You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

United Airlines says only dogs and cats can be emotional support animals, and limits them to flights under eight hours

Tribune News Service logo Tribune News Service 1/3/2019 By Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune
Replay Video
Starting next week, United Airlines will only let passengers bring dogs and cats as emotional support animals and will bar all support animals from flights longer than eight hours.

The changes, which take effect Monday, are about finding the right balance between accommodating passengers' disabilities and protecting other passengers and employees, United spokesman Charles Hobart said. The airline will let customers who booked travel prior to Thursday fly with animals that would have been approved to fly under its old policies as long as they have any necessary documentation.

United said it decided to limit emotional support animals to shorter flights after seeing an increase in incidents involving support animals on longer flights. Service animals, which unlike support animals are required to have specialized training, still can travel on long-haul flights.

All dogs and cats traveling in the cabin - whether as emotional support animals, service animals or household pets - must also be at least 4 months old, since younger animals often have not received vaccinations, the airline said. Four months was already the standard for international flights, but United previously let dogs and cats as young as 2 months old fly within the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

a brown and white dog looking at the camera: United Airlines has announced new requirements for passengers who want to fly with a service animal or emotional support animal. © Shelly Yang/Kansas City Star/TNS United Airlines has announced new requirements for passengers who want to fly with a service animal or emotional support animal. Delta Air Lines announced similar policy changes last month, though passengers paying to bring a pet in the aircraft cabin are allowed to bring animals as young as 10 weeks old on domestic flights.

Chicago-based United is going a step further in limiting the kinds of animals it will accept as emotional support animals to dogs and cats. Dogs, cats and miniature horses with specialized training are permitted to fly as service animals, the airline said.

Dogs and cats already make up the overwhelming majority of emotional support and service animals on United flights, Hobart said.

Previously, United had a list of animals that couldn't fly as support or service animals, including hedgehogs, insects, nonhousehold birds and exotic animals. But one passenger's attempt to travel with an unusual support animal put the airline in the spotlight last year, when United declined to fly an emotional support peacock named Dexter.

The new policy is clearer and more efficient, Hobart said.

United tightens rules for emotional support animals

Airlines have been tightening the rules for emotional support animals over the past year, citing an uptick in incidents where support animals misbehaved or caused disturbances as their numbers have grown. Some carriers expanded lists of animals that can't fly and began requiring passengers to vouch for their animal's ability to behave.

Federal laws require airlines to permit passengers with disabilities to travel with service and emotional support animals in the cabin.

But in May, the Department of Transportation indicated it was open to some additional restrictions on support animals, saying it would not penalize airlines for limiting passengers to a single support animal or requiring documentation of vaccination or training.

The new rules aren't designed to limit the number of emotional support animals on board, though United does expect a reduction with the new restrictions on the types of animals it will carry, Hobart said.

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

AdChoices
AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon