Flying with Your Service Dog

flying with your service dog

If your companion is registered as a service dog, he/she can legally accompany you onto the cabin of an airplane during flights. Your rights are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it’s important to know every airlines policy prior to booking travel.

While they are required to accommodate you, each airline may have slightly different rules when it comes to flying with your service dog. When it comes to living with a Service Dog, it’s important to always stay as up to date as possible on the rules and regulations. Here is an overview of the policy on service dogs for the major American airlines.

Remember, if you are traveling abroad or to Hawaii, you should look into whether your destination requires animals be quarantined upon arrival. Service Dogs must follow the laws of foreign governments at all times.

While not all airlines have the same rules, there are certain rules that apply across the board. For service animals that are traveling free in the cabin, they must be small enough to sit in their handler’s lap, or on the floor below the seat in front of them. On all airlines, animals cannot obstruct the aisle. Most airlines also make it clear that travelers with an animal cannot sit in an emergency exit row.

When it comes to service animals, airlines do not require more proof than “credible verbal assurance.” However, if the airline feels less than confident, more documentation may be asked for at the time of boarding. Because “credible assurance” is a vague term, we strongly encourage you to check with the airline in person prior to booking tickets and bring additional documentation just in case.

Finally it is important to note that the information below is not necessarily complete. Just because an airlines doesn’t state a particular rule on their website does not mean the rule does not apply. For example, several airlines make it clear that some species of animal are not allowed on flights, while others make no mention one way or the other. You should not assume that the airline’s website is providing the whole pictures.

We ALWAYS encourage our travelers to check with the airline in person or over the phone prior to booking passage to make sure you understand all the details of their policies. This is especially true when booking international travel, as other nations do not always abide by the same laws when it comes to service animals.

Delta-Air-Lines-logoDelta: View Service Animal Policy

Service animals can travel free of charge on Delta. The airline does not usually require travelers with a service animal to provide documentation. However, when flying with your service dog, the animal is expected to behave properly and follow the commands of its owner. Delta specifies that if they feel a service animal is having trouble following directions, they may ask additional questions or for additional documentation.

All service animals must sit at the floor space in front of the passenger’s seat. No animals are allowed on seats, or in the aisle of the cabin, as this is a violation of FAA regulations.

Delta does not allow certain species of animal to accompany handlers on a plane, regardless of their legal status. Those are: Hedgehogs, Ferrets, Insects, Rodents, Snakes, Spiders, Sugar Gliders, Reptiles, non-household Birds, any animal with tusks or hooves, and any animal, regardless of species, that is not clean or has a foul odor.

united-airlines-logoUnited : View Service Animal Policy

United Airlines requires that trained service animals sit in the floor space at the feet of the passenger they are accompanying. Travelers are allowed to use an approved kennel to transport their companion, as long as meets the stowage requirements for animals. Exit row seating is also prohibited for anyone traveling with a service animal.

United does not require documentation at the time of arrival for your flight, but they do make it clear that additional documentation may be required for international destinations.

Southwest: View Service Animal PolicySouthwest-Logo-2-copy

Customers flying with their service dog on Southwest can bring their service animal in the cabin of the plane with them. The animal is legally allowed to be kept outside of a kennel, provided it can fit on the floor at the traveler’s feet, or on their lap, without   obstructing pathway. Southwest does not allow a service animal to sit in a seat, even if an extra seat has been purchased.

It is important to note that if you do decide to place your service animal in a kennel, the carrier must be properly stowed for taxi takeoff, and landing. Additionally, Southwest makes it very clear that no animals of ANY kind are allowed to travel to/from Jamaica because of that country’s specific regulations.

american-airlines-aal-logoAmerican Airlines: View Service Animal Policy

American Airlines also welcomes service animals on all flights, at no additional charge to the passenger. Under the airlines cabin rules, the animal must be able to fit on the lab, or under the seat of the passenger. All service animals are expected to be well groomed and well behaved at all times. If your service animal is too large to sit on your lap or at your feet, it can still travel free of charge. However, it will need to be checked and travel in a kennel. It is important to check the size of your animal beforehand, and coordinate with the airline prior to purchasing tickets.
American Airlines makes it clear that all service animals can not be blocking any aisles of the cabin. Additionally, anyone traveling with a service animal is not allowed to sit in an exit row. The airline encourages passengers with service animals to contact them ahead of time to arrange seating so there aren’t any surprised on the day of travel.

Alaska-Airlines-2016-rebrand-logo-designAlaska Airlines: View Service Animal Policy

Alaska Airlines allows a passenger to travel with a service animal, and encourages travelers to inform one of their customer service agents upon arrival at the airport so that accommodations can be made. There is no additional charge for the service animal, and if you are taking a kennel with you, you may ship it as checked luggage for no fee as well.

As with other airlines, the animal must be able to fit at your feet, or in your lap without obstructing the aisles or other passengers’ space. Travelers with a service animal are not allowed to sit in an emergency exit row, and Alaska Airlines recommends trying to get a window seat so your animal is safe from foot traffic in the aisle.

Alaska Airlines also encourages passengers with service animals to provide some kind of harness or other distinguishing paraphernalia, but if that is not available, credible verbal assurance will suffice as long as the animal is well behaved.

If you animal cannot fit in the space allotted in the cabin, Alaska will find another flight for you or check your animal to travel in the cargo area free of charge. Please remember that the Airline will NOT provide you with a kennel if you have not brought one with you.

Service Dog in Training

Service animals that are still being trained sometimes need to be delivered to their handlers in other parts of the country. Alaska Airlines allows service animals in training to travel on flights, with certain conditions.

The service animal MUST be traveling with its trainer, and the trainer must be able to identify the new owner’s name and home city. The trainer must also provide documentation with official letterhead clearly stating that the animal has successfully completed training. For the animal to be able to travel in the cabin, space must be confirmed ahead of time.

Additionally, service dogs in training to not necessarily travel free of charge, unless the following criteria are met. Travel is wholly in the U.S., an official health certificate can be provided, the trainer who is traveling with the animal can provide their official ID card identifying them as a trainer.

image574335xJetBlue: View Service Animal Policy

JetBlue encourages its travelers to contact them ahead of time to let them know you will be flying with your service dog. Unlike some other airlines, JetBlue will accommodate a traveler with two service animals, if they can. Travelers with two service animals will be allowed to purchase two seats so they have extra space on the floor of the cabin. If two service animals are traveling in a kennel, they may share one if they both fit comfortably inside.

JetBlue does not accept service animals in training on their flights. Unusual animals, including but not limited to snakes, reptiles, rodents, and spiders, are also not permitted on JetBlue flights. JetBlue also makes it clear that a service animal MUST be providing necessary assistance to the individual with whom they are traveling.

VX-New-Logo_BLOGVirgin America: View Service Animal Policy

Virgin American’s service animal policy is similar to other airlines, but a little more flexible in terms of seating. The airline says that as long as the animal can sit with the handler in ANY seat other than an area that must remain clear during evacuation. This may allow for travelers on Virgin to sit in aisle or emergency exit rows (if the animal is on their lap) that other airlines may shy away from.

Similarly, Virgin America asks for the traveler to provide at least a credible verbal statement of the animal’s status. They do reserve the right to further require a service animal ID card or harness tag if they don’t feel the verbal assurance is enough.

Virgin also makes it clear that certain animals, including but not limited to snakes, reptiles, rodents, and spiders, cannot travel in the cabin of the airplane.

Spirit-Airlines-LogoSpirit Airlines: View Service Animal Policy

Spirit Airlines has a bit more specific guidelines when it comes to where a traveler with animal may sit. According to their website, they try at all times to provide travelers with animals seats in the bulkhead rows. Spirits Airlines also makes it clear that if an animal is on the lap of the passenger, that passenger, for the safety of the animal, can not sit in any seat that has an inflatable seat-belt.

Aside from these specifics, Spirit Airlines follows the same protocol as all the other major airlines. That is, service animals may travel freely in the cabin, as long as they fit on the lap of their handler, or on the floor at their feet without blocking the aisle. Travelers with an animal may also not sit in any of the emergency exit rows, even if that row is a bulkhead row. Finally, if the animal is in a crate, but also in the cabin, Spirit Airlines does not allow the traveler to sit in the first or second row of the plane.