How to Fly with an Emotional Support Animal Letter

How to Fly with an Emotional Support Animal Letter

This is a sponsored post contributed by CertaPet.

If you’ve recently been prescribed an emotional support animal, that’s great news. It means that from now on you’ll have support from your pet whether traveling or simply dealing with challenges in your day to day life. Emotional support animals, or ESAs, are the perfect treatment for many who are suffering from mental illness, due to their effectiveness and the natural aspect of their form of treatment. While you may already have your ESA letter, you could still be wondering about all the intricacies that come with air travel, and even the laws and limitations that apply to your pet. This article will explain everything you need to know about flying with your ESA, whether you plan on traveling to an amazing new destination, or are even contemplating moving your life to a brand-new state. Let’s get started!

Obtaining an Emotional Support Animal Letter

The information in the rest of this article assumes that you’ve already acquired your ESA letter. However, if you haven’t, and think you may qualify for one, then the process is quite simple. We’ll walk you through it.

If you feel that you are experiencing mental health difficulties, the first thing to do is make an appointment with your doctor, who can refer you to a mental health professional. At your appointment with the mental health therapist, you will be asked some diagnostic questions which will help to determine what type of mental illness you are suffering with. Once you are diagnosed, your therapist will work out a treatment plan, which can help to improve your condition. You can request that your doctor prescribe a emotional support animal as part of your treatment plan. If your therapist agrees that using an ESA could help to improve your condition, then they will need to draw up an emotional support animal letter that will allow you to travel and live with your pet.

All About Your ESA Letter

Your emotional support animal letter is the most important (and only) official document you will need to show to confirm that your pet is eligible to travel with you on a flight, without having to pay a pet fee. If you have an emotional support dog, it’s worth noting that your pet may need your dog to fly in the cargo hold, depending on the airline and the size of your dog. Another important note is that emotional support dog certification is not a required necessity. There is currently no database that your dog or cat needs to be listed on to be an emotional support animal, so you do not need to register emotional support dog or cat (no matter what some companies would like you to think!).  All that is required to live and travel with your therapy pet is your emotional support dog letter or cat letter from your treating practitioner, which should include these details:

  • That you are currently a patient of the doctor or mental health expert who verified your mental condition.
  • That you are being treated by the same doctor or mental health expert and are under care.
  • That your mental disability relatively restricts you from carrying out or participating in at least one daily activity.
  • That an ESA is part of your current treatment plan and that it will help you cope with your disability symptoms.

Remember, it is not necessary to obtain emotional support animal registration, so do not let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise!

The Best Airline for Pets

One of the first steps in organizing your travels or a big move is to find out which airline suits you and your pet’s needs the best. That means that choosing ‘the best’ airline for pets is not a one size fits all situation—instead, it’s a case of working out what fits best for you and your dog. If you have a small dog, cabin travel is probably the best option. For a cat, cabin travel may also be preferable due to their smaller size. If your dog is very large, it may be required to travel in the cargo hold, which some airlines allow and some do not. Another consideration to make when choosing an airline is whether you are flying with a puppy or an adult dog. Some airlines, such as Delta and United have limited the age at which puppies may fly, with a minimum age limit of four month or over being enforced for puppies to travel. Let’s have a look at some of the requirements when flying with an ESA of some of the most popular airlines in this country, so you can choose ‘the best’ airline for pets based on your needs.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier’s policy for emotional support animals requires documentation and excludes aggressive or disruptive animals and unusual or exotic animals including rodents, reptiles, insects, rabbits, non-household birds and animals with foul odors.

JetBlue Airlines

The Jet Blue policy limits emotional support animals to one per passengers and requires documentation be provided to the airline 48 hours before a flight, including a medical or health professional’s form, a veterinary health form and a confirmation of animal behavior.

American Airlines

Passengers are required to provide three forms of documentation 48 hours before a flight for any emotional support animal. The rules also prohibit many types of animals from flying as emotional support animals, including amphibians, goats, and snakes or spiders.

American Airlines

Alaska Airlines

Passengers traveling with emotional support animals are only able to bring only one emotional support animal on board with them: either a dog or a cat that will always need to stay leashed or in a carrier. Documentation and a 48-hour notice are also required.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest limits ESAs to one dog or cat per passenger. Animals must be kept on a leash or in a carrier both in the airport and on the aircraft. Proper documentation is required for each animal and disruptive animals may be denied boarding.

Delta Airlines

Delta requires passengers to submit emotional support animal documentation 48 hours before a flight. Pit bull-type dogs and animals such as hedgehogs, ferrets, reptiles and rodents are not permitted to fly as service or support animals. The airline reserves the right to refuse transportation to any animal that growls, barks excessively, jumps on passengers, relieves themselves in the gate area or cabin, or eats off seat-back tray tables. Delta has also implemented a ban on animals traveling on flights over 8 hours, and on puppies under the age of four months.

Delta Airlines


Spirit requires documentation and 48-hour notice from those wishing to travel with emotional support animals. The airline allows passengers to travel with more than one emotional support animal, but does not allow snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders or spiders are permitted.


Documentation must be filed 48 hours before the flight. Passengers may travel with only one emotional support animal. Animals must be trained to behave properly in a public setting and, as with most airlines, anyone traveling with an emotional support animal is not permitted to sit in an exit row.

Flying with Your Pet

If you are planning on transporting a cat or a dog by plane, and your ESA fits all the airlines requirements, then you should be able to fly with no issues, provided that you follow the requirements of your airline. However, it’s important to abide by all the rules of the your carrier to ensure this is no impediment to you flying. Let’s break down some of the essentials to know when flying with a pet.

Choosing the Right Pet Carrier

One important ingredient to having a safe, happy and ultimately stress-free flight with your ESA dog or cat is by using the correct carrier. This should be the best fit for both your pet, and compliant with the airline’s rules and regulations. For example, if flying with Delta, pet carriers should be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

When shopping for a carrier, ensure that you find a durable produce that can withstand whatever your pet throws at it. Plastic, metal and wood are good options that can last for years, and be made comfortable with soft (removable) furnishings, and favourite toys.

For our feline friends, cat carriers for plane travel can be an important part of their comfort and good behavior when traveling. Cat cabin bags should be a familiar concept for your cat before even boarding the plane, so they are at ease with spending a number of hours inside, comfortably.

A dog carrier for airplane cabin will need to be of a larger size than what a cat is comfortable in, but it must still be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

Prepping Your Pet for a Flight

Transporting a cat or dog on a flight can obviously be an intimidating experience, however, if you have an ESA, it’s your right to travel with your animal. Preparing your pet for a flight is crucial to ensure they have a great flight (and that you do too!). Some of the best ways to prepare your pet for their flight include:

  • Carrier training
  • Practice runs to the airport
  • Lots of exercise on the day of the flight
  • Booking a flight in the afternoon/evening so your pet is naturally ready to relax

To Medicate or Not to Medicate?

This is a thought that crosses many an anxiety-prone pet parent’s mind before travel. Sedating a cat for air travel or other pet can be dangerous and is something that must be discussed with a vet. When planning to sedate cat for flight, there are many variables that can endanger your cat and sedatives for cats traveling by plane must only be prescribed by a vet. Your vet may prescribe a cat tranquilizer for travel or a cat sedative for travel. This type of medication should only ever by considered with consulatation and prescription from a vet.

Animal Transport – What You Need to Know

Another option for those that do not meet strict airline requirements that airlines impose on those traveling with pets is the option of animal transport, which can be extremely helpful for those that are relocating to a new state. There are quite a few options for animal transport which can assist you if for any reason you are not able to fly with your pet, in order to assist you in relocating if you are moving. Some may be concerned about the cost to ship pets by air but considering that professionals are keeping your pet in the safest of hands, it’s certainly not a budget breaker. Flying cats across the country, or dogs, can be a daunting prospect, and there are a number of options to assist to make the change smooth and simple.

Pet movers or pet couriers are an excellent option for stateside animal transport and international pet transport, as they are a choice that can give you as an owner peace of mind, due to leaving transportation in the hands of professionals. Pet movers cost to ship pets by air can vary depending on the company and the location that you wish to transport your pet to and from. Cost to ship pets by air generally range from anywhere between $120—$800 and up, depending on the services provided.

Transporting dogs overseas (and cats) will obviously incur greater fees than domestic cat and dog transport. Puppy shipping can also be pricier due to the extra care and attention that they require.

If you’re living with a mental health disability, then using an emotional support animal is a great option for treatment. With an ESA letter, you are entitled to live with and travel by air with your pet which can make travel and relocate easier, and better for your mental health.

Whether you’re a new or veteran ESA owner, if you’re thinking of moving or simply taking a break from it all, then use this information to help you plan out what you need to know to keep your emotional support animal by your side, whenever you need them!

Last but not least- if you are looking for ways to transport your pet, this iconographic by Honest Paws may be helpful!

3 Responses

  1. I really appreciate your article as it contains useful information about flying with your ESA. I also agree that ESA really helps a lot for people to get out of mental stress. But I have a question, Can I travel with two ESA trough a single ESA letter? I hope you will reply to my question soon.

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