Service/Support Animal Rule Changes You Should Know

Updated: Apr 13



Nothing is more important to animal lovers than their companion. They are part of the family. In many cases, an animal on board a flight is there for a specific reason though. A potential change in policy from the Department of Transportation could limit the accessibility for some animals on commercial flights. These regulations do not apply to charter flights, including both group air charter and private jets.


So, for what specific reason is your animal flying? The answer could mean the difference from boarding or not.


Service or Emotional Support Animal?

Yes, there is a distinction. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is typically trained to perform a function, or to do a job, that his or her owner can’t perform on their own due to a physical, intellectual, or emotional disability. These animals may, of course, provide emotional support and comfort as a result of their presence, but they are specifically trained to provide assistance beyond soothing benefits.


A support animal is a companion that provides therapeutic benefits to a person with a medically diagnosed disability. Support animals do not have to be trained for their role, but medical documentation in regards to the passenger is required in order to receive this designation for your animal.


Why The Rule Change?

The Department of Transportation's decision to limit its definition of “service animal” to include only dogs trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability has been met with push back. The rule would crack down on what airlines have described as passengers’ increasing attempts to fly with unusual animals like ducks, pigs, iguanas or even peacocks for emotional support. Airlines, passengers and disability rights groups have argued for years over the distinction between service animals and emotional-support animals.


The increased risk of fraudulent emotional support animal credentials has allowed passengers who are not truly in need of animal assistance to abuse the rules and evade airline policies regarding animals in the cabin. This has led to an increase in incidents by untrained animals threatening the health and safety of passengers, crew and legitimate service animals like ones assisting veterans.


Know Before You Fly

Airlines can determine whether an animal is a service animal or pet by:


  • The credible verbal assurances of a qualified individual with a disability using the animal.

  • Looking for physical indicators such as the presence of a harness or tags.

  • Requiring documentation for psychiatric support animals and emotional support animal and observing the behavior of animals.

  • Please review your airline policy regarding these requirements and reach out to their customer support for further clarification, if needed.


Charter Flights with Service Animals, Support Animals and Pets

Whether you are looking to arrange a large group charter flight, a business jet, or an emergency air charter, you still have the flexibility you desire to travel with your companion. Just let us know that they will be part of your travel party and as your air charter broker, we will ensure you are paired up with the best carrier for your needs.


For questions regarding charter flights, please reach out to Aaron Yust at ayust@airplanning.com or call (603) 890-0044.


The Air Planning Building, 2 Main St., Salem, New Hampshire, United States 03079

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Air Planning, LLC is not a direct “Air Carrier”. Air Planning, LLC is an air charter broker, and does not own or operate any aircraft. All flights are operated by FAR Part 135 or 121 air carriers or foreign equivalent (“Operators”), who shall maintain full operational control of charter flights at all times.