Delta has banned all emotional support animals on long flights

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Service dog on planeAP

  • Delta Air Lines announced on Monday that certain emotional support and service animals have been banned from flying on board its airline.
  • Emotional support animals have been banned on flights lasting longer than eight hours.
  • In addition, all emotional support and service animals that are less than four months of age have been banned on all flights regardless of duration.
  • The new policy goes into effect on December 18, 2018.

Delta Air Lines announced on Monday that certain emotional support and service animals have been banned from flying on board its airline.

The Atlanta-based airline will update its support and service animal policy later this month to include a ban on emotional support animals or ESAs on a flight lasting longer than eight hours. In addition, the new policy also includes a ban on all emotional support and service animals that are less than four months of age regardless of flight duration.

"We will continue to review and enhance our policies and procedures as health and safety are core values at Delta," John Laughter, Delta's senior vice president for corporate safety, security, and compliance, said in a statement. "These updates support Delta's commitment to safety and also protect the rights of customers with documented needs - such as veterans with disabilities - to travel with trained service and support animals."

Read more: Emotional-support animals are becoming a big problem on planes, and airlines want them to go away.

Delta says the policy change is in response to an 84% increase since 2016 in incidents involving emotional support and service animals, including incidents of animals urinating, defecating, and biting passengers or crew members - and one in which a passenger was mauled by an emotional-support dog.

The airline's new rules go into effect for tickets purchased on or after December 18. However, passengers who purchased tickets ahead of the 18th and have already requested to travel with a service or support animal will be allowed to go ahead with their flight. Exceptions to the new rules will end on February 1, 2019.

For airlines and many of its customers, ESAs are becoming increasingly problematic. This is especially true in instances where unscrupulous passengers use fraudulent documentation to game the system, thereby allowing their pets to fly for free.

According to Airlines For America - a trade group that represents major US airlines including American, United, JetBlue, Southwest, and Alaska - the number of emotional-support animals, traveling aboard commercial flights jumped 74%, from 481,000 in 2016 to 751,000 in 2017.

Earlier this year, Delta instituted stricter documentation requirements for service and emotional support animals. The airline also limited the types of animals allowed to be categorized as support or service animals.
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