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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.