If You Don’t Register Your Emotional Support Animal In Advance, American Makes You Buy A Walkup Ticket

American Airlines reminding its customer service agents on Tuesday that passengers who want to travel with an emotional support animal have to complete all the paperwork which is now required to do so, and have it approved, at least 48 hours prior to travel.

  • American Airlines will not approve documents on the day of travel
  • If they show up with an emotional support animal that hasn’t yet been approved, they are to be denied travel. They can rebook for a future date, but have to pay change fees and any difference in fare.

There’s a loophole though. Customers wishing to travel with an emotional support animal, showing up at the airport without pre-approval, can do so if they pay more money to American Airlines.

That’s because “[t]he only exception to [the advance paperwork] policy is when the customer has booked their reservation within 48 hours of departure, which did not allow time for SAC to pre-approve their documents.”

Customers without pre-approval have to buy a new walkup ticket. Then agents at the airport can call “the Complaints Resolution Officer (CRO)..to verify the documents.”

Put another way, American Airlines can approve emotional support animal documents when a passenger is at the airport on the day of departure. However they’ll only do so for a new ticket purchase.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The curmudgeons who comment on Internet travel blogs are firmly opposed to emotional support animals.

    What I will say is that any rule AA imposes and asks its frontline service personnel to enforce is going to be enforced with rudeness.

    This is irrespective of whether the rule makes sense or not. Rudeness is the name of the game at AA which is why they deserve to go bankrupt .

  2. Better yet, why allow any animals in the passenger cabin?

    Is the insurance liability on AA or the pathetic passenger who needs their horse and whatever they bring on that bites a passenger, creates allergic reactions, poops in the aisle, blocks the aisle to the bathroom, or worse, during evacuation?

    Suggest AA create and brand its own teddy bears for those who need something soft and furry.

  3. Better yet, why even allow animals in the passenger cabin? If people have become such emotional wrecks these days, they should drive or take a train to avoid imposing their issue on everybody else.

    Is the liability on the airline, or, the passenger who brings aboard their midget horse, doberman, or whatever when the animal bites the other passenger; creates allergic reaction in other passengers; poops on the other passenger or in the aisle; blocks the aisle to the bathroom; or blocks the aisle during evacuation?

    Perhaps AA can monetize this issue by creating a brand of teddy bears for those who just must have something soft and furry on their flight?

  4. My hope is that the mask mandate issues pave the way to ending the ESA debacle forever. Why is the US the only country with this (non-)issue?

    Rahm Emanuel: “never let a crisis go to waste”.

  5. As a legitimate service animal user I am a bit concerned that people will then try and pass their Esa or pet off as a service animal and give us handlers a bad rep. I also hope the people who are saying not to allow animals on the flight mean Esas and pets not service animals

  6. @JakePB please read the “NULU Demands” letter from Black Lives Matter in Louisville Kentucky.

    If it would make that sort of ideology disappear from the face of the planet, I’d fly in economy Spirit Airlines with 300 fake ESAs pissing all over my person and carry-on luggage.

  7. To save you the time I’ll just recap the NULU Demands. Basically they want downtown business owners to hire 23% Black staff, source 23% of goods from Black vendors, and agree to very ignorant things like mandatory anti bias training (research shows that making it mandatory defeats the purpose and may worsen bias, but Black Lives Matter adherents do not seem to care about that). The demand letter goes on to state that businesses who do not do those things will be taken over by Black Lives Matter adherents, known to sane people as domestic terrorists.

  8. Tell me that’s not an embarrassment to the USA, the fact that we have such fools among our citizenry.

  9. That makes 0 sense. So they let ESAs but you need to pay more at check in? What if you have a legit ESA and need to fly last minute?

  10. So lemme get this straight. The old guy with COPD and a legitimate reason to not wear a mask, per even CDC regs, can’t fly to his sister’s funeral now even with a negative Covid test, but the guy with paranoia can take his emotional support chihuahua can fly with Fido, who might bite someone, since Fido never needs a mask. Super logical. Cool.

  11. I can’t imagine why people get so agitated about this matter. 99.9999% of the are tiny little pups, inoffensive to the overwhelming majority of travellers.
    It’s a small inconvenience, at worst, but it helps those with the need to be accompanied by their animals.
    I don’t recall the case of the turkey, as pictured, but suspect it and similar would be an infinitesimally small fraction of the total.
    It’s the same old grumps trying to stop this harmlessness that get their panties in a twist over bulk dispensers in hotel bathrooms…

  12. The day they start charging just $100 for ESA and Service Animals, is the day when only the real people who need their dog/cat to travel with them, until that day, people will use ESA and Service Animal loophole to avoid paying the $150 fee they charge for.

  13. @Katie – my daughter has a service animal (Golden) and flew with him the first time yesterday to come visit. I bought her ticket and on the reservation it asked if you had a Service Animal or an Emotional Support Animal. I checked the box for Service Animal and was contacted within a couple of hours by American Airline’s service department to get more info. Basically they wanted to know the type of animal, size and role it played as a Service Animal. It was immediately approved with the only requirement to wear the vest/harness designating the dog as a Service Animal.

    @Federico – they can charge $100 for ESAs but under the Americans with Disability Act airlines can not charge for legitimate Service Animals. However, as noted above at least American requires prior notification and follows up to ensure the animal meets their requirements.

  14. Good. Most of them are fakes that are bought out by some scam letter online. AA wants advance notification to make sure the support letter is by a legitimate doctor and not some online scam company.

  15. Airlines need to decide if they are in the people hauling business or the animal hauling business !
    I’ve seen with my own eyes couple with two kids dropping kids off at Grandma’s house…..and there is Fluffy…..the Emotional Support animal? This is hogwash. The only reason the animal is flying is because the parents DON’T WANT TO PAY A KENNEL FEE and Grandma can feed the dog while the kids play with Fluffy…….sometimes.
    And as for emotional support how can the kids even go to school or the parents leave the house to go to work. What a bunch of c….

  16. My seatmate had three pets,er uh, emotional support animals, on a Calgary-DFW flight. Brutal, since we were on an American Eagle jet and I’m over six feet tall. Took all the floor space under my feet.
    Animals should not be in the main cabin. Period. If a person is so far off their rocker they need a pet with them to keep from going off the deep end, they don’t need to be flying.

  17. I have lived with a service animal for several years and at the same address. My service animal died last week and even with a letter from my dr the landlord has threatened me to raise rent or evict me. I have surgery in 2 weeks then what ? Is she going to march herself across the street to help me in and out of the shower, off the toilet or out of bed ? There’s a big issue as here the housing department that handles it is closed. I guess its a way for nasty people like her to get over

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