ESA Travel Policies
American Airlines welcomes passengers and their Emotional Support Animals (ESA). An ESA is an animal that provides emotional support or comfort to a person with a diagnosed mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. For an animal to qualify to fly on American Airlines as an ESA, the ESA must be required for activity at the handler's destination or on the plane itself.
American Airlines has one simple form that must be filled out and returned to American Airlines no less than 48 hours before the flight. The form is to be filled out by a mental health professional or medical doctor within one year of travel. It states that the mental health professional or medical doctor is treating the passenger for a diagnosed mental or emotional disability, and that the ESA provides emotional support to the passenger and is required by the passenger for travel on the plane or for activities at the destination. The mental health professional or medical doctor will also be required to provide their license number, state, and date of licensure on the form. Once complete, the form must be submitted electronically, with the hard copy remaining in the passenger's possession for the duration of travel in case it needs to be shown to an airline or airport employee.
If the exact American Airlines form for this purpose is not used, American Airlines may accept a letter from the mental health professional or medical doctor, on official stationary that provides the same information as the official American Airlines form. The letter must:
- State the passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
- Show the need for emotional support or psychiatric service animal for air travel and / or activity at the destination
- Show proof of licensing as a mental health professional or medical doctor (including date, type and state of license) and that the passenger requesting the ESA is a patient of the professional writing the letter
ESA Stowage Policies
ESAs should be able to fit comfortably and safely on the handler's lap or in the floor space directly in front of the seat. Special arrangements for larger ESAs, such as bulkhead seating, can be arranged if they are available. Note that ESAs are not permitted in exit row seating. Airline approved carriers that safely and securely fit beneath the seat in front are also a possibility for some ESAs who prefer the security of a carrier.
ESA handlers should also be aware of the safety and security of their ESA and fellow passengers. ESAs should have basic training and should be able to follow basic commands. ESAs should remain under their handler's control at all times. ESAs should also be clean and free of strong animal odor before boarding. ESAs that are overly fearful or shy in new situations or around other people should not travel unless safely crated, both for the safety and security of fellow passengers and the ESA itself. Handlers should also be aware of the ESA's surroundings and keep small, curious children at a distance for their own safety, as well as the ESA's comfort!
ESA Animal Restrictions
American Airlines accepts common household pets such as dogs and cats as ESAs. Unusual animals, including but not limited to miniature horses, monkeys, and rabbits may be considered on a case by case basis. To find out if a specific species will be allowed, please contact the special assistance coordinator, available Monday through Friday. Please note that reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders of any type are not permitted at all.
Pet relief areas are available in many airports. They are not exclusive to American Airlines and are for the use of all airport travelers. ESA handlers should make use of these areas for their ESA's comfort as well as keeping the airport clean. American Airlines employees can help direct ESA handlers to the nearest pet relief area upon request. ESAs should be leashed any time they are not in a carrier or crate. This includes when using the pet relief areas.
Different destinations have different requirements for ESAs and animals. Although Hawaii is a domestic destination, it has special rules to protect its rabies-free status. Please contact the state of Hawaii prior to travel to ensure all requirements for vaccinations and possible quarantine can be met. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are part of the United States, but they have separate regulations from the continental US. Proper tags and ID are required along with proof of a recent (within 6 months) rabies vaccination and a recent health certificate certifying that the animals do not originate from an area quarantined for rabies. Some mainland US-based airports have additional rules, such as John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport, in New York City. All ESAs arriving from an international pre-cleared station are required to clear TSA, and in both Greenville Spartanburg Airport (GSP) and Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) all ESAs are required to be crated. Regardless of the destination, ESA handlers should be sure to check all requirements prior to purchasing a ticket.
Every international destination is different. Note that not all countries and destinations recognize Emotional Support Animals as distinct from a pet. A few notable locations that American Airlines travels to has specific requirements. ESAs traveling to London need approval at least 72 hours in advance. If the ESA does not meet the airport's requirements for service animals, a fee may be incurred. Note that ESAs are not allowed on British Airways flights to non-USA destinations. Scotland's Animal Travel agency must be notified at least 48 hours in advance for any ESAs traveling to Scotland. ID cards from the agency that trained the service animal are required. ESAs may or may not meet Scotland's service animal requirements. For travel to Japan, contact Japan's Animal Quarantine Service no less than 40 days before arriving. New Zealand does not accept ESAs. Regardless of the destination, ESA handlers should always check specific requirements with the airport, state, and country where they arrive.