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Paperwork for air travel with ESA

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selyseo:
Hi- I have looked at multiple forums but have one main question that I can't seem to find an answer to... What paperwork is recommended for flying with my ESA aside from a doctor's letter and updated vaccinations? [/i]This will be my first time flying with my ESA so I want to be sure I have all paperwork squared away. I am very nervous/anxious so any other helpful pieces of advice/words of encouragement are appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Kirsten:
Here's our article on flying with an ESA:  http://www.servicedogcentral.org/content/ESA-flying

What you need is a letter from the mental healthcare provider who is treating you for your disabling mental illness.  The letter needs to be carefully constructed to include all of the required elements described in the article.  For example, it must be dated and no more than 1 year old, must be on the medical provider's letterhead, and must explicitly state you have a diagnosis that is recognized by the DSM-IV (though there is no need to give the actual diagnosis).

You need to notify the airline at least 48 hours prior to your scheduled take off time of your desire to fly with an ESA. They may request the letter at that time so they can call your doctor's office and confirm the contents of the letter.  They are not supposed to ask for additional information unless your letter leaves out one of the critical items we've listed in the article.

If you do not notify them at least 48 hours in advance or if your letter is not complete, then they might be able to deny you boarding.  Not will deny boarding, but might be able to.

I'm guessing you have a serious problem with anxiety because that's typically the case for people flying with an ESA.  In which case, adding anxiety is the very last thing you need.  So when I advise people on flying with an ESA my instructions are intended to substantially reduce the risk of unanticipated stressors on the day of the flight.  Better to be fussy and picky now, while you can pace yourself and handle the picky bits than to be caught unawares and at risk of missing your flight, right?

Okay, just saw you actually mentioned being anxious.  So welcome to my world:  I have brain damage and easily forget details from reading a post to replying to it.

The article is picky and detailed.  Does the law say you have to be quite as picky and detailed as the article suggests?  No.  The article is a combination of legal requirements and best practices gleaned from hundreds of others who have flown with service dogs or ESAs and what made that process more smooth and trouble free for them.

It really should be fine.  Airlines are used to the routine and generally know the process, what they can ask or not ask and so on.  If you've got your letter and it's complete, if you've notified them at least 48 hours in advance, you should fly.  Doing the extra stuff, like our recommendations about feeding and watering, about choosing a seat and so on, then you'll have avoided a number of potential pitfalls that might or might not have happened, but hey with a little extra effort you've avoided them anyway and don't need to worry about "what if my dog needs to go to the bathroom in the middle of the flight?" or some such.

Sorry I'm ditsy tonight, my brain is a bit scrambled.  My information is correct, but my delivery may be a little weird.  Sorry for that.

Welcome aboard!

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