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2021 Updated Service Dog Air Travel Guidelines

Golden Retriever rests his head on a model airplane

In early 2021, the Department of Transportation (DOT) updated Service Dog travel rules for Service Dog travel by air. In a nutshell, the new DOT Service Dog rules ban Emotional Support Animals on planes and require all Service Dog handlers to fill out 2 forms at least 48 hours prior to traveling. One of the new DOT Service Animal forms concerns training and behavior and the other health and wellness. For dogs joining their partner on flights longer than 8 hours, an elimination habits form will also be required. The new updates also change the definition of “Service Animal,” for the purposes of flying, to include only dogs. No other species of animal, including miniature horses, will be recognized.

Ideally, the new DOT rules will ensure dogs traveling in the passenger compartment of the plane are well-behaved and trained for public access. While there’s a little more work required on the part of Service Dog handlers prior to flying, overall, the new process is quite streamlined. All airlines will utilize the standardized DOT forms. Some airlines, like American Airlines, allow electronic submission of the forms, whereas others require the forms to be emailed or brought to the desk. Copies of the 2021 Service Dog travel forms can be downloaded here.

The new updates also address and standardize a few other common Service Dog travel concerns. Per the DOT, the 2021 Service Animal Final Rule:

Defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability;
No longer considers an emotional support animal to be a service animal;
Requires airlines to treat psychiatric service animals the same as other service animals;
Allows airlines to require forms developed by DOT attesting to a service animal’s health, behavior and training, and if taking a long flight attesting that the service animal can either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner;
Allows airlines to require individuals traveling with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) up to 48 hours in advance of the date of travel if the passenger’s reservation was made prior to that time;
Prohibits airlines from requiring passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to physically check-in at the airport instead of using the online check-in process;
Allows airlines to require a person with a disability seeking to travel with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) at the passenger’s departure gate on the date of travel;
Allows airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals;
Allows airlines to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft;
Allows airlines to require that service animals be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times in the airport and on the aircraft;
Continues to allow airlines to refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior and that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others; and
Continues to prohibit airlines from refusing to transport a service animal solely based on breed.

With so much more clarity, air travel with Service Dogs should be more straightforward. It will take a bit of adjustment and pre-flight planning, but overall, Service Dog handlers with well-trained dogs will find they have fewer issues.

Service Dog Air Travel Requirements: Find Your Airline

Alaska Airlines

Service Dogs: Fly for free in their passenger’s footspace or lap. Limit of 2 fully trained Service Animals.
DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form: Required
SDiTs: Fly for free with their trainer and proper documentation from a training organization
ESAs: Not Allowed

Allegiant Air

Service Dogs: Fly for free in their passenger’s footspace or lap. Limit of 2 fully trained Service Animals.
DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form: Required — email form to ACAA@Allegiantair.com 48 hours prior to travel. Also bring the form to the airport during check-in. Download form here.
SDiTs: Fly for free with their trainer, although 72 hours of notice is required. Other types of working dogs, including law enforcement and search and rescue dogs, can also fly with their handler for official purposes.
ESAs: Not Allowed

American Airlines

Service Dogs: Fly for free in their passenger’s footspace or lap. Limit of 2 fully trained Service Animals.
DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form: Required – Download here
SDiTs: Not Allowed
ESAs: Not Allowed

Delta Air Lines

Service Dogs: Fly for free in their passenger’s footspace or lap. Limit of 2 fully trained Service Animals.
DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form: Required – download here
SDiTs: Not Allowed
ESAs: Not Allowed

Frontier Airlines

Service Dogs: Fly for free in their passenger’s footspace or lap. Limit of 2 fully trained Service Animals. Service Dogs must be older than 4 months of age.
DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form: Required – download here
SDiTs: Not Allowed
ESAs: Not Allowed

Hawaiian Airlines

Service Dogs: Fly for free in their passenger’s footspace or lap. Limit of 2 fully trained Service Animals. 48 hours advance notice required.
DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form: Required – upload form to the “Make a Request” page and select the “Service Animal” topic.
SDiTs: Not Allowed
ESAs: Not Allowed

JetBlue Airways

Service Dogs: Fly for free in their passenger’s footspace or lap. Limit of 2 fully trained Service Animals. 48 hours advance notice required.
DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form: Required – download here
SDiTs: Not allowed
ESAs: Not Allowed

Southwest Airlines

Service Dogs: Fly for free in their passenger’s footspace or lap. Limit of 2 fully trained Service Animals.
DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form: Required
SDiTs: Not Allowed
ESAs: Not Allowed
Note: Law enforcement and search and rescue dogs on official business fly for free with their handlers.

Spirit Airlines

Service Dogs: Fly for free in their passenger’s footspace or lap. Limit of 2 fully trained Service Animals.
DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form: Required – download here and submit online 48 hours prior to flying
SDiTs: Not Allowed
ESAs: Not Allowed

United Airlines

Service Dogs: Fly for free in their passenger’s footspace or lap. Limit of 2 fully trained Service Animals. Service Animals must be older than 4 months of age.
DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form: Required – download here
SDiTs: Fly for free with their trainer if the flight is for training purposes
ESAs: Not Allowed

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