Delta increases restrictions on support and service animals
More restrictions are emerging in the airline industry. In our latest post we covered what food you can bring on a plane. Now we’re turning our attention to human’s best friend.
After being dogged by problems with service and support animals aboard flights, Delta Airlines has updated its regulations to limit and in some cases eliminate flights by furry friends.
The policy change, which went into effect Dec. 18, bans service and support animals under four months of age regardless of flight length. It also bans emotional support animals on flights longer than eight hours.
The updates “support Delta’s commitment to safety and also protect the rights of customers with documented needs – such as veterans with disabilities – to travel with trained service and support animals,” said John Laughter, Senior Vice President, Corporate Safety, Security and Compliance, in a posted statement.
The policies go into effect for customers who purchase tickets from Dec. 18 on. Customers with tickets purchased before Dec. 18 and who have already requested to travel with an emotional support animal will be allowed to travel as originally ticketed.
Regardless of the customer’s booking date, emotional support animals will not be accepted on flights longer than eight hours from Feb. 1 on. Additionally, service and support animals under four months of age will not be accepted on flights of any length on or after Feb. 1. Customers in those situations will be contacted by Delta to adjust reservations if the policy update impacts their travel plans.
Delta’s updated policy follows an 84 percent increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals in 2016-2017, including urination/defecation, biting and even an attack by a 50-pound dog. In 2018, Delta carried about 700 emotional-support animals and service dogs on flights each day, up from 450 a day in 2016.
Delta didn’t update its guidelines arbitrarily. The new support and service animal age requirement aligns with the vaccination policy of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the eight-hour flight limit for emotional support animals is consistent guidelines in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act.
It would not be surprising if other airlines follow suite, because the numbers of untrained pets masquerading as service animals has become a growing problem in the last few years.
To make matters worse, travelers and airlines officials sometimes confuse service dogs, which are specially trained to help people with disabilities, and emotional support animals, which can be pets that provide comfort and companionship but require no training.
The Americans With Disabilities Act defines service animals as dogs or miniature horses that are trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities, such as guide dogs for visually impaired people. The Air Carrier Access Act governs airlines in the area of service and support animals.