The New United Airlines' Emotional Support Animal Policy is common sense:
a) Your animal must behave properly in a public setting;
b) You are responsible for your animal's behavior; and
c) Your animal's veterinarian must confirm that your animal is healthy, up to date on its vaccinations, and there is no reason to believe your animal will pose a threat to the health and safety of other passengers.
United's new Emotional Support Animal Policy will go into effect on March 1, 2018, although passengers who will be complete flights by February 28, 2018, or who already have booked travel and filed emotional support animal documentation for their future flights do not need to refile.
Anyone who is booking new travel for March 1, 2018 or later WILL need to comply with United's new Emotional Support Animal policy.
Why is United Changing Its Emotional Support Animal Policy?
United, as with other U.S. airlines, has seen a surge in emotional support animals in the cabin: a 75% year over year increase, according to United. And that's led to more incidents related to these animals, something Delta knows all too well, and which led to Delta Tightening Emotional Support Animal Rules, Requiring Training.
Per the United post announcing the policy change, “The Department of Transportation's rules regarding emotional support animals are not working as they were intended to, prompting us to change our approach in order to ensure a safe and pleasant travel experience for all of our customers.”
Are There Any Changes to United's Service Animal Policy?
No; there are no changes to United's policy for trained service animals such as seeing eye dogs. United's Service Animal Policy states:
- The animal is expected to be seated in the floor space below your seat
- We may re-accommodate you if the animal encroaches on other passengers
- The animal should not extend into the aisles
- The animal must behave properly in public and should follow directions from its owner
- Contact the United Accessibility Desk at 1-800-228-2744 if you have any questions or special requirements
Are United's New Forms on the Web Site Yet?
No, not yet. United's current Emotional Support Animal form is available at United's Psychiatric / Therapeutic / Emotional Support Animal Authorization page, but it is only valid for those traveling by February 28, 2018. That said, even the current policy states that for emotional support animals: “With respect to an animal used to assist a qualified individual with a disability, the animal must be trained to behave appropriately in a public setting. Animals found not to have been trained to behave will only be accepted in accordance with United's current pet policies or may be denied boarding.”
The United Web site states that effective March 1, 2018, passengers traveling with emotional support animals will, in addition to providing a letter from a licensed medical/mental health professional attesting to the need to travel with the animal (as is already the case), passengers will also need to provide a veterinary health form documenting the health and vaccination records for the animal as well as confirming that the animal has appropriate behavioral training.
What Kinds of Animals Does United Prohibit in the Cabin?
Given the recent incident at Newark Airport where a Brooklyn-based artist attempted to bring her emotional support peacock (!) with her (even though apparently told three times by United that this would not be permitted) United also took the opportunity to remind passengers that these animals are NOT allowed in the cabin, either as emotional support animals or even as pets in carriers (they would need to be transported in the hold):
Hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, reptiles, sugar gliders, non-household birds (that includes peacocks), exotic animals and animals not properly cleaned or that carry a foul odor.
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