United Airlines ESA Policy

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: October 14, 2022

United Airlines ESA Policy

**Please note, as of January 11, 2021, under new regulations passed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the allowance of Emotional Support Animals onboard flights may vary from airline to airline. Please contact your airline of choice for their most up-to-date policies on Emotional Support Animals.


  • This article covers everything you need to know to fly with your pet, emotional support animal or service animal on United Airlines.
  • Psychiatric service animals and service animals fly for free.
  • Do you qualify for an emotional support animal? Find out by taking the free screening test here.
  • There is no breed restriction for dogs flying in cabin.
  • Check out the free, downloadable United Airlines ESA Policy Guide published by CertaPet.

United Airlines ESA policy is designed to ensure that everyone experiences a stress-free airplane ride! All you need to do is ensure you’ve met all their requirements so that you and your emotional support animal can travel stress-free!

Looking for an ESA Travel Letter?

Take our free screening test and find out in as little as 5 minutes.

United Airlines ESA Policy: A Pet Fee

As of February 28, 2021, no emotional support animals will be be able to travel for free. Your ESA can still fly, just now as a pet.

For domestic pets to fly in-cabin, there is a $125 service charge each way on United Airlines. If you have stopovers within the US for more than four hours, there may be an additional cost of $125.

Stopovers outside of the US of more than 24 hours outside also incur an additional $125 fee. Domestic pets must meet United’s kenneling requirements while they are in-cabin with their owners. The kennel is in addition to your personal carry-on baggage.

Pets that are crated or kenneled may also be transported in other aircraft cargo compartments on United Flights PetSafe, similar to checked baggage. Charges for this service are on the weight of the animal and kennel. Restrictions on types of animals may apply and advance notice to the airline is required.

It’s important to note that there are no fees when traveling with a service animal or psychiatric service animal.

Bring And Fill Out The Required Documents/Forms

United Airlines ESA policy is very strict when it comes to documentation! However, United Airlines ESA policy now does not require custom forms outside of a Vet’s health certificate because emotional support animals will now be recognized as pets.

The following 3 forms are no longer necessary but it never hurts to know!

  • ESA Letter: Dated within the last 12 months and signed by a qualified and licensed medical health professional.
  • United Airlines Medical/Mental Health Professional Form: Your licensed medical health professional needs to complete this form. They need to confirm their relationship with you, that you have an emotional or mental health condition or disability that needs your emotional support animal with you, and the best method for your ESA to accompany you.
  • United Airlines Passenger Confirmation of Liability and ESA Animal Behavior Form: You complete this form with details of your type of animal, and verifications that the animal responds to your commands, behave properly in public, is not a health and safety risk and you will take care and responsibility for it at all times.
  • Other: Additional forms and documentation for international destinations are usually required.

United Airlines Veterinary Health Certificate: A licensed veterinarian must complete this form to confirm that on the last examination, they found your ESA to be free of any infectious or contagious diseases and they are not known to have ever injured or attacked another person within 30 days. Confirmation of vaccinated for rabies and distemper, if applicable, is needed.

Take the pre-screening today to see if you qualify for an emotional support animal.

A List of ESAs That Are Permitted on United Airlines

According to the United Airlines ESA policy, emotional support animals that currently permitted on United Airlines include:

  • cats
  • dogs

The United Airlines ESA policy dictates that as long as the documentation and behavioral requirements are met an ESA/pet can be accepted on the flight, and they must be at least four months old. When flying, only one ESA is allowed per customer and the animal cannot weigh over 65 pounds.

Another note: emotional support and psychiatric service animals also cannot fly on flights eight hours or longer.

If you’re traveling with Non-ESAs or domestic pet then the United Airlines states that only domestic cats, dogs, rabbits, and household birds (excluding cockatoos) are allowed in-cabin on United Airlines.

Breed Restrictions

United Airlines ESA policy states some snub-nosed dogs and cats, such as Bulldogs and Persians may be restricted from travel.

ACAA and ESAs: What You Need to Know

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), an airline cannot discriminate a person based on their disability, this includes the use of psychiatric service animals and service animals.

Before 2021, the United Airlines ESA policy requires you to submit the necessary documentation for any emotional support animals passengers wish to accompany them for their consideration at least 48 hours before your flight.

But now it’s a bit different.

There are different processes and requirements for traveling with emotional support animals vs service dogs.

The Department of Transportation announced as of January 11, 2021, emotional support animals are no longer protected as assistance animals on flights. As stated by the DOT, this new law “allows airlines to recognize emotional support animals as pets, rather than service animals.”

While this new rule is in place, it’s a great disservice to those facing mental health challenges that get emotional support from their animal.

And that’s why we continue to explore and consider all legal options to help protect the rights of individuals dealing with mental health disabilities.

You and your emotional support animal matter; don’t lose hope.

Know United Airline’s Pet Carrier Requirements!

If your emotional support animal/pet meets United’s criteria for following your direction and acceptable behavior, they must be housed in an approved kennel that fits under your seat.

If your furry friend is too large, you may be given the option of purchasing another seat or having your animal transported elsewhere during the flight and returned to you on arrival at your destination.

If you opt to use a kennel, you must use an approved soft or hard-sided design. Maximum dimensions for hard-sided kennels are 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches wide.

Maximum dimensions for soft sized kennels are 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches wide. Aside from birds, only one ESA per kennel is allowed and they must be able to move around and stand up comfortably.

Do you Qualify?

Find out if you qualify for an emotional support animal. Take our free screening test and receive an answer in 5 minutes..

What’s Acceptable

United Airline’s Pet Policy and now United Airlines ESA Policy indicates pets should stay in their carrier, follow directions from their owner, and behave properly in public.

What’s Restricted

Once on board, ESAs are not allowed to:

  • Let your ESA out of their kennel
  • Take up another seat
  • Block the aisles
  • Must not be placed by exit row seats

“Where Does My ESA/Pet Go Once I’m on the Plane?”

Once you’re on the airplane, your ESA has a few different seating options. If they’re staying with you in a cabin, then they should be sitting quietly in their kennel by your feet.

Prepare Your ESA for Flight!

Aside from all the paperwork, you will want to make sure your emotional support animal has the most comfortable trip they can. Less stress for them equals less stress for you too!

Flying and transiting through busy airports can be an overwhelming experience for any passengers, let alone an animal who may not have done it before.

  • It can be best not to feed any adult pets for a few hours before flying – full tummies can be uncomfortable for them, and they may need more “comfort” stops. But bring treats/food with you in case they need it!
  • Plan for toileting and pet relief needs as required.
  • Have water on hand for thirsty pups.

Teach Your Dog The Proper Behavior When in Public and on the Airplane

Before you take your dog on a flight, make sure you have trained and socialized it using positive reinforcement. It will need to respond to your commands, behave well around other passengers, and be toilet trained. Although support dogs are not specially trained like service dogs, you will still need to be ensuring they are trained in acceptable behavior.

They’re There For Your Comfort, Not Disturbance

With any airline, follow their guidelines to ensure everyone has a safe and happy trip.

Are You Traveling Internationally? Check Out Location-Specific Resources to See If Your ESA is Allowed

Whichever airline you choose to fly with, always check their emotional support animal policies before you go. For international flights, the different laws of other countries will apply.

If you are on code-share flights, or on a multi-leg journey with different carriers different rules may apply. Check out official websites for individual countries, or search the information bringing animals and pets in and out of the US and other countries on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) site.

CertaPet Free Screening Test

Learn if you qualify for an ESA Letter

How to Get an ESA Letter through CertaPet?

CertaPet is the world’s no. 1 emotional support animal service and the only online service offering a 100% legal and compliant process.Start by taking our free online 5-minute pre-screening process to see if you are a good candidate for an ESA, and if you are, we’ll connect you with a licensed mental health professional quickly and easily. You can access your letter online immediately after its issued. You can also choose to receive a physical copy of the letter send to your mailing address.

An ESA Letter from CertaPet provides:

  • Recognition that you are a patient on a case-by-case basis under a licensed mental health professional’s care for mental or emotional disabilities.
  • Verification that you are significantly limited by an individual disability, such as depression or a similar condition, affecting your mental well-being.
  • Prescription for an emotional support dog (also known as a companion dog), or other support animal, as a necessary reinforcement for your mental health within 48 business hour

Once you receive the letter, you are free to use it to live with your animal.

That’s it.

emotional support animal owners

What Clients Say About CertaPet

“I got my dog as a Valentine’s Day gift from my abusive ex. When she was a puppy, I protected her from him, and she would lick away my tears when I cried. When I finally left him, I left with nothing: no clothes, no home, and more importantly no her. He refused to let me have her and the cops, despite text messages of him threatening her safety,  wouldn’t let me take her. I fell apart. During that time I suffered from depression, PTSD and anxiety. I was scared of my own shadow. Months went by and finally after a long battle, I got her back! She put me back together piece by piece. My ESA is special because she literally saved me.”

– Kailee Biesenbach

“I love my cat -“Hope”. She was named before I got her and she is my Hope!  The previous owner said “She may not come to you at first”. She had been trained by her previous owners needs and she had only been with her. I went into the room when I first met her. She came right up to me purring like crazy. It was love at first sight! She is the best PSTD animal ever!!! She calms me right down every time I get near her. She even knows when I need her and she will come to me when I am upset or facing a panic attack. It is an amazing connection!! We clicked right away.  It almost feels like she is human and yes she is my best friend. God always knows what we need!! Thank You for letting me share!”

– Tracy Huntington

“After high school, I felt like there was nothing left for me. I felt I was living everyday – day by day. I also moved to a new city so had no friends or family to go too. I felt so lost and depressed. Then I got my ESA dog Chip, and my whole life flipped. I had a reason to be happy, a reason to enjoy life and go out again! Certapet helped make this all happen and thank you guys so much for that!!”

– Lyssa Helton

Frequently Asked Questions about Emotional Support Animals


What is an Emotional Support Animal ‘Certification’? Do I need to get my ESA ‘certified’?

No, you do not need to get your Emotional Support Animal certified. Frankly, it’s not possible.

Like the misconception of registering your ESA into some database online, Emotional Support Animal certification is just a piece of paper with no real use.

To be a real Emotional Support Animal owner, you must have an ESA letter awarded by a therapist after you have taken an assessment of your qualification to own one.

Many sites, as well as people, claim they sell official Emotional Support Dog certification or offer legitimate Emotional Support Animal registration, but remember all you need is an ESA letter from a LMHP.


Are Emotional Support Animal Registration Sites Legitimate?

We’re often asked if ESA registration sites are real.

The answer is NO.

If you see a site claiming to be a “national service animal registry,” “emotional support dog registration,” “official service dog registry,” “US emotional support dog registry,” or a “US service dog registry” they’re handing out false information and only wanting you to pay for a “fake” document.


Do emotional support animals require training?

Unlike service animals, HUD does not require any special training for ESAs. However, we strongly encourage you make sure your pet understands basic commands, behaves well in public setting and is trained for travelling if you chose take it on a flight.


Does my dog need an emotional support animal vest to travel or live with me?

There is no law stating your ESA must wear a vest. Many ESA owners chose to still go with a vest to make their ESA easily identifiable.


Is the ESA letter all I need to become an emotional support animal owner?



What happens when the airlines staff or landlord ask to see my proof that I’m an ESA owner? Are they just asking for my ESA letter?

Yes! Just that!

You may also like

Page [tcb_pagination_current_page] of [tcb_pagination_total_pages]

All product and Company names are Trademarks™ or Registered® trademarks of their respective holders.