Lonely Planet Writer

Delta will soon ban emotional support animals on long-haul flights

After tightening its rules back in January, Delta is now finishing the year by once again restricting the rules for taking emotional support animals on flights.

You may have to leave your emotional support animal at home with Delta’s new rules. Image by Linda Raymond/Getty Images

Back in January, Delta aired concerns about the safety risks around untrained animals coming on flights. At the time, the airline said about 700 service or support animals were flying each day, and people were attempting to fly with comfort turkeys, sugar gliders, snakes and more. The rules changed so that the airline would only allow cats and dogs as support animals, while any other species will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Now, starting on 18 December, no service or support animals under the age of four months are allowed on any flight, due to rabies vaccination requirements. Emotional support animals will not be allowed on any flight longer than eight hours. Travellers who have already bought their tickets before that date and requested to travel with their animal with still be allowed to do so. The rules will get even stricter on 1 February, at which time emotional support animals will not be accepted on flights longer than eight hours, regardless of the booking date.  

Airplane view from an airport lounge. Image by Pakphipat Charoenrach/Getty Images

Delta explained in a statement that it is updating its policy following an 84% increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals from 2016 to 2017. This includes incidents of animal urinating or defecating on flights, biting passengers, urination/defecation, biting and an incident  – which the airline notes was widely reported – when a man was bitten by a 50-pound dog on a Delta flight. 

The restrictions do not apply to trained service animals, which are protected by US law and are there to help people with visual impairments, deafness, seizures and other needs.

Delta’s original restrictions in January was followed by similar rules from a number of airlines. United, Frontier and Southwest adopted similar policies of prohibiting certain species of animals from boarding planes as emotional support animals. With rules for travelling with animals changing frequently, travellers should check with their airline before planning a trip with their animals. Find out more about Delta’s rules here.