Alaska Airlines to begin enforcing new emotional support animal policy beginning Jan. 11

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 4:14 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - At the end of 2020 Alaska Airlines announced that it would be the first U.S. airline to officially ban emotional support animals (ESA) from flying with their owners in the passenger compartment of Alaska Airlines flights. This change will go into effect on January 11th, 2021.

Ray Prentice, Customer Advocacy Director at Alaska Airlines explained the causes behind this imminent policy change. “This policy that Alaska has implemented is in accordance with the U.S. DOT (Department of Transportation) regulations, where DOT no longer recognized emotional support animals as service animals.”

On December 2nd, 2020 the DOT modified their Air Carrier Access Act regulation regarding the transportation of service animals via commercial flights. On January 5th, shortly after Alaska Airlines announced this policy change, American Airlines followed suit. This new policy prohibits emotional support animals, while trained service animals assisting individuals with disabilities will still be permitted.

“We will continue to recognize and accept service animals for travel. We’ve always done that and we’ll continue to emphasize that for everybody,” said Prentice.

For flights booked prior to January 11th, emotional support animals will still be permitted under the guidelines of the old policy which allowed small animals that assisted guests with mental health-related disabilities.

Prentice outlined the events that precipitated these policy changes from the DOT. “We saw two things. We saw a pattern, a continued pattern of misbehaving emotional support animals on our flights, and that was impacting the safety of passengers and crew members. We also had a pattern of fraudulent behavior where people were presenting pets as emotional support animals as well.”

The presence of inadequately trained emotional support animals on flights endangered not only human passengers, but highly trained service animals as well. Prentice continued, “And also other service animals were being attacked. So anything from barking and growling and running up and down the aisles, to full blown attack on service animals. My worry and concern about that is service animals are highly trained and it takes a long time to get an animal trained, and there’s a relationship with that animal and its owner handler. We don’t want to have any situation where an animal is attacked and maybe has to be retired as a result of an attack.”

Alaska Airlines does have a pet policy through which most small domesticated pets are permitted to travel in the climate-controlled cargo and luggage compartments. For more information visit

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