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New American Airlines Pet Policy Could Be a Big Money Saver

Needless to say, flying with an animal can be somewhat chaotic. You have to contend with paperwork and extra attention from security, and that’s before even getting on the flight! Once in the air, if your companion is in the cabin with you, you’ll need to ensure they are well-behaved, and that you have a plan in place to soothe any unexpected anxieties.

Plus, in 2020, the Department of Transportation added an extra layer of complication by revising its rules for flying with Emotional Support Animals. Per the new policy, airlines no longer have to recognize ESAs as separate from pets. Rest assured, Psychiatric Service Animals (PSAs) are still recognized under the service animal umbrella and are exempt from fees. But if you’re traveling with an ESA, you could be looking at paying to have your animal fly with you.

All of these factors can combine to create a bundle of unnecessary nerves for you as a pet owner. Thankfully, there is one airline that has recently emerged with a new policy that could help you out financially when flying with your furry friend.

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Typical Airline Pet Carrier Policies

This past week, American Airlines made headlines by announcing that they were rolling out a new pet policy. While it doesn’t touch directly on ESAs and PSAs, it does still impact fees related to animals flying in cabins.

As anyone who has flown before knows that airlines generally allow you one small personal item or bag that can fit under the seat in front of you and one slightly larger carry-on bag to be stored in the overhead bins above your seat.

Currently the policy on most airlines designates a pet carrier as a passenger’s larger carry-on item, despite the fact that it is stored under the seat. Passengers with pet carriers may still bring a smaller personal item, but if they have another bag that would normally be considered a carry-on, they are required to check it. This policy has the potential to create extra baggage fees for passengers traveling with animals, on top of what they may already be paying if they are traveling with a non-service animal.

So how is the new American Airlines pet policy different?

As of March 28, 2024, American Airlines has relaxed its rules regarding pet carriers and carry-on bags. Per the official American Airlines FAQ page on pets, anyone traveling with an animal is now permitted to bring either a small personal item OR a carry-on bag that meets the size requirements to fit in the overhead compartment.

You may be thinking “Okay, what’s so special about this American Airlines pet policy?”

The important difference here is the OR. On other airlines, you are restricted to only bringing that small personal item along with you and your pet. With the new American Airlines pet policy, you are still only able to bring one item, but it can be a larger carry-on bag if you so choose. The airline is essentially stating that it will not classify pet carriers as this larger carry-on item going forward, saving those traveling with pets, ESAs, or PSAs the potential checked baggage fees. 

*It is important to note that you will still be subject to pet travel fees ($150 on American Airlines) unless traveling with a trained service animal.

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What animals are not subject to pet fees?

It is against the law for individuals traveling with service animals to be charged for bringing their animal with them on their travels. Psychiatric Service Animals are included in this group, but as of 2021, Emotional Support Animals are not.

The key difference that separates ESAs and PSAs is training. Service animals are task-trained to assist their owner with managing whatever disability they might have. Emotional Support Animals receive no such training.

Luckily, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a fancy training program. You can actually train your animal to be a Psychiatric Service Animal from the comfort of your own home!

That’s where American Service Pets’ I Train Academy comes in. I Train Academy combines obedience training and psychiatric service task training principles into a comprehensive learning system for you and your companion. Each virtual course is taught by celebrity dog trainer and star of Netflix’s Canine intervention, Jas Leverette.

In just 15 minutes a day, the two of you can work with this veteran in the training industry towards mastering skills like overcoming distraction, agility, and problem solving. Upon completion of the I Train Academy material, your dog will be a fully ADA compliant PSA, ready to travel with you wherever you may go!

ESA or PSA Certification?

The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!


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