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Service Animal, Bulkhead seating, and general worries

New Arrival



During the December holidays, I will be travelling with my service animal (a large canine) on a plane for the first time. I have avoided doing so for years because of all the horror stories I've heard about airlines not being accomodating, or other passengers questioning the legitimacy of the animal. My service animal is a seizure alert dog (she braces me in case of a seizure, and alerts for help)--but to look at me, you would never know. I'm young and otherwise healthy (I run marathons! It's possible!), and I'm so afraid I'll be harrassed while flying because I don't "look" disabled.


I chose Southwest because I've heard it is the most accomodating and informed when it comes to service animals (although when I called to let them know I would be bringing a service animal, the custmoer service person said all I needed was her "service animal tags" and I had to gently explain that that's not a thing...). 


I'm especially concerned because this is my service dog's first time flying (and despite being extremely well-trained, even service animals can become stressed in very new situations), and because she is relatively large, I'll absolutely need a bulkhead seat.


So my question is, does anyone else have experience with this, ie, "hidden disabilities" and flying with a service animal? Is there anything I should be prepared for ahead of time?


Many, many thanks.


Re: Service Animal, Bulkhead seating, and general worries

Top Contributor

While I don't have any personal experience flying with a service animal, your situation sounds rather routine, nothing too unusual about it. Hopefully you've reviewed Southwest's information about traveling with a service animal and have the necessary documentation.  More info can be found here:


You may also want to research information about pet relief areas at airports you'll traveling through and familiarize yourself with Southwest's preboarding policies and procedures if you haven't already.


Yes, as seen in this community, there are people that will horribly think you are a perfectly healthy person, faking some illness, just to fly your pet dog for free. Sadly, there's not much you can do about them so I suggest you don't bother worrying about them. From what I've read most of those people don't have the nerve to actually say anything to the individual who they think is faking, they just like to complain about them afterwards so you shouldn't experience any issues with them. 


I would appreciate if you would reply back to this thread or start a new one after your trip and post an update about how it went. I think it would be valuable for people to hear the story from your perspective. Good luck with the trip, hope all goes well.



Re: Service Animal, Bulkhead seating, and general worries

Top Contributor

It's probably worth pointing out that, contrary to common misconception, there is no such thing as "necessary documentation" for a trained service animal. 


If your disability isn't obviously visible, do be prepared to answer fact-finding questions the gate agents will ask in order to verify that you have a trained assistance animal.


Also, it's recommended that you let Southwest know in advance that you will be traveling with your assistance animal. 


All the details are available at the link I posted above. Good luck!