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Preparing Your Emotional Support Animal for its First Flight

DOT Update: On December 2, 2020, the Department of Transportation announced that it is​ revising rules around flying with Emotional Support Animals. Airlines will no longer be required to recognize ESAs and provide reasonable accommodation in the flight cabin and/or free of charge. However, Service Animals (including Psychiatric Services Animals), who are trained to perform specific tasks associated with their owner’s disability, are still legally protected and eligible for those rights. The vast majority of ESAs are dogs, and dogs can be task-trained to perform many different functions. The new rule does not require Service Animal owners to incur the cost of training by third party schools or organizations. Owners are free to train their own dogs to perform a task or function for them.

Click here to connect with a licensed medical professional to qualify for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) or Psychiatric Service Animal (PSA) today.

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As you probably know, most airlines don’t allow passengers to fly with their pets. The main exception to this rule is if the pet is an emotional support animal (ESA). If you’re planning on bringing your ESA on a plane for the first time, you may be concerned about how the flight will go and what the process is like.

Here are a few tips that will help you prepare your pet for their first flight:

Inform Your Airline

In preparation for the flight, the first thing you should do is ensure that the airline knows about your ESA. If you’re wondering whether you will have to buy a seat for your ESA, you will be happy to know that pets can fly in the cabin and you (most likely) will not be subjected to additional pet fees. Please check with your airline on specific fees. 

All airlines have a thorough understanding of the regulations for emotional support animals. If you happen to talk to an airline representative who doesn’t appear to be well-informed, ask to speak with a supervisor.

When you book your flight, you should call the airline as soon as possible to confirm with them that you will be flying with an ESA. During your call with the airline, you can expect them to inform you of their policies and procedures related to emotional support animals. Most airlines also post their ESA policy on their website.

You will need to provide the airline with a copy of your official ESA letter from a therapist to receive permission to fly with your ESA pet in the cabin.

Get your ESA Letter Here! 

Do not make the mistake of simply showing up at the airport with registration papers and a vest. You will need an ESA letter as proof that your pet is an official emotional support animal. However, it is helpful to bring the registration papers and vest.

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!

Preparing Your ESA Pet

While flying with an ESA can be a freeing experience, it can also be a stressful one. This is particularly true if your ESA has never been on a flight before or if the animal is relatively large in size.

Follow the tips below to prepare your pet for its first flight:

  • Your pet’s first flight should be short. A one- or two -hour flight will give you a good idea of how your ESA responds to flying.
  • Do not give your pet food or water two to three hours before the flight. Allow them to walk or play outside for at least 30 minutes right before you go to the airport.
  • If possible, have your ESA exercise for one to two hours before the flight, on the day of the flight. You may need to wake up early to do this.
  • Bring treats along with you to the airport so that you can use them to help reward your pet.
  • If your ESA has issues with motion sickness or anxiety, you should speak to your veterinarian about giving your ESA Dramamine or Benadryl.

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As long as you follow the tips discussed above, you should experience no major problems with your ESA on its first flight.

For more information about preparing your ESA pet for its first flight, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Get Your ESA Today


Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.


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