Southwest Airlines has made changes to its policies for trained service and emotional support animals and is limiting the emotional support animals (ESAs) allowed on its flights to only dogs and cats from 17 September.
This means passengers can no longer have emotional support from ducks, peacocks, hamsters and other furry friends while another change is all such dogs and cats must be restrained by a leash or kept in a carrier.
Southwest will also limit each passenger to one ESA. For service animals that are trained to assist with passengers’ physical disabilities, the carrier will accept dogs, cats and miniature horses and no “unusual or exotic animals” will be accepted.
Southwest said the move is designed to “provide clearer guidance to passengers traveling with service animals” and senior vice president of operations and hospitality, Steve Goldberg said: “We want to make sure our guidelines are clear and easy to understand while providing customers and employees a comfortable and safe experience.”
Customers traveling with ESAs will still need to present a complete, current letter from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional on the day of departure “attesting that the passenger must fly with the animal”.
Several other North American airlines, including Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue and United Airlines have also adopted stricter rules on pets boarding aircraft with passengers.