Alaska Airlines will no longer accept emotional support animals on its flights beginning in January, the first air carrier to announce a ban following changes to federal Department of Transportation regulations earlier this month that no longer considered them as a “service animal.”
“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, Alaska Airlines’ director of customer advocacy, said in a company release.
Alaska Airlines said the DOT rule changes came after “numerous instances of emotional support animal misbehavior which caused injuries, health hazards and damage to aircraft cabins.”
The policy will go into effect on Jan. 11. Alaska Airlines said it will permit two service dogs per passenger, including psychiatric service dogs. Passengers still will need to complete a DOT form attesting that the canine is a legitimate service dog, is vaccinated and will behave “appropriately” during the flight.
Emotional support animals will still be allowed for passengers that already have made a reservation, or will make one before Jan. 11. The animals will be permitted for flights up to Feb. 28, the airline said.
Airlines have questioned whether some passengers try to pass off their pets as support animals – including cats, rabbits and birds – in order to avoid paying fees associated with pets, USA Today said.
Flight attendants, veterans groups and disability advocacy groups all supported the change.
“This is a wonderful step in the right direction for people like myself who are dependent on and reliant on legitimate service animals,” advocacy group My Blind Spot founder Albert Rizzi was quoted by USA Today. Some people “want to have the benefits of having a disability without actually losing the use of their limbs or senses just so they can take their pet with them.”
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