Alaska Airlines is First Carrier to Ban Emotional Support Animals

Last month, we brought you the news that the Department of Transportation (DOT) was changing the rules about what constitutes an “emotional support animal.”

two dogs on top of orange suitcase

Effective January 11, 2021, only trained dogs can be categorized as service animals and the new ruling gives the airlines discretion as to which animals they can permit on board, effectively closing the “emotional support animal” loophole that meant some people would bring along their emotional support hamsters, peacocks, and even a random kangaroo here and there. This past week, Alaska Airlines became the first to ban “emotional support animals” outright from their flights, and wasted no time in implementing the change, which goes into effect on January 11 for new bookings. February 28, 2021 is the last day emotional support animals will be permitted on board to accommodate folks who have existing bookings.

Alaska had been looking for a way to restrict emotional support animals for years now, citing often unruly and untrained, sometimes exotic creatures that could be a safety threat to passengers and crew members. Numerous physical altercations with flight crews, damage to cabins and even injuries were cited in the Alaska Airlines announcement.

Alaska will still allow trained service dogs who serve owners battling psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, etc. The pooches will require service training and certification, and have all vaccinations in order to accompany their handler. Each person with service dogs will be permitted to travel with up to two qualified dogs.

Pets (dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits) are still permitted to fly in the passenger cabins, so long as they are in a regulation carrier. Pets are subject to a fee ($100 each way).

With this announcement, we’re wondering which airlines might be next. Will Alaska’s announcement make you more or less likely to fly with them? Tell us in the comments below.

Update 1/6/2021: American Airlines became the second airline to join Alaska Airlines in banning most emotional support animals from the main cabin. 

61 Comments

  1. More. Its yet another loophole people have exploited. Unless it’s an authorized service dog If you cant get off the couch without your dog stay home.

    1. Really. How insensitive. I agree with the decision of the airline. Note, I am able to get off the couch, however I have a professionally trained and registered hearing assistance (service, NOT support) dog. Hw serves to let me know if someone is at the door, if someone i approaching me and if my home phone is ringing. he does not alert to my cell phone.
      It costs thousands of dollars to get such a dog and annual “tune-ups” are extra, but well worth it.

  2. Yes !!! Other airlines need to ban these so call ESA !!! I feel sorry for those people who really need an ESA in there life . But all the people who have lie have caused this to happen !!

  3. I disagree banning (emotional) support animals. I will use another carrier. I do have a certified support animal and not an emotional (only). My dog has flown over 10,000 miles without issues. It would make sense to fill any seat especially during Covid19 tines. If it helps someone emotionally, let them fly with less anxiety. I will not support airline bailouts. AA is not using common sense and would rather have the $$. Goodbye Alaska.

    1. These changes have been long needed, but TSA and carrier personnel need intensive training. I am hearing impaired and have a professionally trained and registered service dog, a Chihuahua, that serves me. Because of all the numbnuts who illegitimately bring their pets on flights I have been harassed and humiliated and my dog mishandled and traumatized by SWAir and TSA personnel and my dog attacked in the airport – all 3.5 pounds of him.

  4. Finally! So glad to learn we are not having to sit for hours with someone’s pet practically in your lap.
    Yes I would chose Alaska to fly just for this reason

  5. This change would keep me from using this airline in the future. It is very unfair to separate people from their emotional support animal. Some people cannot function without their emotional support animal. Which means these people will not be able to fly on your flights either. And if everyone takes this position than people with emotional disabilities will then be confined to their home. I don’t think it’s fair and actually I think it is cool This change would keep me from using this airline in the future. It is very unfair to separate people from their emotional support animal. Some people cannot function without their emotional support animal. Which means these people will not be able to fly on your flights either. And if everyone takes this position than people with emotional disabilities will then be confined to their home. I don’t think it’s fair and actually I think it is cruel. I have to wonder if you know anyone with emotional support animals and what it’s like when they were without them.

    1. Oh boo hoo, most people don’t like having to put up with animals when flying on a plane. I hope all airlines follow suit.

  6. Very good choice to ban emotional support animals. When I pay to ride in a plane, I don’t pay to ride with animals. They smell, most animals lick their private parts and I’m allergic to animal dander. Thank you Alaska airlines! I hope other companies will follow suit!

  7. As a long time customer of Alaska Airlines, I strongly resent the arbitrary restriction of bringing well behaved pets, mainly dogs as needed companions to loyal fliers. That should be a normal restriction applied only to dangerous, or obnoxious exotic pets claimed to be needed comfort animals. Even allowing caged smaller animals discriminates against larger well behaved, trained dogs, who are usually better behaved and much quieter anyway. Charging reasonable extra fare for seat space need, and requiring proof of adequate training can be stipulations. My wife and I will not fly Alaska should this new policy be enacted. After all, very minor children are quite often obnoxious brats, screaming or kicking seat backs, with little or no parental controls- why not restrict them as well, at least to a segregated “brat” seat section?

  8. I have flown several times with my emotional dog. He has always been well behaved. I am would worry more about the children who are not well behaved .

    Does effect who I fly with

    Chavalla Lopez

  9. This is a big relief, thank you for this ban. My family and I feel safer and more comfortable flying without animals on board. If passengers need the help of an animal to fly, they should not even fly at all.

  10. A dog that is trained for this role should be permitted.They are really an asset for a person requiring this service

  11. Thank goodness someone is calling bullshit on the emotional support animals. That had gotten out of control and was not fair to the rest of the flying public. This move will make me much more likely to fly Alaska Airlines.

  12. I will absolutely be more likely to fly Alaska. I try to fly Alaska anyway. The service animal has gotten way out of hand. For the people that truly need one, I have no issue. It’s all the rest of the people that abuse the rule is the problem. Thanks to Alaska air.

  13. I am very pleased with your policy of banning emotional support animals. This decision will make me much more likely to fly with you.

  14. So glad to hear that. It never took into consideration the people afraid of animals or the people that have allergies to them. They never should of been allowed to start with

  15. I do support the airlines. There has been an abuse of the “emotional support animals” for those who truly need it.

  16. Love the ban… It was getting ridiculous and basically anyone could get a letter or certificate from a friend doctor to get away with this. Good job!

  17. I understand that there is a lot of people out there that take advantage of the emotional support animal. But because of these selfish people, the ones that need the support are unable to have it when they travel. It’s to bad that when traveling that as long as you have the proper paperwork (form from doctor & form showing that the animal has been trained as an emotional support)or whatever paperwork is needed.then the law could change back. Animals are trained. So sad so many took advantage of this😞😡

  18. Emotional support dogs I very important to there owners
    They serve our needs as critical times of the day the night
    I will never support any airline that Restrictions support animals
    I’m talking about dogs not Birds donkey peacock and the dog must be behaved

  19. There should be a limit. To many spoiled Americans take advantage of a good situation. You really don’t need your animals to fly. What people who don’t care for animals. You go Alaska Airlines for being a leader with comfort for travelers first.

  20. I totally agree with rhe airlines! People with animal allergies need to be considered also. Fying with a officially trained dog for legit reasons is understandable but it should only be one dog to one person in the cabin. Why does one person need 2 dogs?

  21. I totally agree with rhe airlines! People with animal allergies need to be considered also. Fying with an officially trained dog for legit reasons is understandable but it should only be one dog to one person in the cabin. Why does one person need 2 dogs?

  22. More likely to fly with banned support animals. What about those of us that do not really like animals? That causes me anxiety to have a loose animal on board. One person gets “support” and the other 100+ passengers have to suffer? I support the decision to ban animals unless they have that trained vest on and are legitimately a service animal.

  23. more likely to fly with Alaska with less animals in the cabin

    emotional animals are nothing but a big scam anyway. I feel bad for the animals subjected to having to be confined in an airplane seat

  24. Should have been a licensed animal all along. People and their doctors were taking advantage of it.
    I have a small dog and I pay the 100 dollars. So can they.!
    Good for you Alaska! Hope the others follow suit!

  25. YES!!! More likely to fly with Alaska Airlines now! Fed up with scammers..,,,when will housing catch on ?

  26. its about time, some people are taking this to extremes , so now we all have to pay do you believe some of the animals they try to board with what happen to comom sense

  27. Finally! I am sooo tired of people abusing the’emotional support animals’ law. I also have noticed that United States Post Offices have gone back to only allowing ESA’s inside there buildings.

  28. GOOD! Long overdue! I was recently on a flight from Spokane to Seattle and a dog that was “labeled” as a service animal literally walked away from its owner and then later puked in the isle!! BS!!!! If I can’t bring peanut m&m’s on a flight in case someone is allergic to nuts then why should I have to be around your animal that I may have a reaction to!!!!

  29. I support Alaska’s new restrictions. The number of dogs I see boarding planes, I work in the industry, is insane. The loop-holing abusers have certainly degraded this privilege for those who honesty need it. Sitting in the confines of the cabin, even with the wonderful HEPA air filtration system, does not do enough to mitigate dog breathe emanating from the cramped space on the cabin floor at the adjacent seat.

  30. So glad to hear this, I had a 6hour flight with a very strong, foul odor on a big dog that sat behind me. No other seats were available to switch. It was so nauseating. If you need to bring an animal make sure it is bathed.

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