Everything You Need to Know About American Airlines Psychiatric Service Animal (PSA/PSD) Policies
Happy Travels with Your PSA by Your Side
Want advice on how to make air travel with your PSA smooth and hassle-free? Check out our definitive guide to flying with a PSA, where we go through everything you need to travel successfully with your faithful companion by your side!
What is a Psychiatric Services Animal (PSA) Letter for Travel?
A PSA Letter for Travel which has been certified by a licensed health profession allows a service dog to accompany its owner on flights at no additional charge. It is created by a certified mental health professional after a therapy session to assess applicability, and confirms that you have a disability or condition that will be serviced by a properly trained animal, typically a dog.
This means you are legally allowed to travel with a psychiatric service animal in the cabin with you at no extra cost, as you will be exempt from the airline’s pet fees.
How Do I Get a PSA Letter for Travel?
Obtaining a Free My Paws PSA letter for travel through Felicitails is simple. Start with our short questionnaire to be matched with one of our in-house certified therapists. If you qualify, you'll typically receive your letter within 24 hours.
What Conditions Qualify for a PSA Letter for Travel?
To qualify for a PSA letter, a licensed mental health professional will need to assess your needs and create a prescribed treatment plan for a relevant mental or emotional health disability such as depression, ADHD, autism, or an anxiety disorder of which requires physical assistance of an animal such as tactile pressure.
Can I use a Free My Paws Travel Letter to fly with my Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
No, you can’t use an ESA Travel Letter from Free My Paws to fly free of charge with your ESA on American Airlines under the same conditions as a service animal.
This is due to recent changes which mean that virtually no airline will accept ESAs. However, you may be able to fly with your ESA subject to the same terms and fees applied to regular pets.
What's the Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Psychiatric Service Animal?
ESAs and PSAs (Psychiatric Service Animals) help their human companions similarly. Both help reduce stress in anxiety-causing situations.
While the qualifying processes for an ESA and a PSA are similar, service animal training focuses on specific tasks. Depending on your needs, your PSA may perform a few critical tasks, for example:
- Detecting early signs of a panic attack
- Applying calming tactile pressure
- Fetching medication
- Signaling to others that you need space
- Seeking outside assistance if you're in danger
Your PSA will need to be trained to meet the required standard. The effective and affordable Basic Obedience Program from Free My Paws is a great starting point. Click here to find out more.
How to Obtain a Legally-Valid Free My Paws Psychiatric Service Animal Travel Letter through Felicitails
Felicitails, through our Free My Paws certification program, makes obtaining your legally-valid Psychiatric Service Animal Travel Letter a breeze!
Start by completing our easy online questionnaire, and schedule your telehealth consultation with one of our licensed therapists. If you need a PSA for your mental health prescription, your Free My Paws Travel Letter will typically be issued within 24 hours. Click here for details
How to Fly With a PSA on American Airlines
It’s essential to obtain and submit all the required documentation in advance of your flight.
You must comply with Air Canada’s service dog policy and submit a completed US DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form.
While the US DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form is the essential requirement, and you will need to submit it to the airline in advance - generally at least 48 hours before your flight, you'll also need to complete the airline's application to fly with your PSA.
The Free My Paws therapist-certified Psychiatric Service Animal letter for travel verifies that you'll need your service animal on your flight.
The two documents you'll need to complete and submit to the airline to fly with a PSA:
U.S. DOT Service Animal Transport Formlearn more
Animal Relief Attestation Form
(for flights over 8 hours)Learn more
Additional Documents for Passengers Traveling to Hawaii with a PSA
Passengers traveling to Hawaii with a PSA must provide documentation required by the strict guidelines and programs in place to prevent rabies. Without this, a service animal can be quarantined for 120 days in Honolulu at the owner's expense.
Additional Documentation Required for International Travelers
Passengers traveling to international destinations must have the correct documentation required by the country they are visiting. Without this, the animal may be quarantined at the owner's expense, and the airline will bear no responsibility for this.
Air Canada's Service Animal / Dog Policies
If your animal companion is a PSA (Psychiatric Service Animal) and you have the proper DOT documentation, you're good to go
The DOT form requires you to accept responsibility for any damages the animal may cause.
Service animals fly for free on American Airlines.
Each passenger may have up to two Service Animals on flights to and from the United States. Within Canada and to other destinations, each passenger may take only one Service Animal.
During a flight, a service dog weighing under 30 pounds is permitted to sit on your lap.
Check out American Airlines’s full Service Dog Policy here
American Airlines PSA Travel Letter Policies
American Airlines requires 48 hours advance notice before you fly with an animal.
Contact the American Airlines Medical Assistance Desk about your PSA at least 48 hours before your flight departs. Notify them that you have a service dog and ask for additional floor space for the dog if required.
You can call the Medical Assistance Desk at 800-433-7300.
What About Longer Flights with a PSA?
If your flight lasts eight hours or longer, you must complete the US DOT's Service Animal Relief Attestation Form.
You certify that your PSA will either not urinate or defecate on the plane, or that it can do so hygienically.
American Airlines Breed Restrictions
Any airline can deny a service animal if it poses a health and safety risk, causes a disruption while in the airport, or is too large to fit in the cabin.
Although airlines, by law, are not permitted to discriminate against a service animal on the grounds of its breed, American Airlines has a pet policy in place that restricts the transportation of dog breeds categorized as "historically aggressive”.
However, the website does not specify which breeds are prohibited for health reasons versus those considered aggressive breeds. If you are uncertain about whether your dog is eligible for travel on American Airlines, we recommend that you contact their customer service for clarification.
Are Pet Carriers Part of American Airlines Baggage Allowance?
Yes, pet carriers count as part of American Airlines’s carry-on baggage allowance. When traveling with a pet carrier in the cabin on American Airlines, it will count as your primary carry-on item. Therefore, you will not be permitted to bring a separate carry-on suitcase along with the pet carrier. However, you are still allowed to have one personal item in addition to the pet carrier.
Additional useful advice for flying with your Psychiatric Service Animal
- If they’ve never flown before, don't just assume your PSA dog can handle airline travel. Check with your dog's veterinarian and trainer to discuss travel suitability and options.
- US DOT and airline service animal rules can change anytime, so check for any updates before booking your ticket.
- Confirm any quarantines, restrictions, or embargoes before your flight.
- Have ready access to your documents to make it easy for airline staff to check them. You'll save time and hassles during the check-in process.
- Have written descriptions of the tasks performed by your service dog ready for checking.
- Exercise your dog before heading to the airport.
- Inform airport security that your dog is a service dog.
- Cooperate with airport staff and keep your dog under control at all times.
- Avoid overfeeding and overwatering your dog before your flight - offer them food and water as soon as possible after you land.
What Is the Effect of the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act)?
The ACAA prohibits discrimination based on passengers' disabilities and mandates airlines to offer accessibility features and facilities. These accommodations include ramps and mechanical lifts, adjustable armrests, easy-access restrooms, and facilities for mobility aids and service animals.
Emotional Support Animals and the ACAA
The ACAA originally defined service animals as those trained to assist people with disabilities.However, a 2003 DOT policy update permitted ESAs inside airplane cabins. This change allowed eligible passengers to be accompanied by an emotional support dog, cat, or other animal in the cabin.
ESAs do not have to be trained to perform specific tasks. Their presence alone supports people dealing with anxiety, PTSD, OCD, depression, and other mental health conditions, but the animal does not provide a physical service to treat the ailment.
The 2003 DOT policy change didn't limit the species that could serve as ESAs. However, air carriers faced unique challenges as passengers brought animals they claimed were ESAs without legitimate documentation.
This is one of the reasons that most airlines, including Air Canada, no longer allow Emotional Support Animals to fly with their owner in the cabin.
An ESA letter will not exempt you from the airline's regulations and fees for pet travel. However, complying with the ADA, they permit Psychiatric Service Animals / Dogs (PSAs), which carry out functions similar to ESAs for people with mental and emotional support needs.
Check out the ACAA guidelines here.
Want to read the full explanation of the DOT's recent ruling on service animals? Click here
Service Animals / Dogs and the ACAA
As per the ACAA guidelines:
- Your service animal must be allowed to accompany you in the space under the seat in front of you.
- Your service animal must not block a space that must be clear for safety reasons (e.g. an aisle or access to an emergency exit).
- Airlines do not have to upgrade you to a different class to accommodate your service animal.
- Airlines do not have the right to refuse your service animal onboard because it makes other passengers or flight crew uncomfortable.
- Your service animal must behave appropriately. An animal that displays disruptive behavior (ex. barking, snarling, running around, and/or jumping onto others etc.) will not be accepted as a service animal.
ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT YOUR DOG KNOWS HOW TO BEHAVE APPROPRIATELY IN AIRPORTS AND ON FLIGHTS, SO IT CAN QUALIFY AS A PSA?
Contact the Felicitails Team at email@example.com to discuss how our PSA Training Academy can assist in training your animal. Learn from the service animal experts and ensure your companion will behave nicely on their travels.learn more