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Denied travel home with emotional support animal

Explorer C



On Wednesday October 10, 2018 I boarded an 8:35 am flight out of San Diego international airport flying with my Emotional Support animal (ESA). I have a legal letter from my counselor stating the need for my ESA which has been accepted by Southwest Airlines personnel previously, as I have flown with my ESA multiple times. Just like I flew into Houston, TX, happily with my ESA on the date previously mentioned. Unfortunately, when I went to check into my next departing flight, which was scheduled for Sunday October 14, 2018 at 8: 25am, back to California I was told my letter no longer met the Southwest Airlines policy for flying with an ESA and would not be permitted to board my flight home.

To say I was upset would not suffice the emotion I felt being turned away from boarding my flight. I left the ticket counter and proceeded to notify my husband in San Diego that I would not be arriving home that day. He immediately made a call into Customer Service at 0715, followed by multiple calls from myself at 0722, 0248, and 1234, with the same responses and results. They did not have authority over the airport and my letter was missing an aspect in order for me to fly out of Hobby.

Southwest has forced me to be stuck here in Houston, stranded, with my ESA. Now, I am having to miss work and left with no other option but to fork out additional money in order to try and get another flight back home. Not only has this situation been stressful but I have received no sort of help or remorse from any Customer Service person when trying to get my return flight. I understand policies change, and the airport here may be different than the San Diego airport but there should be policies in place that are beneficial to the customer should these scenarios occur. 


Re: Denied travel home with emotional support animal

Aviator A

All airlines, Southwest included, are tightening up enforcement of Emotional Support Animal policies, in reaction to onboard incidents and frequent customer complaints regarding pets in the cabin fraudulently represented as ESAs. This includes documentation requirements.


What were you told was the problem with your documentation? Could you contact your health care provider and have them send correct documents?


Were you not offered the option of paying the $95 Pet Fee to have your animal travel onboard as a pet?




Re: Denied travel home with emotional support animal

Frequent Flyer B

Well, you should have confirmed what is needed.  There are only 4 things required to be on the letter and it has to be less than a year old.  $20 online and you can easily get a new one.



Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal A Customer seeking to travel with an emotional support animal must satisfy all of the following requirements:  The emotional support animal must be either a dog or cat.  The Customer has only one emotional support animal.  The emotional support animal must be in a carrier that can be stowed under the seat in front of the Customer or on a leash at all times while in the airport and onboard the aircraft.  The Customer must provide to a Southwest Airlines Employee documentation (not more than one year old) on letterhead from a licensed mental health professional or medical doctor who is treating the Customer’s mental health-related disability. The letter must state all four items below: 1. The Passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 2. The Passenger needs the emotional support animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the Passenger’s destination 3. The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional or medical doctor, and the Passenger is under his or her professional care 4. The date and type of the mental health professional's or medical doctor’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued Note: An animal that is not trained to behave in a public setting or engages in disruptive behavior may be denied boarding.

Re: Denied travel home with emotional support animal

Explorer C

Same thing happened to me at HOBBY! The southwest hobby airport is known to be the worst. I mean clearly this shows the issues they have at Hobby with Southwest:




Re: Denied travel home with emotional support animal


Southwest proudly accommodates our Customers and their service animals. To view the documentation requirements for service and emotional support animals, visit


Additionally, demonstrating a biased, hurtful attitude is not condoned at Southwest Airlines. As this is a peer to peer support forum, we aren't equipped to address your complaint, but we encourage you to reach out via the contact options below. We hope to have an opportunity to serve your air travel needs in the near future. 


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