An emotional support animal (ESA) is a special category of pets designed to improve and maintain the mental state of people with various types of disorders. While service dogs can accompany their owners anywhere in public, emotional support animals have a narrower range of places where they can appear with their owners. However, a pet with ESA status is allowed on board of an airliner, and today you will learn how to compose a letter for the air carrier to get on board with your pet without hindrance.

esa letter for airlines

The right to fly on board of a liner with an emotional support animal applies to both domestic flights and foreign flights. According to the law, foreign airlines that operate flights to the United States are required to take on board persons accompanied by emotional support animals. However, according to the context of foreign companies, this applies only to dogs, and if we talk about other animals, then airlines retain the right to refuse. When traveling with an emotional support animal to another country, you need to make sure that such a pet is allowed to stay in the country where you are flying, because a number of jurisdictions impose restrictions.

Document requirements from air carriers


If you have an ESA pet and need it to be constantly present with you, you have the right to travel with it by plane. Moreover, the pet can freely stay with you in the cabin of the aircraft. However, just the fact that you are with ESA is not a reason for allowing you and your pet to board. The airline will require you to provide an official letter, and only then will you be able to travel with your pet.

To date, the law describes the requirements that airlines can set for an ESA letter. In particular, it must contain:

  • Data indicating that your mental diagnosis is confirmed by the DSM;
  • Confirmation that the presence of an animal near you on board of the aircraft or at the arrival point of the flight is necessary for therapeutic purposes;
  • Evidence that you are under the professional supervision of a licensed medical professional in the field of mental health.

In this case, the letter must be written on a licensed specialist’s letterhead, on which the doctor must specify the license data. It is important that the email should not be older than 1 year. Most airlines also require you to submit an application 48 hours before the actual departure of your flight. In addition, the air carrier has the right to set additional requirements, so it is recommended to clarify these requirements with the company before traveling with an emotional support animal so that no incidents occur at the time of landing.

Many patients who need the presence of an emotional support animal are interested in answer to the question of whether the letter needs to be updated every year. It all depends on the loyalty of a particular airline, but you need to remember that all of them, without exception, have the right to refuse you the presence of an animal onboard if the letter has expired.

Fake letters

On the Internet, you can often see that people wonder whether there is a chance to get an animal onboard using a fake letter. Immediately note that this makes little sense, regardless of whether you decided to make a letter yourself or purchased a “document” online. The first check will reveal the illegitimacy of the document. Therefore, we recommend that you carefully approach receiving emails over the Internet, since there are often scammers on the Internet who offer instant registration of ESA without actually consulting a licensed psychologist or psychotherapist. If you come across such an offer, it is better to reject it in favor of consulting with a real specialist who has the appropriate medical license in the field of mental health. If you try to cheat the airline and it is revealed, then there will be high chances that you will be on the “blacklist” of the airline, and in the future, you will have problems with staying on board with an animal.


Today, there are more than 100,000 licensed mental health professionals in the United States. Each of these specialists has the right to write you an ESA letter if the diagnosis is correct, and thus grant you the right to fly with an animal onboard. If it is a question of your mental health, do not give up the opportunity to travel with your pet. According to current legislation, this is your inalienable right, along with the right not to be discriminated against when moving into a rented apartment or house.

If you don’t actually need an emotional support animal and just want your pet to travel with you onboard instead of in the baggage compartment, it’s better to give up the idea of forging an ESA letter. It is much more reasonable to find a person who will take care of your pet during your absence.

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