Alaska Airlines to stop allowing emotional support animals on flights

Officials with Alaska Airlines on Tuesday announced plans to stop allowing emotional support animals on flights.

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The airline’s revised policy bars all but service dogs that are “specifically trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.”

Beginning Jan. 11, people will no longer be able to book travel with emotional support animals, although they will still be allowed on flights through Feb. 28, 2021. After that, Alaska will allow passengers to travel with a maximum of two service dogs each.

People traveling with service animals will be required to fill out a Department of Transportation form “attesting that their animal is a legitimate service dog, is trained and vaccinated and will behave appropriately during the journey,” officials said.

>> Related: Dept. of Transportation: Emotional support animals are not service animals

The change comes weeks after the DOT issued a rule which stopped requiring airlines to treat emotional support animals as service animals. The rule states that a service animal is “a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”

>> Read the final service animal rule issued by the Department of Transportation

In a statement released Tuesday, Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy for Alaska Airlines, praised the regulatory change, calling it “welcome news” that “will help us reduce disturbances onboard, while continuing to accommodate our guests traveling with qualified service animals.”

In a letter sent last year to the DOT, officials with several airline industry and service dog groups said that more than a million passengers flew across the U.S. in 2018 with emotional support animals.

>> Read the full letter sent to the Department of Transportation

“As a result, both airports and airlines have seen a sharp increase in incidents caused by (emotional support animals),” the letter said. “These incidents have ranged from mauling and biting to urinating and defecating -- all unacceptable behaviors on an airplane.”

In May 2019, a man filed suit against Delta Air Lines and a dog owner after he was bitten by the owner’s emotional support dog on a 2017 flight from Atlanta to San Diego, according to The Washington Post. Marlin Jackson needed 28 stitches for his injuries, the newspaper reported.