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And Now, This: United Updates Emotional Support Animal Requirements

It looks like the recent emotional support peacock fiasco (details here) over at United Airlines(UA) was the final straw.  I thought this change would come about in response to Delta Airlines’ (DL) change to their Emotional Support Animal (ESA) requirements, but in any regard, it looks like United is following suit and tightening up their policy.


The Scoop

United announced today that effective March 1, 2018, passengers traveling with an Emotional Support Animal will be required to submit a form at least 48 hours in advance of their flight in order to travel with their ESA. The form will be inclusive of the following:

  • An “enhanced letter” from a mental health professional
  • Confirmation that the animal has been trained to behave properly in a public setting and acknowledge responsibility for the animal’s behavior
  • A health and vaccination form signed by the animal’s veterinarian. The veterinarian must also affirm that there is no reason to believe that the animal will pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others on the aircraft or cause a significant disruption in service

Once the documentation is on file and has been verified, the customer will be able to use this for their next trip.

Per United’s policy, the following animals are still not allowed to travel in the cabin – hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, reptiles, sugar gliders, non-household birds, exotic animals and animals not properly cleaned or carry a foul odor.


Emotional Support Animals can still fly in the cabin – with some additional paperwork


The Takeaway

It sounds like United’s new policy matches up with Delta’s new requirements, down to the submission deadline and launch date. While we haven’t seen the new form, we can expect it to be pretty similar to Delta’s (which can be found on DL’s website). Surely we can expect American Airlines(AA) to make their announcement about their policy update soon enough.


By the way – a quick recap for our readers who haven’t read up on the whole peacock fiasco: A woman tried to bring her Emotional Support peacock (who also happens to have an Instagram account) / performance animal on a plane, and even purchased the bird its own ticket. She still tried to board the flight with the bird. United changes their ESA policy following the incident.

I think these incidents might be directly related.


I thought it would take United a bit longer to come around to changing their ESA requirements – after all, United is usually late to the party for everything when it comes to change (for example, they were the last to revamp their business class product), and tend to be reactionary to changes in policy (like the laundry list of policy changes, including one about bumping passengers following the Oscar Dao incident) but basically – too little late. And while this ESA update is clearly a reaction to this peacock incident, it’s great to see the change announced so quickly – one day later.

It sounds like no one got hurt (though I’m sure the peacock and his “mom”, as he refers to her on his Instagram, weren’t too thrilled to have to drive cross-country to their final destination), and I’m glad this incident didn’t end in a violent brawl, as we’ve seen in recent episodes.


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