How to Fly with an Emotional Support Animal in the Cabin of an Airplane
Do your nerves bundle up the minute you step into an airport, more so into an airplane? You’re not alone! Millions of people feel the same way you do, and some address their anxiety by bringing along an ESA, otherwise known as an emotional support animal. Your pup may just be the answer to your problems. Here’s what you can do before taking your ESA with you on your next trip. If you’re looking for certification of service dogs, you can find more information at Service Dog Certifications.
Prepare Proper Documents
It is vital that your pet has the necessary registration, emotional support animal doctor letters, and identification to prove that it is a certified emotional support animal, most especially to present to authorities who might question you. Not all disabilities/mental illnesses merit having an ESA, so your particular disability should appear on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-IV implying that your pet’s immediate presence is necessary due to health matters. You may learn more about how and whether or not you may acquire certification for an emotional support animal by speaking to a psychiatrist. The moment you have all the right documents supporting your ESA, you’re set to go!
Bringing Your ESA on Your Next Flight
The first thing you should do before taking your ESA on a flight is to inform the airline you’re flying that you’ll be bringing your emotional support animal at least 48 hours before departure. They might need you to fax or email letters written by a licensed mental health professional. Don’t forget to bring your pet’s papers to prove its shots, as well as a health certificate issued by a veterinarian, just in case.
To avoid being late for your flight, as you may be questioned about your ESA, you might want to check-in online or leave for the airport extra early. Ideally, you should be checked in at least 90 minutes before your flight. Have the proper equipment that will aid you in holding and/or controlling your pet, such as a leash, harness, cage, or others. Check to see that it’s comfortable enough for your pet to stay in/wear for the duration of the flight as well!
While in the Plane
Is your pet well-trained? A dog that yips on the plane may be bothersome to other passengers, so a quiet, behaved pooch who understands commands is usually mostly appreciated. As for dealing with calls of nature, see to it that your pet urinates and defecates in a suitable place before boarding the plane. You may want to fit a diaper on your pup to lessen the chances of it making a mess while in-flight. Avoid giving your pet food or water during the flight, but keep a bit with you in your carry-on to give to your pet when you land. Remember to keep your animal with you at all times, and position it (or its cage) in an area that doesn’t block emergency exits. You may not be allowed to sit in certain rows of the airplane, but it’s only to make sure of the accessibility, safety, and comfort of you and your pet.
In case you’re still nervous about or during the flight, you may want to speak to a doctor/psychiatrist beforehand, so you can get prescribed medication to alleviate your anxiety. Depending on which airline you’re flying, it also helps to call the airline beforehand and inform them that you’re an “anxious flyer”, as the airline’s flight attendants become more aware about your situation and may check up on you every now and then.
Once you’re on the flight, take 10 deep breaths; each inhaling for the count of 5 heartbeats, keeping it in for 7, and exhaling for 9 to relax yourself. Once you’ve done that, try distracting yourself with your favorite music, book, or video game. Before you know it, the flight will be over, you’ll have reached your destination!