Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) As It Relates to Emotional Support Animals
The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 was established to prohibit commercial airlines from discriminating against people with disabilities. Originally for the higher income members of society, flight had evolved and weaved its way as a key piece of society. This act does not just mean that aircrafts should accept all members, but also that everything leading up to and including the flights must not hinder any person. Therefore, air terminals, shuttles, etc. must all be suitable for use by all persons while respecting the rights and freedoms of those people who suffer from disabilities.
What does this mean for people who suffer from a mental or psychological disability who need to travel with an emotional support animal? The ACAA tells us that traveling with the emotional support animal is not to be discriminated against. But it is not just as easy as walking up on the day of your flight with you ESA.
There are steps that are necessary and recommended in order to fly with your ESA hassle-free.
Starting with the basics, a person who is looking to have an emotional support animal is going to need documentation from a therapist, psychiatrist, or other licensed mental health professional which designates that you should have an ESA which acts to alleviate symptoms of emotional, psychiatric, or mental disabilities. In order to get the documentation, schedule an appointment with your local therapist, psychiatrist, or other licensed mental health professional and explain your situation. (If your schedule is booked and are having trouble finding a doctor that will fit your schedule, follow the steps on this website to speak with a licensed therapist.) Having this documentation on a paper with the therapist’s official letterhead is recommended so that the airline can see that it is official.
(It may be the case that the airline wants to check the credentials of the therapist, psychiatrist, or other licensed mental health professional. It may be in your best interest to let the professional that you are seeing know beforehand so that they are ready to answer the questions of the airline company.)
One of the biggest steps is being able to explain that the animal you are traveling with is accompanying you for the purpose of emotional support. Communication will the airport staff and explaining the situation will give them a better understanding of why the animal is traveling in the cabin with you. You might want to look into getting into contact with a Customer Resolution Officer (the title might vary from airline to airline). The people in this position are available to help with disputes and challenges and are legally equipped to handle somebody with a mental disability diagnosis.
There are a few key differences between traveling with emotional support animals versus other types of service animals and airlines will point this out. So it is imperative to be able to communicate in a clear and friendly manner with the airport staff.
Every airline has its own set of rules which dictate allowing the ESA to fly in the cabin with you versus in a kennel. Make sure to contact the airline that you are flying with to see the rules that they require and inform them ahead of time that you will be traveling with your companion.
Make sure all your documentation is recent and up to date. Just like any other form of identification, having expired documentation will cause problems that are easily avoidable. By making sure you have proper identification of your emotional disability and your ESA is there to alleviate the symptoms, you will not be given any hassle at the airport.
You have to be able to explain that the animal you are traveling with is accompanying you for the purpose of emotional support. There are a few key differences between traveling with emotional support animals versus other types of service animals and airlines will point this out.
As long as the ESA that you take along with you on your journey behaves in a proper manner, then you will be able to have a safe voyage. If the animal becomes unruly, the person may be denied service. You have legal rights, but that does not mean that your rights can infringe on others.
These steps may seem quite tedious. At EmotionalSupportAnimalCo.com, we want to better prepare you for your life with your emotional support animal. If you gather all the documentation and follow the steps provided, then traveling with your ESA will result in a hassle-free, exciting adventure.