ESA Weekly News: Looking Back at Spirit Airlines ESA Policy Changes and American Airlines ESA Lawsuit

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dog with newspaper in its mouth

This week, we’re bringing you two emotional support animal news stories. The first is a reflection on the updated Spirit Airlines’s ESA Policy, almost a year after the airline announced them. The second is the story of a Florida woman suing American Airlines for neglect of her emotional support dog.

Spirit Airlines ESA Policy: Nine Months On

In October 2018, Spirit Airlines announced changes to its ESA policy. The changes were effective immediately on January 1st, 2019, almost nine months ago. The airline has been more selective of the ESAs allowed on board since then.

Before the changes, all you needed to fly with an ESA was a valid emotional support animal letter. There was no need to call the airline to inform them that you were traveling with a furry companion.

Since January, ESA owners need to show the airline three forms to fly with their four-legged friends. Firstly, they need an ESA letter. Secondly, a health certificate signed by a vet. Lastly, a liability form clearing the airline of any legal responsibilities in the case of an accident.

Spirit Airlines says their new-and-improved ESA policy has made traveling with an ESA better for all parts involved. They claim to have had fewer incidents involving passengers and emotional support animals.

emotional support animal looking into plane through window

Woman Sues American Airlines for Neglect of Her ESA

Avigail Diveroli, a woman from Florida, is suing American Airlines for $75,000 in damages. According to her, airline staff mistreated her and her ESA during a trip they took in April.

The woman claims to have checked with American Airlines that her “comfort animal” Simba could fly with her. However, when aboard, she ran into problems with the flight attendants.

The aircrew told her having her companion animal near her in business class was an FAA violation. They then proceeded to downgrade her business-class seat and, allegedly, quarantine her dog in the bathroom.

Alexis Aran Coello, an American Airlines spokesperson, issued a statement explaining why the altercation took place. Since the kennel didn’t fit under the chair in front of Diveroli, her seat had to be moved. Moreover, that specific flight was on a Boeing 777, which does not allow pets in the Business cabin.

In the end, Avigail Diveroli chose not to be rebooked on a different flight. She moved with her ESA to the main cabin and was on her way. Now, the lawsuit awaits a trial date.

emotional support dog cuddling with pregnant woman


CertaPet’s Thoughts on This Week’s News

We’re all for stricter regulations for emotional support animal travel. It makes it harder for people passing off their pets as ESAs, which harms legitimate ESA owners. It also forces ESA owners to take responsibility for their ESAs when they’re in public places. Thus, we welcome Spirit Airline’s updated ESA policy and are glad to see it’s having positive effects.

Our heart goes out to Diveroli. Being put in the spot is tough, especially for those like her who struggle with anxiety. That said, we agree with American Airline’s stance on the issue. Her emotional support dog still must conform to the airline’s ESA policy. Since her kennel could not fit under the seat in front of her, it’s only right that Diveroli was moved to an appropriate seat. We do, however, think the airline personnel could have (and should have) handled the situation better.

If you’re planning your next trip and want your ESA to tag along, you’ll need an emotional support animal letter. Thankfully, we handle the whole process here at CertaPet. All you have to do to get started is complete our 5-minute pre-screening. We’ll connect you to a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) and they’ll issue your ESA letter if you qualify as an ESA owner!

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