American Airlines: Full ban on emotional support animals to take effect Feb. 1, no ESA reservations past Jan. 11

One week after Alaska Airlines made its announcement, becoming the first U.S. airline to announce a full ban on emotional support animals,  American Airlines announced a forthcoming full ban on emotional support animals on January 5th that will take effect on February 1, 2021.

Last Call For ESA Reservations

Starting Jan. 11, American Airlines passengers will no longer be able to make reservations to travel with an emotional support animal. AA says it will honor already-booked reservations through January. Going forward, the announcement says, “American will ask customers traveling with service animals to complete a DOT form attesting to the dog’s behavior, training and health. The airline will require this form to be submitted electronically 48 hours in advance of a flight, unless the reservation is booked within 48 hours of travel. A service animal’s authorization will be valid for one year or until the expiration of its vaccinations.”

DOT Forms: The New System To Abuse?

What remains to be seen is whether on-air incidents of dogs attacking passengers and flight crew persist in the new era of DOT forms. Will the kind of abuse and misuse suffered by the soon-to-be-former ESA system simply adapt?

Although the new system is closed to turkeys, peacocks, rabbits, and horses — it’s an important, hard-fought change that airline industry representatives applaud — what’s actually required from passengers to prove on forms in order to travel on board with a dog as a service animal, at least as of January 6, appears to be less exhaustive than what was required on ESA forms. For example, in the soon-to-be-former ESA system, passengers needed a completed and signed form from the dog’s veterinarian attesting to the dog’s health, including being current on its vaccines, and, most important, attesting to the fact that, to the vet’s knowledge, the dog does not pose any safety threat to passengers or crew. No form from a veterinarian is required from DOT that TCR could find as of January 6.

TCR is awaiting clarification from DOT regarding documents, including whether and when DOT will be producing new forms for the new system.