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American Airlines (AAL) Alters Emotional Support Animals Policy

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American Airlines Group (AAL - Free Report) is the latest carrier to change its policy for travel with emotional support animals and service animals, following  the department of transportation’s (“DOT”) revision of the Air Carrier Access Act due to concerns raised by airlines, flight attendants, airports and individuals with disabilities, among others, regarding service animals on aircraft.

The DOT’s new rule no longer considers an emotional support animal as a service animal, defined as a “dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability”. Once this rule goes into effect on Jan 11, 2021, American Airlines “will no longer authorize new travel” for emotional support animals. However, the airline will consider existing bookings involving emotional support animals through Feb 1, 2021, when its new policy goes into effect.

Starting Feb 1, customers traveling with their service animals will be required to fill up a DOT form confirming that their animal is properly trained and vaccinated and will behave appropriately during the flight. The form needs to be submitted electronically 48 hours prior to the flight unless booking is done at the last moment. The authorization of a service animal will be valid for one year or until the expiration of its vaccinations.

While American Airlines, carrying a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), will no longer allow emotional support animals to be carried on the cabins for free, effective Feb 1, they can travel with customers as carry-on pets or as cargo pets for a fee, provided they fulfill certain requirements.

In December, Alaska Air Group’s (ALK - Free Report) subsidiary Alaska Airlines made similar changes to its policy for traveling with emotional support and service animals, becoming the first airline to act in accordance with the DOT’s new rule. Effective Jan 11, the airline will no longer accept emotional support animals in flights for free, except for tickets booked prior to Jan 11 for travel on or before Feb 28, 2021. Those wanting to travel with animals which are not service animals, will have to pay a charge. Alaska Air carries a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell).

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