If you’re a frequent air traveler, you might have noticed a growing trend in recent years. There are a LOT more animals flying on planes lately! Many of those animals are actually ticketed passengers—the owners have paid for their seats. However, many of the animals fly for free as a result of the policies surrounding service animals who provide psychiatric or emotional comfort. Passengers who travel with service animals may see an increase in restrictions coming down very soon.
The trend of service animals in airports and on flights has really spiked in the past two years. Some major airlines have reported as much as a 75 percent year-over-year increase in the number of animals on flights. As a result, both airports and airlines have reported a substantial increase in the number of incidents involving animals that are untrained and, in some cases, dangerous to other passengers, be it in the terminals or on the flights.
Airport administration across the country are especially concerned. Many airports have reported instances of animals making messes on the carpet, disrupting the security dogs on patrol and even biting other passengers.
Delta, United and American Airlines all recently rolled out stricter policies when it comes to bringing support animals on flights, so many airports hope that will cut down on the number of animals in the terminals.
There are a lot of loopholes regarding how strict airports can be because they’re “governed” by a different body than airlines. Airlines are represented by the Air Carrier Access Act, which recognizes the use of emotional support animals. Airports, on the other hand, adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which does NOT recognize support animals.
Currently, airports are asking for support form the Department of Transportation in their requiring all passengers who bring support animals into an airport to keep the animals in carriers under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result, they hope to cut down on the number of occurrences in which support animals interfere with other passengers and airport staff, including police canines.