We update our policy around emotional support animals
In an effort to better balance protecting our employees and customers while accommodating passengers with disabilities, we are expanding our existing policy regarding emotional support animals.
Today, we announced an update to our policy around customers traveling with emotional support animals. Year-over-year, we have seen a 75 percent increase in customers bringing emotional support animals onboard and as a result have experienced a significant increase in onboard incidents involving these animals. We understand that other carriers are seeing similar trends. The Department of Transportation's rules regarding emotional support animals are not working as they were intended to, prompting us to change our approach in order to ensure a safe and pleasant travel experience for all of our customers.
Traveling with emotional support animals
In addition to working with our Accessible Travel Advisory Board and receiving feedback from our customers, we consulted our flight attendants, pilots, employees with disabilities and organizations representing passengers with disabilities to ensure our revised policy continues to provide safe, reliable and accessible transportation for all passengers, particularly those with disabilities.
Currently, customers with emotional support animals must provide 48 hours' notice to the Accessibility Desk and a letter from a mental health professional. Starting March 1, in addition to 48-hour notice and an enhanced letter from a mental health professional, we will require customers traveling with an emotional support animal to provide additional documentation including:
- The customer must provide confirmation that the animal has been trained to behave properly in a public setting and acknowledge responsibility for the animal's behavior.
- The customer must also provide a health and vaccination form signed by the animal's veterinarian. The veterinarian must also affirm that there is no reason to believe that the animal will pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others on the aircraft or cause a significant disruption in service.
Customers who currently have approved documentation on file may use it for their next trip. Any additional reservations would be subject to the updated policy requirements effective March 1, 2018.
As a reminder, animals currently prohibited from traveling in the cabin include hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, reptiles, sugar gliders, non-household birds, exotic animals and animals not properly cleaned or carry a foul odor.
Traveling with service animals
Our policy regarding service animals is staying exactly as it is today; we do not require any documentation or advance notice from passengers who travel with service animals (other than for foreign travel if required by national law). Service animals are individually trained for public access to perform tasks for the benefit and safety of an individual with a disability.
Providing the best possible service to all customers
We are dedicated to providing convenient and comfortable service to all of our customers. We know that some customers require an emotional support animal to assist them through their journey, and we strive to provide the best possible service to everyone traveling with us. We will continue to monitor this updated policy to ensure it reflects the best interests of our customers and employees.
We will also continue to support customers with disabilities, including those traveling with service or emotional support animals, through our 24/7 Accessibility Desk, which we've had in place to provide service and care for 9 years.
And we will continue to support veterans in their travel needs and make every accommodation to ensure their experience with us is as comfortable and efficient as possible.
Additional information and forms will be available soon, so please continue to check our service animals page on united.com if you have upcoming travel with an emotional support animal.
If you can't get to Mars, what's the next best thing? Apparently Iceland. A team of renowned explorers and researchers recently journeyed to Iceland to test a Mars analog suit in a Martian-like environment.
The United sponsored expedition, led by The Explorers Club — an internationally recognized organization that promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space — and in partnership with Iceland Space Agency, involved the team venturing inside the Grímsvötn volcano and across the Vatnajökull ice cap. The group traveled to the remote location and lived for six days in the Grímsvötn Mountain Huts and endured harsh weather conditions and unstable terrain.
Helga Kristin Torfadöttir, Geologist and glacier guide, using the LiDAR system to map the ground and test the suit's capabilities on the glacier.
The objective of the mission was to explore the potential of concept operations at the Grímsvötn location while testing the suit in an arctic environment similar to what would be found on the surface of Mars. "This mission was an important test of the design of the MS1 suit, but it was also incredibly helpful to understand the how to conduct these sorts of studies in Iceland," said Michael Lye, MS1 designer and NASA consultant and RISD professor. "No matter how thoroughly something is tested in a controlled environment like a lab, studying it in a setting that accurately represents the environment where it will be used is absolutely essential to fully understand the design."
The suit was designed and constructed by faculty and students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with input and guidance from members of the HI-SEAS IV crew and NASA's Johnson Space Center Space Suit Engineering team. At 50-60 lbs, the suit is similar to what a planetary exploration suit would weigh in Martian gravity. The suit was originally designed to be used in the warm climate of Hawaii, however the martian climate is much closer to what would be found on top of the glaciers in Iceland. The data collected will inform the future of habitat and spacesuit design that can be used to train astronauts on Earth.
Today, we remember the colleagues, customers and every single victim of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
I know each of us in the United family marks this difficult moment in our own way. Still, we all share a common commitment to honor how our brothers and sisters left us and also celebrate what they gave to us during their lives. We remember their professionalism and heroism. We cherish their camaraderie and friendship. We carry with us the examples they set forth, especially in the heroism and bravery displayed by so many on that terrible day. Above all, we understand a simple truth: While thousands of our fellow human beings lost their lives in New York City, Arlington and Shanksville, the attacks of September 11th were aimed at all people of peace and good will, everywhere. They were attacks on the values that make life worth living, as well as the shared purpose that make us proud of what we do as members of the United family: connecting people and uniting the world.
We may live in times scarred by discord and disagreement, and we know there are those around the world who seek to divide us against one another. But, on this day – above all – we come together, as one. We affirm our core belief that far, far more unites us as citizens and fellow human beings than can ever divide us.
Let us embody that belief as we go about serving our customers and one another – on this day and every day – as we continue to help building a world that's more united. Let that be our memorial to the sisters and brothers we lost, eighteen Septembers ago.