American Airlines said that it will be making adjustments to its regulations and procedures regarding travel with emotional support and service animals in the near future.
The statement came in reaction to the US Department of Transportation’s recent publication of new regulations (DOT).
The new regulations and procedures are meant to benefit customers with disabilities and their service animals, as well as team members responsible for client safety.
“Our staff is driven by a desire to care for people throughout their lives, and we think that these policy changes will enhance our capacity to do so,” said Jessica Tyler, American’s President of Cargo and Vice President of Airport Excellence.
“We are sure that this strategy will help us to better serve our clients, particularly those with impairments traveling with service animals, and to safeguard our team members at the airport and onboard.”
The DOT’s new regulation defines a service animal as a dog that has been individually taught to do labor or duties for the benefit of a qualified individual with a handicap – a more restrictive definition than previously used. American will no longer permit new travel for animals that do not match that description, such as emotional support animals, after the regulation takes effect on Jan. 11. Existing bookings involving emotional support animals will be honored until the airline’s new regulations take effect on Feb. 1.
Beginning Feb. 1, American will require customers traveling with service animals to complete a DOT form attesting to the dog’s behavior, training, and health in order to ensure accessible travel for individuals with disabilities while also protecting the safety and well-being of customers and team members. The airline will demand the electronic submission of this form 48 hours prior to a flight unless the reservation is made within 48 hours before travel. The authorization for a service animal is valid for one year or until its immunizations expire.
Animals that formerly traveled as emotional support animals but no longer qualify as service animals are permitted to travel as carry-on pets or cargo pets if they fulfill the conditions.
American is contacting customers who may be impacted by these changes. The service animal forms, as well as further information on the airline’s new policy, will be made accessible in the coming days.