Alaska Airlines announced on Tuesday that it will no longer allow passengers to bring emotional support animals on its aircraft for any reservations made after January 11. The airline is the first to ban emotional support animals following new guidance from the U.S. Department of Transportation about what kind of animals should be allowed on passenger planes.
The new rules will not apply to dogs that are trained to perform specific tasks, such as guide dogs for people with visual impairments. But the rules will apply to “emotional support” monkeys, peacocks, and snakes—all things that people have actually tried to bring on airplanes in recent years.
“Effective Jan. 11, 2021, Alaska will only transport service dogs, which are specially trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement posted online.
The Department of Transportation released new rules in early December that were celebrated by some people who complain that unscrupulous people had been using “emotional support” as an excuse to bring their untrained and undisciplined pets on planes without a real need. But disability rights groups warn that the new restrictions may hamper those with disabilities from enjoying equal access to the country’s transportation infrastructure.
“Once again, in an almost systemic manner, DOT has decided to prioritize the airline industry and corporate interests over the rights afforded to people with disabilities under the law,” Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, said in a statement earlier this month after the Department of Transportation issued its new guidance.
“While it is no secret that we still remain far from a truly accessible transportation system in this country, the DOT rule will only serve to exacerbate existing inequities for people with disabilities participating in air travel and will instead almost exclusively accommodate the interests of the airline industry,” Decker continued.
Alaska Airlines announced that passengers will now be required to complete an online form swearing that their animal is a “legitimate service dog” and has been properly trained not to cause a disturbance on the flight.
Guests will be required to complete a DOT form, which will be available on AlaskaAir.com beginning Jan. 11, attesting that their animal is a legitimate service dog, is trained and vaccinated and will behave appropriately during the journey. For reservations booked more than 48 hours prior to travel, guests must submit the completed form via email. For reservations booked less than 48 hours prior to travel, guests must submit the form in person to the Customer Service Agent upon arrival at the airport.
There are still plenty of questions about what kind of animals will be allowed on board for passengers with psychiatric conditions and Alaska Airlines hasn’t been terribly specific yet in that regard. We’ve reached out to Alaska Airlines for more clarity on the new rules and will update this post if we hear back.
Other U.S.-based airlines have yet to announce changes to their official rules on service animals but they’re expected to follow suit soon.
“This regulatory change is welcome news, as it will help us reduce disturbances onboard, while continuing to accommodate our guests traveling with qualified service animals,” Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy at Alaska Airlines, said in a statement.