Service Dogs on U.S. Flights

Time to read: Approximately 10 minutes

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has revised the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation on the transportation of Service Dogs  - January 2021

* Please note that the U.S. refers to Assistance Dogs as Service Dogs.

In January 2021, The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), introduced a new process for Assistance / Service Dog Handlers in airline travel to, from and within U.S. This will affect both domestic U.S. carriers as well as international airlines travelling to the U.S.

This change has created immense confusion regarding the new paperwork required, and the timing and process for submission. Many Handlers have expressed concern about the lack of accessibility in the process.

Several Disability and Assistance Dog organisations have worked tirelessly with DOT throughout this change and are continuing to work with DOT to overcome accessibility issues.

TravelPaws has undertaken an intensive investigation below, to make the process clearer for Handlers.

Nixy and Wally have something to say to you all…

To all our fellow Assistance Dogs and your Handlers

Our mummy has explained to both of us that there is yet again another problem for us to travel. We are not concerned, as we know there will be a way forward. Every day we are faced with challenges. Every day we overcome these challenges as we are all trained to find a way.

Yap soon

Nixy and Wally

Image description below
An illustrated picture of TravelPaws puppy mascots Nixy and Wally sitting side by side. Wally cheekily has his tongue poking out. Nixy is a golden Labrador and wears a green shirt bearing his name. Wally is a black Labrador and wears a purple shirt bearing his name.

The final rule:

  • Defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability;
  • No longer considers an emotional support animal to be a service animal;
  • Requires airlines to treat psychiatric service animals the same as other service animals;
  • Allows airlines to require forms developed by DOT attesting to a service animal’s health, behavior and training, and if taking a long flight attesting that the service animal can either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner;
  • Allows airlines to require individuals traveling with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) up to 48 hours in advance of the date of travel if the passenger’s reservation was made prior to that time;
  • Prohibits airlines from requiring passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to physically check-in at the airport instead of using the online check-in process;
  • Allows airlines to require a person with a disability seeking to travel with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) at the passenger’s departure gate on the date of travel;
  • Allows airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals;
  • Allows airlines to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft;
  • Allows airlines to require that service animals be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times in the airport and on the aircraft;
  • Continues to allow airlines to refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior and that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others; and
  • Continues to prohibit airlines from refusing to transport a service animal solely based on breed.

Key reasons for the change?

In summary, the main reasons for the change are as follows:

  • Reduction in confusion by aligning the definition of a service animal with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Task-trained service animals are generally provided enhanced training in how to behave in public, while emotional support animals may not have received this degree of training.
  • Numerous complaints expressed safety concerns, describing non-service animals as responsible for a significant percentage of undesirable behaviour.

The full reasoning for the change in the form of frequently asked questions to the Department of Transportation can be found here.

What are sample examples of the paperwork I need to submit, how and when?

The new paperwork required for flying with your Service Dog includes one or two forms depending on the length of your flight. This includes flights to, from and within the U.S. The Forms should be obtained directly from your airline. Here are sample forms from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT):

  1. Form 1: Attesting to your service animal’s health, behavior and training (needed for every flight) (Sample Form 1 from the Department of Transportation)
  2. Form 2: If taking a long flight (8 or more hours) attesting, that your service animal can either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner (Sample Form 2 from the Department of Transportation)

These Forms are legal documents so must be completed accurately.

  • If your reservation is made prior to 48 hours in advance, most airlines require you to submit the paperwork directly to the airline.
  • If you make a reservation under 48 hours in advance, you can print and take your completed forms with you to the airport.
  • Remember DO NOT use the Department of Transportation sample forms above. Go directly to the airline website and use their specific forms and process.
  • Each airline will have its own process regarding whether you need to complete these forms every reservation you make, only once a year or once for the validity period of your Dog’s Rabies vaccination.
  • If you have difficulties completing this paperwork (regardless of whether it is 48 hours before or within 48 hours) don’t panic and keep reading.

We have completed the specific details below for four airlines, to show you how different airlines are dealing with the new process. We have listed the websites for the other airlines at the end of this document.

Tips

Having trouble completing the forms?

Several organisations are advocating on our behalf regarding accessibility issues.

In the meantime, if you have accessibility issues or need assistance in filling out the forms for whatever reason, don’t panic!

Ring the airline in advance to tell them you need help filling out the paperwork on the day of departure (even if you book more than 48 hours in advance). Arrive 2.5 hours before your flight to seek assistance. We know this seems a long time, but it will make for smoother travel!

TravelPaws had a lengthy conversation with the Founder of Service Animal Travel Solutions (SATS) in October 2021. SATS are the Alaska Airlines travel partner for their advance Form submission. Upon the information received, we were left with the impression that this system, if rolled out to other airlines, could be of great value to Handlers. At no cost to the Handler, we could travel with a valid SATS form on file which would be used for every trip on participating airlines. We would only have to submit this once for the validity period of our dog’s Rabies vaccination. How much simpler than submitting one form for every airline travelled? For the time being, for some unknown reason, the only participating airline is Alaska airlines. The next step for TravelPaws will be to gather testimonials from Handlers who have used this system. If there is sufficient evidence that this system is accessible and easy to use, we believe there is great merit in lobbying other airlines to use SATS. If you have any experience to share, please be in touch on our TravelPaws Facebook group.

What to expect when you arrive at the airport.

  • You may be asked whether your dog is required to accompany you because of your disability and what work or task your dog has been trained to perform.
  • Dogs that are displaying disruptive or aggressive behaviour will not be permitted on board or will be subject to the pet policy of the airline.
  • Your dog must remain under your control at all times. They must be leashed or harnessed at all times in the airport and on the aircraft.
  • Each airline will outline the space allocation for your dog on board, so it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with this in advance.

Complaints.

The Airlines

TravelPaws has documented the process for four airlines, including all relevant contact details. We hope that this may clarify how some of the airlines are adopting the new process.

1. Alaska Airlines

TravelPaws recommends you read this link thoroughly:

You can read up on information relating to travel with your Service Dog on Alaska Airlines here:

What forms do I have to complete and when?

TravelPaws recommends you keep 2 copies of all completed forms on you.

Please note that the website says you will be required to submit one form for each reservation you make with Alaska Airlines. However, when confirming directly with Service Animal Travel Solutions (SATS), Alaska’s travel partner for advance Form submission, they only require the form once for the validity period of your Dog’s Rabies vaccination. TravelPaws has communicated this anomaly.

Reserving more than 48 hours prior to travel?

  • You first submit your Form 1 or 2 information directly through SATS if you are booking 48 hours in advance. This Form information is directly built into SATS, so you won’t have to upload the forms from anywhere.  When SATS is submitted, you receive a unique Service Animal ID that includes 9 digits and your dog's name.  When you are traveling on Alaska Airlines, you use that Service Animal ID to provide your reservation information to the carrier to receive approval to travel. You can update the Forms or print them at your convenience. SATS will send you a reminder when your Rabies vaccine is due and hence you will only need to resubmit at this time regardless of how often you fly with Alaska Airlines.

Reserving less than 48 hours prior to travel?

The Form needs to be completed and submitted at the departure gate on date of travel.

Alaska Airlines does not have Form 2

Where do I go for any questions?

  • Reservations / Pre-flight questions: 1-800-252-7522 (hearing and speech impaired TTY) help is available. Dial 711 for relay services).
  • Accessible services line 1-800-503-0101 (dial 711 for relay services)
  • TSA Cares help line (for security screening questions) 1-855-787-2227 or TSA email:

Complaints.

Other information

Alaska Airlines has a list of dog relief areas

Alaska Airlines has a free mobile app called Fly for All, designed for those with cognitive and developmental disabilities, first-time flyers, and unaccompanied minors.

TravelPaws has not tested these, so we welcome your feedback.

Download Alaska Airlines Free App Fly for All from the App Store 

Download Alaska Airlines Free App Fly For All from Google Play 

2. American Airlines

TravelPaws recommends you read this link thoroughly:

You can read up on information relating to travel with your Service Dog on American Airlines here:

What forms do I have to complete and when?

TravelPaws recommends you keep 2 copies of all completed forms on you.

Please note Forms are required once a year or until your dog’s Rabies vaccine expires.

Reserving more than 48 hours prior to travel?

You use this on-line American Airlines booking system if reserving more than 48 hours in advance. Please find Forms below.

An approved form will receive a service animal ID (SVAN ID) which can be referenced for future travel within 12 months or when your dog’s vaccine expires, whichever is first.

Reserving less than 48 hours prior to travel?

Forms need to be completed and submitted at the departure gate on date of travel.

Where do I go for any questions?

  • Special Assistance 800-237-7976
  • Special assistance issue on a previous trip 800-892-3624
  • For hearing or speech-impaired assistance 800-735-2988 (dial 711 for National Relay Service)
  • TSA Cares help line (for security screening questions) 1-855-787-2227/ TSA email:

 Complaints.

3. Allegiant Air

TravelPaws recommends you read this link thoroughly:

You can read up on information relating to travel with your Service Dog on Allegiant Air here:

What forms do I have to complete and when?

TravelPaws recommends you keep 2 copies of all completed forms on you.

It doesn’t specifically say how frequently you must submit these forms on the website, so we sought clarification over email. The airline advised us that ‘The U.S DOT form is valid for one year or until the rabies vaccine expires - whichever comes first’.

Reserving more than 48 hours prior to travel?

The completed Form 1 will need to be emailed or mailed to Allegiant Air.

Form 1 for Allegiant Air if reserving more than 48 hours in advance

Allegiant Air does not have Form 2.

Allegiant Air email details.

Allegiant Air mail details:

Allegiant Travel Company
Attn: ACAA Team
P.O. Box 371477
Las Vegas, NV 89137

Reserving less than 48 hours prior to travel?

The Form 1 needs to be completed and submitted at the departure gate on date of travel.

Allegiant Air does not have Form 2.

Where do I go for any questions?

 Complaints.

4. Delta Air Lines

TravelPaws recommends you read this link thoroughly:

You can read up on information relating to travel with your Service Dog at Delta here:

What forms do I have to complete and when?

TravelPaws recommends you keep 2 copies of all completed forms on you.

Please note Delta forms are required for every reservation.

Reserving more than 48 hours prior to travel?

Please use these forms:

Reserving less than 48 hours prior to travel?

The Forms need to be completed and submitted at the departure gate on date of travel.

 Where do I go for any questions?

  • Accessibility assistance line 404-209-3434
  • You may use the Accessible Delta Service Request form online if you are more than 7 days away from travel
  • For hearing or speech-impaired assistance 404-209-3434 (dial 711 to access the FCC’s Telecommunications Relay Service available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week).
  • TSA Cares help line (for security screening questions) 1-855-787-2227/ TSA email:

Complaints.

 Other Airlines

The following links will all go directly to the service dog process for other airlines and are in alphabetical order: