Virgin Airlines ESA PolicyReading Time: 4 minutes
Are you about to fly with your emotional support animal on VIrgin Airlines? Do note that Virgin America is no longer an airline (they have merged with Alaska Airlines); however, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia operate flights between some cities in the US. Read on to find out more information on the Virgin Airlines ESA policy under each of these carriers.
ESA Policy – Virgin Airline’s Pet Fee for Non-ESAs
Under Virgin Airlines ESA policy pets who are not emotional support animals are often able to be flown on the same flight with you. Depending on the type of animal, it may be able to travel with you in the aircraft cabin, or in their pet carrier or kennel in the cargo hold like checked baggage.
There are differences between the policies of flights that were Virgin America (now Alaska Airlines), and Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Australia flights.
Alaska Airline’s (which was Virgin America) charge for a non-ESA pet to fly is $100 each way, whether they fly in the main cabin, or in the cargo compartment. Alaska Air accepts a wide range of pets in the cargo hold. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia may carry pet dogs and cats in a kennel for a fee based on the animal’s weight.
A List of ESAs That Are Permitted on Virgin Airlines
To check the types of ESAs that are permitted under Virgin Airlines ESA policy, you have to remember that Virgin America is no longer an airline – they have merged with Alaska Airlines, so the policy for AA needs to be followed.
Alaska Airlines (merged with Virgin America) is an animal-friendly airline! Emotional support animals and pets are allowed in the main cabin, subject to meeting pet carrier and space requirements. This includes cats, dogs, rabbits, and household birds. Any puppies and kittens must be at least eight weeks of age and have been fully weaned.
Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia’s policies on traveling with assistance animals refer specifically to service animals such as assistance dogs, service dogs, or guide dogs with training. Requests to have an emotional support dog in the cabin on their United States flights are considered.
Virgin Airlines ESA policies have restrictions around flying with certain breeds. Remember, as already mentioned, Virgin America is no longer an airline, they have merged with Alaska Airlines. However, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia operate flights between major US cities.
Breed restrictions include snub-nosed dog breeds such as Pugs or Pekingese due to the breathing difficulties these short-nosed dog breeds (and cats) may have. They also do not accept any dogs listed under dangerous dogs or animals legislation.
Some other type of emotional support animals may not be accepted due to health and safety risks. These include but are not limited to reptiles, rodents, ferrets, hedgehogs, amphibians, goats, insects, snakes, spiders, sugar-gliders, and non-household birds.
ACAA and ESAs: What You Need to Know – Alert Virgin Airlines You Will Be Bringing Your ESA!
If you want to fly with your emotional support animal, you have protection to do this under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Don’t just rock up to an airline’s check-in counter though! You need to check the airline’s own policy and procedures as well. For Virgin Airlines ESA policy check whether you are flying on what was Virgin America (now Alaska Airlines), Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Australia.
- You must notify the airline at least 48 hours prior to departure that you want to fly with an ESA, but the earlier the better so you can make sure all your documentation requirements are in order.
- You will need to supply the documentation they ask for and follow their policies on the types of animals they accept and how you must contain or carry them on the flight.
Know Virgin Airline’s Pet Carrier Requirements!
Virgin Airlines ESA policy differs depending on the individual carrier. For flights that were Virgin America, you will now need to follow Alaska Airlines policies. There are also different pet carrier requirements for flying with Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic.
- What’s Acceptable? Once approved, you will usually be expected to keep your emotional support animal within your seat space on the aircraft. These airlines may recommend you take a window seat so that your emotional support animal doesn’t disrupt any other passengers on the flight.
- What’s Restricted? When you are on the flight, your emotional support animal must stay on the floor space within your seat area at all times. It isn’t allowed to take a seat, sit on your tray table, or in the aisles. Dirty and smelly animals can also be refused.
- “Where Does My ESA Go Once I’m on the Plane?” Your ESA will usually be required to be kept by you within the “footprint” of your own seat area. Smaller animals may need to be kept in soft-sided pet carriers that will fit under the seat space of the aircraft you are flying in. A pet carrier is often included as a carry-on baggage in your allowance.
Bring And Fill Out The Required Documents/Forms! One of the Most Important Steps!
This is probably the most important step! Most airlines, including Virgin Airlines ESA policy, are becoming quite tight on the documentation requirements for emotional support animals. This is to ensure they meet their responsibilities for keeping everyone safe who flies with them. They may also limit the number of animals on a flight, so it can be first-come first-served.
Alaska Airlines (who Virgin America has now merged with) have their own set of ESA documentation that passengers wishing to travel with an ESA must complete. This includes:
- An Animal Health Advisory Form confirming you understand their requirements
- A Mental Health Professional Form to be signed by a qualified health professional confirming your disability
- A Confirmation of Liability Form for you to confirm that you will take full care and responsibility for the animal.
Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia, require one or more of the below:
- ESA Letter: A copy of your ESA confirming that you have a disability that benefits from your ESA, such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. This letter will need to be no older than 12 months old and have been signed by a qualified mental health professional.
- Veterinary Health Certificate: They may ask for verification that your animal is healthy to fly, and won’t pose a health risk to other people. They may also ask for proof of vaccinations and shots.
- Training Testimonials: They may ask for verification that your emotional support animal has had certain levels of training. This may include that the animal is trained to respond to your commands, and behaves appropriately in public.
Prepare Your ESA for Flight!
You’re almost there! It is important to prepare your ESA for a flight as much as you can, it is often a stressful experience for them as well. Make sure you are able to look after their toileting needs, including being able to clean up any accidents if they do occur.
Teach Your Dog The Proper Behavior When in Public and on the Airplane
When you’re taking your dog out anywhere in public, but particularly in the confined spaces of an airplane, make sure they have some basic obedience training! This includes responding to basic commands and knowing that it’s not ok to leap onto other people or around the aircraft.
They’re There For Your Comfort, Not Disturbance
We all know our pets are the best things since sliced bread, but other people might not feel the same way about emotional support animals and service animals on flights! Keep your dog or emotional support animal as quiet as possible on the flight so they don’t make it unpleasant for others on your flight.
Are You Traveling Internationally? Check Out Location-Specific Resources to See If Your ESA is Allowed
When you’re traveling internationally, you have to get location specific as well as airline specific. There are always different requirements between countries on the types of animals allowed in and out, quarantine periods and vaccination requirements. Any Americans with disabilities should also make sure they understand the difference between your emotional support animal and psychiatric service animals, which perform tasks for people with disabilities.
- Check out the Pet Travel section of the US Department of Agriculture. You can look for more information bringing pets in and out of the US and taking them to other countries.
Remember Virgin Airlines ESA policy is not one policy per say. Virgin America is no longer an airline and has merged with Alaska Airlines. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia are also international carriers, so for more information on specific routes and their regulations you may need to check out:
- Virgin Atlantic flight routes that accept assistance animals
- Virgin Australia’s rules for assistance animals within Australia
- Alaska Airline’s guide on traveling with pets to Hawaii
- Alaska Airline’s policy on international pet travel
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