Southwest has joined most major U.S. airlines in officially banning emotional support animals from its aircraft cabins.
The airline's policy goes into effect on March 1. From then on, Southwest "will accept only trained service dogs for travel and will no longer transport emotional support animals," according to a press release.
"We applaud the Department of Transportation's recent ruling that allows us to make these important changes to address numerous concerns raised by the public and airline employees regarding the transport of untrained animals in the cabins of aircraft," Steve Goldberg, the airline's senior vice president of operations and hospitality, said in a statement. "Southwest Airlines continues to support the ability of qualified individuals with a disability to bring trained service dogs for travel and remains committed to providing a positive and accessible travel experience for all of our Customers with disabilities."
The DOT's policy went into effect this month and most U.S. airlines quickly enacted new rules for furry travelers. Over the past few weeks, Alaska, American and JetBlue all announced that they would stop allowing emotional support animals to fly for free.
Southwest joined the pack this week allowing only trained service dogs onboard Southwest flights. Their service can assist any "physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability" but owners must present a completed Service Animal Air Transportation Form from the DOT, attesting the animal's health, behavior and training.
Pets who had previously traveled as emotional support will still be allowed to travel, but only as part of the airline's pets program. Only small cats and dogs are allowed in the cabin and owners are required to pay a $95 fee per pet.
Travelers who already made reservations for travel with unaccepted animals after Feb. 28 should contact Southwest for more information and assistance.
Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.
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