Delta and United Updated Their Emotional Support Animal Policies

The airlines now require travelers to provide letters from their vet and doctor.

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Mar 2 2018, 4:23pm

Photo via the Jet Set/Facebook

As of yesterday, March 1, people flying with Delta or United will need to provide additional documentation in order to bring their emotional support animals inside the cabin. The new policies come after some high-profile incidents of people trying to bring exotic therapy pets on their flights. Remember the emotional support peacock?

People have been doing this for years, with some who don't have emotional or psychiatric disorders gaming the system to fly with their beloved pets for free. But it seems like airlines are getting serious about cracking down.

ABC News reports that Delta and United airlines will require the following forms for people traveling with emotional support animal or a psychiatric service animal: veterinary health forms and immunization records, signed letters from a licensed doctor or mental health professional, and signed certification of training. The changes do not apply to people traveling with service animals, which are trained to perform specific tasks to help people with physical and mental disabilities.

United said it's seen a 75 percent increase in emotional support animal incidents between February 2017 and 2018. Delta noted an 84 percent increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals since 2016, including urination, defecation, and biting.

It was United Airlines that refused to let a woman bring her peacock onboard her flight at Newark Airport in January “for a number of reasons, including its weight and size.” A Delta passenger was attacked by another customer's emotional support dog on a flight in June 2017; he was bitten in the face multiple times. The airline said last year that it carries about 700 service or support animals daily, or almost 250,000 annually—an increase of 150 percent since 2015.

United and Delta passengers have to submit these forms by email or online at least 48 hours in advance of their flight. If United's Accessibility Desk doesn't clear you in advance, you may be required to transport the animal as a pet, and pet fees may apply. Delta's Service Animal Support Desk will verify the documents and confirm the customer's reservation to travel with an emotional support animal before they arrive at the airport. These travelers must use the full-service check-in counter at the airport.

Delta may also ask to see health and vaccination forms for service animals at the airport, but those travelers can check in online, via the Delta app, airport kiosks, or the counter.

Delta seems especially fed up, saying in a release:

Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums, snakes, spiders and more. Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs.

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