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Airlines Allowing Flying with Large ESA Dog [2021]

Flying with a large ESA dog is a little difficult in 2021, for a few reasons. Firstly, many airlines no longer accept emotional support animals as service animals, therefore they will often need to fly as standard pets. Secondly, some airlines that do permit flying with emotional support dogs, will only allow flying with small ESA dogs. Lastly, only a limited number of ESA dogs are permitted on board, per flight. 

The following airlines permit flying with a large ESA dog, in 2021, with certain restrictions:

In this article we will outline which airlines allow flying with a large ESA dog, and outline the process of taking a ESA dog on a flight.


What are Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)?

In their most basic definition, ESAs are simply animals who provide their owners with therapeutic benefits. An ESA provides emotional support to their human through love and companionship. As anyone who has ever had a pet knows, animals have an incredible ability to connect with humans on a deep level. For many people, a beloved animal friend may be the first one a person goes to when they need someone to comfort them and talk to without judgement. This comes without the training that a service animal or therapy animal must go through.

Though they provide incredibly important services, emotional support animals are considered to be somewhere in between the realms of service or psychiatry animals and standard pets. So, while they don’t generally get the same legal rights as service animals, they do get some. This includes being able to fly with their owners, and being allowed to live in some ‘no-pet’ housing. 

It’s important to note that there is no official registry for ESAs, and no official certificate. Rather, in order to prove your animal is your ESA, you will need an official letter signed by a credited medical health practitioner.

BEWARE OF SCAMS! There are many websites offering ESA certificates for pets, in exchange for a fee. There is not such thing as an ESA certificate so stay clear of these websites.

flying large esa dog

Airlines that allow flying with large ESA dogs (in cabin)

Unfortunately, some airlines will only permit flying with a small dog, however there are still some airlines which will permit flying with a large ESA dog. 

The following airlines allow flying with a large ESA dog, in 2021:

  1. Air France
  2. China air
  3. Latam Airlines
  4. Norwegian Air
  5. Singapore Air
  6. Virgin Australia
  7. Volaris
  8. Westjet

The rules and regulations for flying with a large ESA dog differ slightly between airlines. In many cases, flying with emotional support dogs are only permitted to and from the US. However, we will outline the different airline policies in detail below. 

China Air

China Air’s policies for flying with large ESA dog, in 2021, are as follows:

  • The ESA dog should be able to fit on the lap or within the foot space of passengers on the aircraft.
  • You must provide the following documents:
  • Emotional support animals are only accepted free of charge in the cabin on the direct flights to/from the U.S.A. (including Guam). For other routes, emotional support animals are recognized as pets and need to be transported as checked baggage. You will have to pay for this.
  • You must inform China Air at least 48 hours prior to departure, and passengers are obliged to meet the relevant animal transit and entry requirements with all the necessary documents.
  • Your ESA must be vaccinated from rabies and must be free of pests and diseases that would endanger people or public health.
  • Emotional support animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered or stayed in their travel carrier at all times.
  • Passengers travelling with emotional support animal’s are not permitted to seat in the exit row, for safety reasons.
  • ESA dogs must be well behaved and obey commands. If disruptive behavior is observed at any point during the journey and isn’t corrected or controlled, in the reasonable exercise of our discretion, China Air reserve the right to refuse carriage or to claim for any loss and damage caused by the service dogs.

Latam Airlines

Latam Airlines’s policies for flying with large ESA dog, in 2021, are as follows:

  • Your ESA dog can travel at your feet, under the seat in front of you.
  • Your ESA dog is not permitted to occupy more than your space, block aisles, take up a seat or sit in the emergency exit.
  • ESA dogs are only permitted to fly with you in the cabin on flights to or from Mexico, Colombia, and on domestic flights within Colombia. If you are planning on travelling on other routes, you can request to travel with your dog in the cabin or to transport it in the hold of the airplane, by contacting their pet service.
  • You must fill out a request form at least 48 hours before your flight departure time via the Contact Form. This document is valid for 1 year from when your treating physician signed it. It can be used for all flights you take during that year. However, you must travel with all the original documents, since they may be requested at the airport or during the flight. 
  • You may only travel with one large ESA dog.
  • Your ESA dog must be at least 4 months of age.
  • Your dog must not show any signs of bad behavior (barking, growling, jumping on other passengers or relieving themselves in inappropriate areas) at any time during the trip. If they do, the airline will ask that you control your dog and/or take necessary hygiene measures (put on a muzzle, diaper, clean it, etc.).
  • Final approval to board will be given when you Check-in at the airport. This is to ensure that you have met all the requirements and conditions (behavioral and size) needed to guarantee its safe transportation in the cabin of the airplane. If all the conditions are not met, then your dog must travel in the hold of the airplane, inside an appropriate carrier at no additional cost to you. 

Norwegian Air

Norwegian Air’s policies for flying with large ESA dog, in 2021, are as follows:

  • You’ll be assigned a suitable seat, and your ESA dog must lie or sit on the floor in front of you.
  • You will be required to present documentation from a licensed mental health doctor (e.g. psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, including a medical doctor specifically treating the passenger’s mental or emotional disability). The document must state the following:
    • That you have a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fourth Edition (DSM IV).
    • That you need the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger’s destination.
    • The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional, and the passenger is under his or her professional care.
    • The date and type of the mental health professional’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.
  • Documentation must not be older than one year from the date of your flight. 
  • Emotional support dogs are only allowed in the cabin on direct flights to and from the U.S (excl. flights to the UK). 
  • You must notify Norwegian Air that you’re flying with an emotional support animal at least 48 hours prior to departure.
  • All emotional support dogs are expected to be sufficiently trained to behave in public.
  • Norwegian air do not accept emotional support dogs under 4 months.
  • Only one emotional support dog per passenger is permitted.
  • You are only permitted to fly with your emotional support dog, mentioned in your ESA letter. 
  • On flights lasting over 8 hours, Norwegian Air require documentation stating that your ESA will not need to relieve itself on the flight or that they can relieve itself in a way that does not create a health or sanitation issue on the flight.

Singapore Air

Singapore Air’s policies for flying with large ESA dog, in 2021, are as follows:

  • When flying with large ESA dogs, they must sit on the cabin floor in front of the passenger seat.
  • Your large ESA dog is not allowed to obstruct the legroom of other customers, and must not block the aircraft aisle or emergency exit. 
  • Dogs must be at least 4 months of age.
  • ESA Dogs must be trained to obey commands, behave appropriately, and must not pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other customers.
  • A moisture absorbent material must also be placed on the cabin floor underneath your ESA dog at all times during the flight.
  • ESA dogs must not occupy a seat.
  • ESA dogs must be harnessed and leashed, or remain in a pet carrier at all times.
  • If your dog is one of the following breeds (including mixes), you must muzzle them and must provide additional documents regarding your dog’s behaviour:
    • Akita
    • Boerboel
    • Bull Terrier
    • Doberman Pinscher
    • Dogo Argentino
    • Fila Brasileiro
    • German Shepherd Dog, Belgian Shepherd Dog, East European Shepherd Dog
    • Mastiffs, including Bull Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Cane Corso and Dogue De Bordeaux
    • Perro De Presa Canario
    • Pit Bull, including American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bulldog
    • Rottweiler
    • Tosa
  • You are required to have the following documentation:
    • Import/transshipment/export permits (subject to country-specific regulations)
    • Veterinary health certificate
    • Rabies vaccination letter
    • A completed acknowledgement form
    • Signed statement from a licensed mental health professional no older than one year prior to your flight date stating:
      • you have a mental or emotional disability recognised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and is under his or her professional care
      • you need the emotional support dog for air travel and/or for activities at your destination
      • licence information of the mental health professional (issue date, licence type, and jurisdiction and state where it was issued)
  • If your flight duration is over 8 hours, you will have to provide an additional document (sanitary form) to certify that your ESA will not need to relieve itself on the flight, or that it can do so in a way that does not create a health or sanitation issue on the flight.

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia’s policies for flying with large ESA dog, in 2021, are as follows:

  • When flying with large ESA dogs, they must sit at your feet, without obstructing aisles and other passengers seats.
  • Emotional Support Animals are only permitted on board flights to and from the United States.
  • You must request to travel with an emotional support animal on an international flight, prior to your flight. You will need to call their Guest Contact Centre.
  • Your ESA dog must be harnessed at all times. It must also wear an identifying coat. Handlers must supply a suitable restraint or an approved in-cabin kennel for smaller Service Dogs in-flight.
  • You must accompany your emotional support animal at all times at the airport and during the flight. 
  • Your dog must sit on an absorbant mat for the whole duration of the flight. 
  • If you are travelling on our international long haul services with a group of 10 or more Service Dogs, you must contact Virgin Australia at least 10 days before departure so that they can ensure your needs are met on board.

Volaris

Volaris’ policies for flying with large ESA dog, in 2021, are as follows:

  • Flying with large ESA dogs is permitted as long as they can be seated at the customer’s feet without protruding into the aisle, and without occupying the foot space of adjacent passengers. Animals are not permitted to occupy a seat. 
  • ESA dogs must behave properly in public and follow directions from its owner.
  • You must check in at least 3 hours before your departure time if boarding a domestic flight, and at least 4 hours before an international flight. This is to ensure your ESA meets all conditions of flying. 
  • All ESA dogs must be harnessed and leashed at all times.
  • You must confirm that your ESA dog doesn’t pose a threat to the health and safety of other and assumes full responsibility for the safety, well-being, and conduct of its dog.
  • You must provide Volaris with the following documents at least 48 hours before your flight:
    • Veterinarian health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian. This certificate must be (1) on a headed paper containing the license number of your veterinarian (2) the date of expedition must be less than 5 days from your flight date (3) must contain your full name and address (4) has to state that your ESA dog has been inspected before the trip and is clinically healthy.
    • Vaccination card issued by a licensed veterinarian. The card must show that your ESA dog has had a rabies vaccination between 30 days and 1 year before your flight. It must also show that your dog has received anti-parasitic mediation within the last 6 months, from your flight. 
    • Headed letter filled by a licensed mental health professional. It must state (1) the license number of your mental health professional (2) that you have a mental or emotional disability (3) that you need your ESA dog (4) the date and type of the metal health professional license and the state in which it was issued (5) the date of the letter must be less than a year since the date of the flight.
  • Brachycephalic dogs are not allowed to travel with Volaris.

Westjet

Westjet’s policies for flying with large ESA dog, in 2021, are as follows:

  • Large ESA dogs are permitted on board, as long as the dog fits in the space by your feet. Emotional support dogs are not permitted in the emergency exit row on any aircraft or to occupy an empty seat.
  • If you feel your emotional support dog requires additional floor space to ensure its comfort and safety on board, you should contact the airline at least 48 hours before your flight. You will need to inform them of your dog’s breed, weight, length, height and width. The airline will use this information in accordance with Canadian Transportation Agency’s requirements to determine the seating needs of your dog. 
  • Only one ESA dog is allowed per guest.
  • ESA dogs must be at least 4 months of age. 
  • The airline strongly recommends a form of restraint so your dog is always under your control (a harness and leash).
  • Any dog that poses as any type of threat to health and safety to crew members or other guests may be denied transport as an emotional support dog.
  • Any dog that has not been trained to behave properly in a public setting (and therefore may cause a significant disruption to cabin service) may be denied transport as an emotional support dog.
  • Westjet require the following forms are printed, completed, and emailed to SpecialCareDesk@westjet.com no later than 48 hours before you leave. The forms must be dated no more than one year before travel and kept with you while travelling
    • Confirmation of animal training – to be signed by the owner/trainer of the dog.
    • Medical/mental health professional – to include your medical professional’s license number, type of license, and jurisdiction in which the license was issued. Must be signed by your medical professional (e.g. psychiatrist, psychologist, or general practitioner).
    • Veterinary health – to be signed by the dog’s veterinarian.
  • Westjet strongly suggest that your ESA dog wears its identification (e.g. vest) at all times while on the aircraft.
  • Animals are not accepted on flights to or from:
    • Bridgetown, Barbados
    • Montego Bay and Kingston, Jamaica
    • United Kingdom (Great Britain and Scotland) – only service animals are accepted, emotional support animals are not accepted.

flying large esa dog

Airlines Accepting Large Psychiatric Service Dogs

Psychiatric support dogs (PSDs) are not the same as emotional support animals (ESAs), in fact psychiatric animals have more legal rights than ESAs. However, it is possible in the right circumstances and with some effort to train an emotional support animal to become a PSD. 

The main difference between an ESA and a PSD is that a PSD must be trained to perform tasks related to the handler’s disability. These tasks include providing pressure therapy during moments of crisis, retrieving medication, helping the handler maintain daily routines, among many more. On the other hand, ESAs have no specific training requirements and alleviate symptoms of mental illness simply through their companionship. Furthermore, unlike ESAs, only dogs can serve as psychiatric service animals. 


All airlines flying to and from the United States allow psychiatric service dogs on their flights.

PSDs are allowed to board flights in the cabin free of charge. In order to fly with a psychiatric dog, you must submit a DOT’s Service Animal Transportation Form prior to your flight.

On the form, you must self-certify that your dog has been trained to perform tasks relating to your disability. PSD owners have a right to privacy and dignity: airlines are not allowed to ask what the passenger’s specific disability is, and they are now allowed to ask you to demonstrate the task your PSD has been trained to perform.

Furthermore, the form requires the name of the PSD’s trainer, which can be the owner (third-party training is not a requirement for PSDs). 


What is the process of flying with a large ESA dog?

The process of taking emotional support animals on an international flight is as follows:

  1. Obtain a medical assessment letter / ESA letter
  2. Obtain your pet’s pet passport
  3. Book flights and inform your airline you will be bringing an Emotional Support Animal
  4. Complete required forms

Obtain a Medical Assessment Letter / ESA Letter

It’s important to note that there are no official certificates and no official registration database for Emotional Support Animals. In order to fly with a large ESA dog, you will need an ESA letter, an official letter from a medical health professional.

Beware of scams! There are many websites popping up offering ESA Certificates in exchange for a fee – please avoid any websites offering this service. There is no such thing as an official ESA certificate or registry.

An ESA letter is a recommendation letter from a licensed medical professional stating your need for an ESA. Medical professionals include psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists or other duly-licensed and/or certified mental health professionals.

The letter must:

  • Clearly explain your need for an emotional support animal.
  • Be legitimate—i.e., on professional letterhead and written by a qualified physician and/or mental health provider.
  • Include your medical professional’s license number, as well as their signature and the date the letter was signed. 

If you don’t already have a mental health provider, you have two options:

  1. You can either make an appointment with one and get your letter that way, or;
  2. You can use an online ESA letter service, such as Emotional Pet SupportESA Doctors, or CertaPet. These services do charge, and you will be required to undergo a mental health evaluation before receiving your letter.

What qualifies you to own an emotional service animal?

To qualify for an ESA, a licensed medical health care professional will determine whether you have a disability and whether an ESA would help manage your symptoms. A “disability” for purposes of qualifying for an Emotional Support Dog means a mental health condition like depression or severe anxiety, phobias and PTSD that substantially limits one or more major life activities, like the ability to study, work, travel or sleep. 

Obtain your Emotional Support Animal’s pet passport

In order to fly with a large ESA dog, they must have a pet passport. 

The requirements for obtaining your ESA dog’s pet passport will differ depending on where you are travelling to and from. However it is likely that your dog will require the following:

  1. Microchip
  2. Animal health certificate
  3. Rabies vaccination
  4. Rabies titer test
  5. Additional vaccinations
  6. Parasite treatment

This is just a guide on what is required, please check the requirements for the specific country you and your ESA are visiting. 

a) Microchipping your ESA.

A microchip is a electronic chip that’s inserted under the skin of your dog. A microchip holds a number unique, and will be connected to a database with your contact details.

Not only is a microchip usually a requirement when getting a pet passport, it is in your best interest. If your ESA was to go missing, then you are far more likely to be reunited. 

Your ESA dog can get microchipped at your local vet or a charity, such as RSPCA.

Get your ESA microchipped BEFORE getting his/her rabies vaccinations. Often, vaccinations will not be valid if microchipped after.

b) Animal health certificate.

In order to export and import pets most countries will require an official animal health certificate issued by an accredited veterinarian.

Of course, it differs between countries, but most require the animal health certificate to be obtained within 5-10 days of travel. 

In most cases, your health certificate will also need to be endorsed by the country’s authority responsible for the import and export of animals. For example, if you are traveling from the US, you will need your documents endorsed by the USDA. Alternatively, if you are traveling from Canada, you will need to have your documents endorsed by CFIA.

c) Rabies vaccinations.

If you want your take an Emotional Support Animal on an international flight, it is mandatory that he/she has a valid rabies vaccination. This is a requirement for entering most countries.

Most countries require dogs to have their rabies vaccination between 30 days and 12 months prior to importing. However, this differs depending on your destination country. Furthermore, some countries recognise both 1 year and 3 year vaccinations, while others only accept 1 year vaccinations. 

You can get your pet’s rabies vaccination at your local vet, alternatively some charities offer this service for free or for a discounted price. 

d) Rabies titer test.

Some countries require pets to have a rabies titer test before entering, to show that your pet’s rabies vaccination was successful. This is often the case when you are traveling from a country that your destination country considers high risk for rabies.

The process for getting your pet’s rabies titer test is as follows:

  1. Your pet will have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination.
  2. Your vet will then send the blood sample to an approved blood testing laboratory.
  3. Your pet’s blood test results must show a rabies antibody level of at least 0.5 IU/ml.
  4. You must wait 3 months from the date the blood sample was taken before you travel.
  5. The vet will give you a copy of the test results.

e) Additional vaccinations.

Depending on where you are flying to, your ESA may also require additional vaccinations or treatments. Common required vaccinations include:

  • bordetella
  • distemper
  • hepatitis
  • leptospirosis
  • parainfluenza
  • parvovirus

f) Parasite treatment.

Many countries require that dogs are treated against internal and/or external parasites before importation. This includes treatment for fleas, tapeworm, ticks, nematodes and cestodes. 

Book flights and inform your airline you will be flying with a large ESA dog

It’s important to check that your airline allows flying with a large ESA dog, as many do not. If your airline does not allow flying with large ESA dogs, you will need to adhere to the airlines standard pet policies, which usually means flying as checked baggage. 

When booking your flight, it’s important to note that you may be restricted to sit in specific seats on the plane. Most airlines require that passengers travelling with ESAs sit in certain seats on the plane, particularly if they are large ESA dogs. Therefore, it is important to check these specific requirements, when booking your flight or reserving your seats. You will need to inform the airline of your dog’s breed, weight, length, height and width, so they can see if they have an appropriate area for you and your dog to travel in. 

Generally, you will need to inform the airline that you will be bringing an ESA, at least 48 hours before the flight. However, it is recommended that you inform them much further in advance. This is because quite often, only one service animal is permitted per flight. You want to ensure you can reserve your large ESA dog a spot. 

As well as providing your ESA letter, some airlines may also require you to complete a form. The document will state the address and jurisdiction of the health professional who approved your use of an ESA. Furthermore, it will state that you have a mental health related disability and are under the care of a health professional.

The amount of notice the airline will need, may differ between airlines. So, again, please check the policies before booking your flight. If you fail to give some airports and airlines sufficient notice, then your ESA may be checked into the kennel compartment of the plane.

Complete required forms

Airlines usually require you or your medical health professional to complete forms before taking emotional support animals on international flights.

Forms are usually required to verify that you have a mental health related disability, and that your ESA is essential for your well-being.  

Furthermore, a sanitation form is often required by airlines, in cases where your flight is over 8 hours long. This form states that during the flight, your service animal or ESA will not defecate or urinate for the duration of the flight. 

Check the airline policy of who you are flying with, to see which forms are required.

Tips for flying with a large ESA dog

1. Train your ESA to stay calm.

Your dog will need to stay calm on the flight otherwise they risk being sent into the cargo area of the plane. Being obedient to orders is a requirement when flying with a large ESA. Your large ESA dog will need to sit at your feet for the duration of the flight, so work on a strong sit-stay or lie down-stay. 

2. Exhaust your ESA before the flight.

Try to exhaust your dog by increasing the level of activity before your trip. A sleepy animal will be less prone to getting stressed out on the flight, and will be less likely to cause trouble on the flight.

3. Limit access to food and water before the flight.

Limit your dog’s access to food prior to the flight. Therefore, it’ll be less likely that they will need to ‘defecate or urinate’ on the flight.

Furthermore, some animals are more likely to experience motion sickness if they eat just before a flight. 

4. Familiarise yourself with the airport that you are departing from and arriving to.

Most airports will have a dedicated area for dogs and service animals to rest. In the U.S, it is actually a legal requirement for airports have pet-relief areas available for working animals and pets to rest. Take some photos of the airport maps, so you don’t have to wander around on the day trying to find a resting place.


Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to pay to fly with a large ESA dog?

No. You will not need to pay to fly with your ESA dog on planes. Of course this is as long as the airline you are flying with allow emotional support animals, and your ESA complies to all of the airlines regulations.

Can I take a large emotional support animal on international flights with me?

This depends on which airline you are flying with. If you call your airline at least 48 hours prior to your flight, they may be able to reserve a special space for you on the plane.

What other animal's are permitted as an emotional support animal on planes?

Usually, just dogs are permitted as emotional support animals.

Where will my emotional support animal have to sit on the flight?

This depends on which airline you are flying with as they all have different regulations. If your dog is very big, airlines require animals to travel on the floor by your feet. However, if your dog is smaller than a 2 year old child, airlines may allow emotional support animals to sit on your lap.

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