Delta's updated policy for those traveling with service and support animals begins today. The new requirements support Delta's top priority of ensuring safety for its customers, employees and trained service and support animals, while supporting the rights of customers with legitimate needs, such as disabled veterans, to travel with trained animals.
The policy change follows an 84 percent increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals since 2016, including urination/defecation, biting and even a widely reported attack by a 70-pound dog. Delta carries approximately 700 service or support animals daily — nearly 250,000 annually. Putting this into perspective, Delta carries more than 180 million passengers annually. Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums, snakes, spiders and more. Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs.
"The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel," said John Laughter, Delta's Senior Vice President — Corporate Safety, Security and Compliance. "As a leader in safety, we worked with our Advisory Board on Disability to find a solution that supports those customers with a legitimate need for these animals, while prioritizing a safe and consistent travel experience."
In developing the updated requirements, Delta solicited the feedback and input of its 15-member Advisory Board on Disability, a group of advocates established more than a decade ago and made up of Delta frequent flyers with a range of disabilities. Delta also incorporated feedback from other advocates for passengers with disabilities.
"We are pleased that Delta responded in a timely way to the concerns we raised about their policy for guide dogs and other service animals," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "We also note Delta's expressed commitment to listening to its passengers. In light of that commitment, we look forward to sharing our expertise with Delta so that it can provide equal service to blind passengers in all of its operations."
Since Delta's announcement, other airlines have implemented changes and media outlets continue to highlight the lack of regulation and the increased availability of fraudulent certification.
Outside of the aviation industry, a dramatic increase in fraudulent service animals has led 18 states to introduce laws that make it a crime to fraudulently represent a service animal.
Delta's updated policy
Any customer traveling with a service or support animal on or after March 1 will need to meet the new requirements as outlined below:
Traveling with a trained service animal
- In some cases, customers with a trained service animal may be asked to show the animal's Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record or other proof that the animal's vaccinations are up to date. Customers are encouraged, but not required, to submit this form to Delta's Service Animal Support Desk via Delta.com before traveling.
- These customers can check-in via Delta.com, the Fly Delta mobile app, airport kiosks or with an airport agent.
Traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal
- Customers traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal will be required to submit a signed Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record (current within one year of the travel date), an Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal Request form that requires a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, and a signed Confirmation of Animal Training form. These forms are required and must be submitted to Delta's Service Animal Support Desk via Delta.com at least 48 hours before travel.
- These customers must use the full-service check-in process with an airport agent.
Delta established the Service Animal Support Desk to improve the travel experience for customers traveling with service and support animals. This desk will verify that the above documentation is received and confirm the customer's reservation to travel with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal before arrival at the airport. If a form is not completed, a representative will communicate with the customer via e-mail to request the missing or incomplete items.
Additional information on types of accepted animals and other questions related to traveling with service and support animals is available here.