?

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