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Flight Attendants Applaud New United Airlines’ Emotional Support Animal Policy

Date: February 2, 2018

AFA International

Washington, D.C. (February 1, 2018) — The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) is thrilled with United Airlines’ announcement of a new policy that increases requirements for emotional support animals, following a 75 percent year-over-year increase in emotional support animals onboard the airline's flights. 

“United has taken a very thoughtful, responsible approach to this issue. The airline's increased requirements for emotional support animals will reduce fraud and protect the legitimate need of animal assistance for passengers with disabilities and veterans,” said Sara Nelson, international president of AFA. “This is about maintaining safety, health and security for passengers and crew, while ensuring accessibility for those who need it.”

AFA recognizes that service animals play a vital role in the lives of people with disabilities. Passengers who attempt to evade air transport pet policies by falsely claiming their pet is an emotional support animal cause safety, health and security issues in the cabin including biting, aggression, urination, defecation, allergic reactions, conflict and other disruptions. AFA participated in a 2016 Department of Transportation (DOT) advisory committee to address several ADA issues onboard, including service and emotional support animals. United and Delta have improved their policies in the wake of the exponential increase of animals on planes.

“We continue to implore the Department of Transportation to update guidelines for emotional support animals to ensure consistency across the industry, curtail fraud and protect the rights and free movement of passengers with disabilities and our veterans who need assistance. Flight Attendants across the industry are asking for help on this issue that is 'out of control' and growing at an alarming rate,” Nelson said.  

The new United Airlines policy improves on procedures currently in place at the airline. Over the weekend in a highly publicized event, United denied boarding to a peacock at Newark Airport — an example of abuse in the system. United's policy specifically prohibits the following animals from traveling in the cabin: "hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, reptiles, sugar gliders, non-household birds, exotic animals and animals not properly cleaned or carrying a foul odor."  

"We applaud this step by United to protect all of our passengers and crew. We hope this will continue to build momentum for a crackdown on this travel disruption," concluded Nelson.

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