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Tips For Keeping Your ESA Calm on Flights

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.

If you think you get nervous on flights, think of how your support animal must feel. It’s better to stay together than separated, which is why an ESA travel letter is so important. That way, your emotional support animal or emotional support dog can fly with you in the cabin. If you don’t have your ESA travel letter American Service Pets can help you stay stronger together while traveling. 

Table of Contents

5 Tips To Keep Your ESA Calm While Flying

1. Opt For Direct Flights Whenever Possible

Interruptions in your travel can cause extra anxiety. Every time you and your emotional support animal have to disembark a plane, move to a new gate, and stand in line to board again, it’s nerve-wracking for both of you. Whenever possible, invest in direct flights to avoid extra stops between your starting point and your destination.

2. Ask Your Vet For Advice

Veterinarians see many support animals and understand the anxiety your pet may have when flying. They could offer crucial advice as to how to keep your support animal calm on your flight. Which in turn will help you stay calm. They may even be able to provide a calming prescription that will just take the edge off for your emotional support pet.

3. Get Your Support Animal Used to Their Carrier

It’s likely that your emotional support animal will need to be in a carrier at least part of the time during the journey. To make things easier on them, let your ESA  get used to their carrier while in the security of your own home. Place the carrier on the floor and put some dry food inside along with a favorite blanket or pillow. If they “hang out” inside the carrier they’ll become comfortable spending long periods of time inside it. This will make it easier when you need to move from the car to the airport, as well as the duration of the flight.

4. Talk to Your Support Animal During the Flight

Your ESA is familiar to hearing your voice at home. The comfortable and familiar sound of your voice in the unfamiliar environment of the aircraft will have a very calming effect on your pet. Be sure to use their name repeatedly, as well as any other special sounds you make to lull your pet.

5. Consider Investing in a Thunder Shirt

A thunder shirt is a snug-fitting garment that you can put your dog or cat in to make them feel more secure. Supposedly, the thunder shirt instills calmness by reminding the pet of how snug they were in the womb. Before going on your flight, test the thunder shirt on your support animal to see if they respond to it. As with the pet carrier, the more accustomed they get to the thunder shirt, the more likely it is to help calm them during a flight.

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!

These five tips will help to keep your support animal calm and reduce extra stress and anxiety when traveling. To make things go even more smoothly, be sure to carry extra copies of your ESA letter to the airport. That will reassure you, so you are ready to show it to any airport personnel member who asks for it. You have a right to be comforted by your emotional support animal, and the ESA letter helps to guarantee your rights are respected. 

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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