Delta Airlines on Airplane Animals

U.S. Air Force Photo/Senior Airman Stephanie Englar

Limiting animals allowed on airplanes. This was bound to happen and has begun with Delta Airlines because so many people are taking advantage of the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding service animals. The law is a bit ambiguous because when the ADA was created the terms comfort animal or emotional support animal (ESA) did not yet exist. So, the airlines have room to legally maneuver, and that is exactly what Delta has done. No doubt other carriers will follow suit.

In recent years, airlines have experienced an increased number of people traveling with animals which aren’t truly trained as service animals. These travelers are determined to get around fees that airlines typically charge for animals to accompany human passengers. Sometimes it’s a way to get a larger pet into the cabin, instead of being isolated in the cargo hold (which several animal welfare/advocacy groups recommend against).

It’s easy enough to go online and pay a few bucks to certify animals as comfort, ESA or even service animals, which the ADA could not have envisioned when they created the law.

The ADA authors also didn’t envision people traveling with a turkey, tortoise, pig, miniature horse or other animals which people have insisted fits under ADA Guidelines. We’ve all read stories in the popular press of animals causing havoc on airplanes. Is a boa constrictor really an emotional support animal?

Airlines have caused some of this themselves by charging too much for animals to accompany passengers in the cabin, pushing passengers to seek another option. Or by losing animals traveling in cargo, or even animals succumbing in the cargo hold. Delta – to my knowledge – is not lowering the fee for animals traveling in carriers in the cabin. And no airline has taken definitive steps to absolutely fully assure safety of animals in the cargo hold.

If you are planning to travel on Delta Airlines with an emotional support animal (ESA) or comfort animal there are now requirements you will need to meet. Although there is no additional fee for traveling with an ESA or comfort animal, this airline does recommend booking your flight early, so they can better meet the standards.

 Breaking it down:

In-Cabin Requirements

When traveling in the cabin of Delta Airlines, ESA will not be allowed to occupy seats.  This means your ESA or comfort animal will have to sit on the floor or on your lap. The animal will also have to be well behaved, not causing a distraction or disturbance to other passengers.

Required Documentation for Emotional Support Animals

On your mental health professional’s letterhead, you must submit the following to a ticket agent when checking in;

  • Your mental health professional/doctor’s license number, title, address, the jurisdiction of practice or where the license was issued, phone number and signature
  • Your mental health condition must meet the requirements in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th
  • The ESA must be on board the flight for either accommodation of the flight itself and/or for your final destination.
  • The name on the documentation (you) is still under the care of the medical health professional/doctor.
  • All this documentation must less than one-year old.

It’s good to note that Delta will also take a signed or stamped digital letter from your mental health professional as long as the information can be verified through an email address and/or telephone number. They also highly recommend having the mental health professional’s/doctors license number for this option.

While there is no fee in America, London and Manchester in the UK may require additional processing and handling fees upon arrival with your ESA or comfort animal. 

Delta Airlines No Fly List

Proper documentation or not, there are several animals that Delta Airlines will not accept into the cabin. These include;

  • Dirty/unkempt animals or those that smell (My concern is that this may be subjective, though I understand the need)
  • Those with hooves or tusks
  • Hedgehogs
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Rodents
  • Ferrets
  • Insects
  • Sugar Gliders
  • Reptiles
  • Non-household birds, such as fowl, birds of prey etc.

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Positively Expert: Steve Dale

Steve is a certified dog and cat behavior consultant, has written several books, hosts two nationally syndicated radio shows, and has appeared on numerous TV shows including "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "National Geographic Explorer," and "Pets Part of the Family." Steve’s blog is


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