Everything You Need to Know About Southwest 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 letter 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 can legally travel with a psychiatric service animal in the cabin at no extra cost.
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 Southwest Airlines under the same conditions as a service animal. This is due to recent legal 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 Southwest 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 for International Travelers
Passengers traveling to international destinations must ensure they have all of the specific documentation required by the country they are traveling to. Otherwise, the service animal may be quarantined at the owner's expense, and the airline will bear no responsibility for this or any additional costs incurred.
Southwest Airlines's Service Animal / Dog Policies
Each passenger may travel with up to two service animals on flights to and from the United States. Within Canada and to other destinations.
Trained service animals are permitted to sit on your lap. However, the dog must be smaller in size than a two-year-old child and should not hinder the movement of other passengers within the aircraft.
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.
Check out Southwest Airlines's latest Service Dog Policy here
Southwest Airlines PSA Travel Letter Policies
Southwest airlines doesn't explicitly require a PSA letter to fly with your Psychiatric Service Animal. However, having a Free My Paws PSA Travel Letter for travel and your required DOT forms can help smooth check-in and inspection at the airport.
Any airline can question you about the tasks your PSA performs to support your disability. The simplest way to demonstrate that your dog is a service animal is to provide the airline with an official PSD letter from Free My Paws through Felicitails.
How Much Advance Notice Does Southwest Airlines Require?
Customers should notify Southwest Airlines in advance if they will be traveling with a trained service animal. When making a reservation, there are three steps:
- On the Passenger & Payment Info page, click the Special Assistance link.
- Select relevant options.
- Scroll down to complete your reservation.
If a reservation has already been created, you can add your trained service animal information following these steps:
- From any page on Southwest.com®, click FLIGHT | HOTEL | CAR | VACATIONS.
- Under Flight, select Manage Reservations.
- Input the requested information—confirmation number, first name, last name—and click Search.
- Under the Passenger’s name, click the Special Assistance link.
- Select relevant options.
- Click Update Information.
Advanced notice is not mandatory with Southwest regarding the presence of your service dog.
However, if you wish to streamline your check-in process, you can provide information about your service dog while purchasing your ticket under the "Special Assistance" tab.
Alternatively, you can call 1-800-435-9792, the main customer service line, to include specific details about your service dog.
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 must certify that your PSA will either not urinate or defecate on the plane or can do so hygienically.
Southwest Airlines's Breed Restrictions
The recent changes in the DOT service animal air policy prohibit airlines from denying transportation to service dogs based on their breeds.
In common with other US airlines, Southwest Airlines cannot enforce blanket bans on specific breeds such as pit bull terriers, rottweilers, or any other breeds.
However, 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.
Southwest Airlines’s Pet Carrier Size Requirements
Southwest Airlines require that all pets are transported in carriers with dimensions not exceeding 18.5" in length, 9.5" in height, and 10" in width.
In case you don't possess a suitable pet carrier, Southwest provides the option to purchase their own carrier specifically designed for pet or service animal air transportation.
Are Pet Carriers Part of Southwest Airlines Baggage Allowance?
Yes, pet carriers count as part of Southwest Airlines’s carry-on baggage allowance.
Make Flying with Your Psychiatric Service Animal Easy!
- Don't assume your PSA dog can handle airline travel if they've never flown before. Check with your dog's veterinarian and trainer to discuss travel suitability and options. If possible, visit the airport in advance.
- 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.
The ACAA and Your Right to Fly with a PSA
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
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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