When the US Department of Transportation gave the green light for airlines to ban emotional support animals in December, Southwest Airlines did not immediately join competitors in changing policies.
This gave some travelers hope that the country’s largest national carrier, known for its independent spirit, would not join it. Just 10 days ago, the airline told travelers on Twitter that it was still reviewing its policy.
The airline dashed all hopes on Monday, announcing it would ban emotional support animals from March 1. Until now, they have been referred to as traditional service animals. The only animals that will be classified as service animals will be trained assistance dogs with documentation.
“We applaud the recent decision by the Department of Transportation that allows us to make these important changes to address the many concerns raised by the public and airline employees about transporting untrained animals in aircraft cabins,” Steve Goldberg, senior vice president of Southwest operations and hospitality, said in a statement. “Southwest Airlines continues to support the ability of qualified people with disabilities to bring trained service dogs to travel and remains committed to providing a positive and accessible travel experience for all of our customers with disabilities.”
Southwest said travelers who booked beyond March 1 should contact the airline for more information.
Passengers can still bring small animals (dogs and cats) on flights within the United States for a fee of $ 95 per way, and they must be vaccinated and remain on a carrier during the flight.
Critics of emotional support animals have often argued that many passengers bring their pets on the plane and categorize them as emotional support animals to avoid charges.