Fly With an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Without Paying Fees

Fly With an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Without Paying Fees

by Kim Pinnelli
Senior Contributing Writer

January 21, 2020
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If you are being treated for mental health, you can take your emotional support animal with you on your flight with the appropriate documentation.

Many people want to fly with their pets, whether due to anxiety or just because they want their pet with them, it’s a nice luxury. For some, however, it’s more than a luxury – it’s a necessity. Find out how your emotional support animal can fly for free on both domestic and international flights.

What is an ESA?

Emotional support animals are typically dogs, but sometimes other animals that provide their owners with emotional comfort. ESAs are prescribed by a mental health professional but are different than service dogs. They don’t have specific training, but they are well-behaved in public and typically aren’t allowed in as many places as service dogs.

How do you qualify for an ESA?

You must see a mental health professional to receive an emotional support animal. The medical professional must diagnose you with a disabling emotional illness. The doctor must write an official ESA letter on his/her letterhead that states:

  • You are a current patient
  • The name of your emotional disability
  • The degree of your disability
  • The reason an emotional support animal will help

Your ESA letter is good for one year from the date it’s issued. If you still need a support animal after that date, you’ll have to obtain another ESA letter.

Online services such as American Service Pets can help you get determine whether you are eligible and help you get an ESA letter usually within a couple of days.

What is the Fee (if any) for your ESA Animal to Travel with You?

There isn’t a fee for your ESA to fly with you, thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act. But in order to qualify, you must have your ESA letter from above and you must meet the following requirements:

  • Your animal must be well-behaved in public
  • You must notify the airline well in advance (at least 48 hours, but some require more notice)
  • Your pet must not weigh more than 20 pounds
  • Your pet must be at least 8 weeks old
  • You may supply your own carrier as long as it meets airline guidelines

What is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)?

The Air Carrier Access Act is the law that prohibits discrimination based on mental or physical disabilities. Airlines can’t require advance notice of your disability except in the event that you’ll bring an emotional support animal with you.

Each airline has its own requirements regarding flying with an emotional support animal. Find the appropriate links for the major airlines below where you’ll find the allowed size of the animal, the required mannerisms of the animal, areas of animal relief, and all restraining requirements for the safety of you, your animal, and the other passengers.

If you have an emotional support animal, you should be able to fly as long as you have the ESA letter and your animal meets the airline’s requirements. It’s best if you contact the airlines early in your planning stages so that you ensure you have everything necessary for a smooth and happy flight.

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