Flying with your ESA

flying with your ESAIf your companion is registered as an emotional support animal (ESA), he/she can legally accompany you onto the cabin of an airplane during flights. Your rights are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but before flying with your ESA,  it’s important to know every airlines policy prior to booking travel.

While they are required to accommodate you, each airline may have slightly different rules when it comes to arranging travel for you and your companion. When it comes to living with an ESA, it’s important to always stay as up to date as possible on the rules and regulations. Here is an overview of the policy on flying with your ESA for the major American airlines.

Remember, if you are traveling abroad or to Hawaii, you should look into whether your destination requires animals be quarantined upon arrival. ESA’s must follow the laws of foreign governments at all times.

While not all airlines have the same rules, there are certain rules that apply across the board. For ESA’s that are traveling free in the cabin, they must be small enough to sit in their handler’s lap, or on the floor below the seat in front of them. On all airlines, animals cannot obstruct the aisle. Most airlines also make it clear that travellers with an animal cannot sit in an emergency exit row.

For ESA’s, while each airlines specifics may vary, they all require a piece of documentation, usually provided to them at least 48 hours before the flight. This is a document that clearly states the address and jurisdiction of the health professional (the license number is also recommended) who approved of the patients use of an ESA. It must clearly state that the traveler has a mental health related disability, is under the care of the health professional, and that an ESA is required to accommodate these needs.

Finally it is important to note that the information below is not necessarily complete. Just because an airline doesn’t state a particular rule on their website does not mean the rule does not apply. For example, several airlines make it clear that some species of animal are not allowed on flights, while others make no mention one way or the other. You should not assume that the airline’s website is providing the whole pictures.

We ALWAYS encourage our travelers to check with the airline in person or over the phone prior to booking passage to make sure you understand all the details of their policies. This is especially true when booking international travel, as other nations do not always abide by the same laws when it comes to ESAs.

Delta-Air-Lines-logoDelta: View policy 

ESA’s can travel free of charge with their handler in the cabin of a Delta flight. ESA’s need to be in a kennel, they can sit freely on the cabin floor. When it comes to ESA’s, Delta does require a little more information from the handler. Documentation no more than 1 year old on official letterhead from a licensed health professional is required to book passage for an ESA.

This document must clearly state the address and jurisdiction of the health professional (the license number is also recommended). It must clearly state that the traveler has a mental health related disability and that the ESA is required to accommodate these needs.

Delta does not allow certain species of animal to accompany handlers on a plane, regardless of their legal status. Those are: Hedgehogs, Ferrets, Insects, Rodents, Snakes, Spiders, Sugar Gliders, Reptiles, non-household Birds, any animal with tusks or hooves, and any animal, regardless of species, that is not clean or has a foul odor.

united-airlines-logoUnited: View Policy

ESA’s can also travel in the cabin free of charge at United. The same rules on seating apply to ESA’s. It is important to note that anyone traveling with an ESA MUST notify United’s Accessibility Desk (1-800-228-2744) at least 48 hours prior to traveling. At this time, they must also submit the required documentation to the airline. This is a form, to be filled out by a licensed mental health professional, stating that the traveler has a mental health condition and is under the care of the health professional.

The document also requires the health professional’s license information and the state or jurisdiction where it was issued.

Be sure to give yourself enough time to get all of this information together when arranging for travel with your ESA.

Southwest-Logo-2-copySouthwest: View Policy

Emotional support animals are allowed to travel in the cabin of the airline with Southwest. The same rules apply when it comes to where the animal may and may not sit.

Handlers of ESA’s must provide additional documentation prior to arriving for their scheduled flight. Specifically, they must provide current documentation no more than one year old, from a licensed mental health professional. This document must clearly state that the passenger suffers from a recognized emotional disability. The health professional must state, in this document, that the Passenger requires the use of an ESA for travel, AND that the passenger is under the care of the health professional who signs the paper. Additionally, this document must clearly state the date and type of license the health professional holds and the state or jurisdiction in which it was issues.

Southwest also makes it clear that when it comes to ESA’s certain species will not be allowed on the plane. Those include, but are not limited to rodents, reptiles, insects, hedgehogs, rabbits, and sugar gliders.

american-airlines-aal-logoAmerican Airlines: View Policy

American Airline’s policy on emotional support animals closely reflects that of the other major airlines. While ESA’s are allowed to ride in the cabin, free of charge, more documentation is required.

Specifically, American asks for a supporting document dated within 1 year of the scheduled flight from a licensed mental health professional or medical doctor. The letter must clearly state that the passenger has a recognized emotional or mental disability and that the ESA is needed by the passenger for air travel. Furthermore, it must clearly state that the passenger is under the care of the health professional. The date and type of license held by the professional must be included, along with the state or jurisdiction where it was issued must also be clearly included.

American Airlines also clearly states that this documentation must be provided to them at least 48 hours before the flight. If they are unable to validate the information or receive this documentation late, the animal my need to travel in a kennel as checked luggage.

Alaska-Airlines-2016-rebrand-logo-designAlaska Airlines: View Policy

ESA’s can travel freely in the cabin of a plane. However, Alaska Airlines requires the same documentation of all other airlines to approve of an ESA in the cabin.

The traveller must provide a letter from a licensed medical professional, that is no more than 1 year old at the date of the flight. The documentation must state clearly that the traveller suffers from a recognized mental or emotional disorder and that the ESA is a required companion for air travel. Furthermore, the document must state that the passenger under the care of the professional who signs the paper. Finally, the health professional’s type of license and date must be clearly included, along with the state or jurisdiction it was issued in.

Alaska Airlines does not allow some species of ESA’s in the cabins. These include, but are not necessarily limited to: hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, sugar gliders, reptiles, non-household birds, exotic animals, or animals of ANY kind that are dirty or have a bad odor.

image574335xJetBlue: View Policy

ESA’s at JetBlue must sit on the lap of their handler, or on the floor below the seat in front of them. However, like every other airline, JetBlue requires the handler of an ESA to also provide documentation, in advance, from a licensed health professional. This documentation must ensure that the traveller has a recognized mental or emotional disorder, and is under the care of the signing physician. It must also state that the traveller requires an ESA for travel, and it must clearly show the date and type of license the professional holds, along with the state or jurisdiction it was issued in.

VX-New-Logo_BLOGVirgin America: View Policy

Virgin America’s ESA policy is similar to all the other major airlines. That is, they require the same documentation, from a licensed health professional, provided to them in advance of travel. The document must be no more than 1 year old and clearly state that the traveller suffers from a recognized emotional or mental disorder. It must further state that the traveller is under the care of the professional signing the letter, and also state clearly that the traveller needs an ESA for air travel. Finally, the document should include the type of license the health professional holds, and the state or jurisdiction where it was issued.

Spirit-Airlines-LogoSpirit Airlines: View Policy

Spirits Airline’s ESA guidelines are similar to the other major airlines as well. The same document, given at least 48 hours in advance must be given to the airline. It must be written by a licensed health professional and state clearly that the traveller suffers from a recognized mental or emotional disorder. The health professional must ensure that the traveller is under their care, and validate that they need an ESA for air travel. Finally, it must include the professional’s type of license, and the state or jurisdiction in which it was issued.

Remembering Bretagne, the Last 9/11 Search Dog

The ESA Registration of America would like to commemorate Bretagne, the last of the 9/11 search and rescue dog who passed away this week.

Bretagne worked  with her handler at Ground Zero for 10 days following the terrorist attacks. The World Trade Center was Bretagne’s first deployment. She was only two years old at the time.

She retired as a disaster search and rescue dog at age 9, but she continued to work as a goodwill ambassador and as a reading assistance dog.

According to Texas A&M University, the dog continued working in Texas with the local fire department after her retirement. She also visited people who were sick, and children in learn-to-read programs.

“Each week she would visit a first grade classroom and listen to young readers, providing a non-judgmental ear and soft paw,” Houston’s Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department wrote in a statement. “She also visited students with special needs, such as autism. Her calm demeanor and warm heart helped the young and old through their own difficult moments.”

On Monday, she was given a “hero’s farewell,” as CNN puts it.

Firefighters and search and rescue workers lined both sides of the sidewalk, solemnly saluting as Bretagne was carried out of a vehicle and set on the ground for a final slow walk to the animal hospital.

Bretagne, the ESA Registration of America thanks you for your service.

Top 5 Pet Friendly Travel Cities In The U.S.

Are you longing to get away? Desperate for a change of scenery? Though you may need a vacation, if you have a pet, the idea of bringing Fido or Fluffy along may be deterring you from all the travel you would love to be doing.
Considering that most Americans own a pet — nearly 40 percent of American households own at least one dog, and 34 percent have one or more cats — many popular destinations have taken note [source: Humane Society]. A number of cities across the country are welcoming man’s best friends into their beaches, parks, hotels and yes, even restaurants.
What qualifies a town as being pet friendly? It not only needs to have many hotels and restaurants that welcome furry friends, but it also has to have a lot of open space for pets (and their owners) to r­oam, as well as an active Humane Society and high-quality veterinarians.
Stephanie Watson has compiled a list of the most pet-friendly cities across the country. Plan a trip to one of these pet hot spots and tails are sure to start wagging.

Start The Countdown:



With Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World and hundreds of other attractions, it’s no wonder that the city welcomes 50 million tourists a year [source: Orlando Convention & Visitors’ Bureau]. Many local accommodations and attractions also welcome their two-legged guests’ four-legged companions.
Although you can’t take your pet on Space Mountain (or any other ride), many of the theme parks wil­l pet-sit for you while you enjoy the attractions. Disney has five kennels — at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, The Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Fort Wilderness — that cost about $15 a day. Disney is also planning a first-of-its-kind pet resort, which will feature luxury suites, grooming and a doggy day camp.
Several Orlando-area hotels are pet friendly, especially the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort. The Loews Loves Pets program gives pooches the VIP treatment, with their own special bedding, toys, treats, room service menu and walking service. Loews hotels even offer a Puppy Pager service, which will call you immediately if your pet gets into trouble.
Many of Orlando’s restaurants also welcome pets. In 2006, Governor Jeb Bush passed a doggie dining law that allows pets to sit with their owners in all outdoor eating areas.




Colorado’s second largest city combines quaint, small-town charm with big-city culture and incredible scenery. The city’s ample outdoor space is one of the reasons Colorado Springs consistently tops the lists of America’s most pet-friendly cities. There are more than 10,000 acres (40 square kilometers) of public parks, including seven dedicated dog parks [source: Forbes]. Pets are also welcome at many of the city’s major attractions, including the Bear Creek Nature Center and Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Red Rock Canyon has a pet-friendly trail and two dog loops where pets can roam unleashed. Another big draw is Colorado Springs’ abundance of pet-centered businesses and veterinarians.
Many of the local hotels welcome pets, but one luxury resort really spoils pets — and their owners. The five-star Broadmoor Hotel, located at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain, has a spa, fitness center and championship golf course for humans; for their furry companions, the hotel offers special bedding, food bowls and a complimentary treat.




With its year-round warm climate and 70 miles (112 kilometers) of white-sand beaches, San Diego is an ideal spot to get outdoors with your pet. Many of the beaches allow animals, and at least two will even let your dog roam without a leash — perfect if you want to play a gam­e of Frisbee. Just a few yards away from the appropriately named Dog Beach is one of the area’s pet-friendliest hotels — Ocean Villa Inn. Many of the rooms have private patios that open out to a communal yard across from the beach.
If you love to shop but hate to leave your pets at home, the Otay Ranch Town Shopping Center has the solution. Although animals aren’t allowed in the stores, the shopping center has a doggy park and offers pet-sitting for a minimal charge. Several area stores do cater to pets, however, including Paw Pleasers, a bakery specializing in doggie birthday cakes and ice cream. If your dog is in the mood for something more savory, there’s Terra, a restaurant in the Hillcrest Community. The menu features puppy pizzas, gourmet sausages and peanut butter rawhide.
San Diego even has canine-themed events. Visit in the summer, and you can take in a Padres game with your best friend during the annual Dog Days of Summer event.




How could New York not make our list? There are almost as many activities for pets as there are for humans in this city that never sleeps.
However, if you do want to sleep at some point during your stay, you’ll find no shortage of pet-friendly hotels. One hotel even offers rental pets. The Soho Grand Hotel will provide a complimentary goldfish to keep you company if you’ve left your own best friend at home. The Muse Hotel in the theater district offers a Pampered Pooch Package for smaller dogs. The hotel is home to what it claims is the only doggy playground in New York — a “Canine Court” complete with its own obstacle course.
You can take your best friend along while you tour the city’s attractions. New York Dog Tours offers three different doggy-and-me excursions — to Central Park and the West Side, Midtown and Downtown. On hot summer days, dogs can cool off at the man-made swimming pond in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Your pets can even escort you on a spending spree through some of the city’s most elegant department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Ralph Lauren and Tiffany’s.




Money magazine proclaimed Portland to be North America’s “Best Big City” [source: Travel Portland]. Portland could easily be termed one of the continent’s “best pet cities” because of its many beautiful parks and outdoor areas where pets are free to roam. About 20 of the city’s parks are off-leash, and some of them are fenced. Many of the city’s most beautiful natural attractions allow pets, including the Grotto — a 62-acre (0.25 square kilometer) Catholic shrine and botanical garden. Each July, the Grotto hosts a Blessing of the Animals. For thirsty pet­s, the Shemanski Fountain, located between Salmon and Main, has three low drinking basins, placed perfectly for parched pets.
The Hotel Monaco is a favorite pet hangout in Portland. When you arrive, your pet will be greeted by the Director of Pet Relations — a friendly golden Labrador retriever named Art — who will see to it that your four-legged VIP has an unforgettable stay. The hotel spares no expense when it comes to pet amenities, offering everything from a pet masseuse to a pet psychic.
 If you’re thirsty while in town, stop off for a beer at the Lucky Labrador Brewing Company, or a cup of joe at the Iron Mutt Coffee Company. Both have pet-friendly porches, and at Iron Mutt, your dog gets a free biscuit.

Stephanie Watson (HowItWorks)