In an attempt to prevent the abuse of service animal policies, American Airlines says that only trained service dogs can qualify for free travel with their owners on planes. Every other animal qualifies as a pet according to a Chicago Tribune article from January 5th. In it they say:
“The airline said Tuesday that it will allow animals in the cabin free of charge only if they are trained service dogs. The change takes effect Monday, although passengers who already bought tickets can fly with a companion animal until Feb. 1.
The move follows a similar decision by Alaska Airlines and is likely to be copied by other carriers. The U.S. Transportation Department cleared the way for the crackdown against companion animals last month.
American said passengers with a service dog will need to complete a government form vouching for the dog’s health, training and temperament.
Other animals, including dogs not trained as service dogs, will only be able to fly in the cargo hold or a kennel that fits under a seat in the cabin. Either way, American will collect a pet fee ranging from $125 to several hundred dollars.”
This comes after years and years of people abusing support animal policies to smuggle in odd animals or get their pets to travel for free. The Department of Transport paved the way for the crackdown according to another Chicago Tribune article from December 2, 2020. In it they say:
“The Transportation Department issued a final rule Wednesday that aims to settle years of tension over animals on airlines. The department decided that only dogs can fly for free as service animals.
For years, the department required airlines to allow animals with passengers who had a doctor’s note saying they needed the animal for emotional support. Airlines believed passengers abused the rule to bring a menagerie of animals on board including cats, turtles, pot-bellied pigs and in one case, a peacock.
The agency said Wednesday that it was rewriting the rules partly because passengers carrying unusual animals on board ‘eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals.’ It also cited the increasing frequency of people ‘fraudulently representing their pets as service animals,’ and a rise in misbehavior by emotional support animals, ranging from peeing on the carpet to biting other passengers.”
The main takeaway is that real service animals, i.e. trained dogs, are fine and will continue to travel with their humans for free. Potbellied pigs, peacocks, and all other animals, will be subject to extra fees.