On January 19, 2018, Delta airlines announced it would institute new requirements for passengers flying with service animals. 

The Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs understand the problems raised by individuals who pass off pets as service or emotional support animals – these are issues faced every day by people with disabilities – and with the difficulties airlines face when these passengers attempt to travel with these animals. However, we do not believe the solution lies in creating additional burdens for people with disabilities who fly with their well-trained guide dogs, service dogs, or hearing dogs. 

We are attempting to better understand the new Delta policy so that we can ensure our program graduates are fully informed, and we offer our assistance to Delta to provide advice and counsel to modify these requirements so that passengers with disabilities do not face additional challenges when traveling with service or emotional support animals.  

In particular, we are concerned about these issues and their impact on the community we serve:

  • Whether individuals traveling with their assistance dogs must check in at the ticket counter – which would deprive them of their right to choose the method of check-in that suits their needs – or if curbside and kiosk check-ins are still options. 

  • That an airline check-in agent must visually “inspect” an animal before it is allowed to board.

  • The requirement that these forms need to be submitted at least 48 hours in advance, which appears to preclude emergency travel (e.g., an individual needs to travel in the case of a death or serious illness). We were advised by the Delta Disability Services Office that should a circumstance such as this arise, the passenger should “arrive early” at the Delta Special Services Desk to “negotiate” their travel. 

  • That these documents must be uploaded every single time an individual flies, although they are valid for one year.

  • That the only ways to submit documentation prior to the flight is to upload these forms to Delta’s website or to travel to the airport to get assistance from the Delta Special Services Desk at least 48 hours prior to the flight. This places an undue burden on assistance dog users who may not have easy access to a computer or who may not be technologically savvy.

The Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs have taken a leading role in access issues for people with disabilities who travel with their guide, service, or hearing dogs. 

Members of our staff have served on the Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee on Accessible Air Transportation (ACCESS). Our staff and graduates have worked with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to provide training to TSA agents on how to screen passengers with service animals, and we have coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and airport managers to offer advice on the ongoing construction of post-security relief areas, both locally and nationwide.

The Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs remain committed to supporting equal rights of access for people with disabilities, and we continue to advocate on their behalf.