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Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

Explorer B

I am glad to stumble upon this reply. I would just like to say that you speak for a lot of us. 

It is so unfortunate to see how quickly people can pass judgement on others. Invisible disabilities do exist and they are real. 

I have flown a few times with SWA with my ESA dog. After complying with all requirements needed (letter from my doctor with diagnosis less than a year old) the airline has not given me any troubles. I wish I could say the same with the whole experience. People can be so cruel. The looks they give can speak a thousand words and some are just hurtful and unfair. My disability is my business, it is private and not something I like to flaunt. The fact that I need an ESA dog to accompany me for every flight and for everyone to see this is not easy. It's like I've announced to the world that I was flawed - I might as well wear a vest too. I am happy that I am able to travel, get out of the house and join civilization sometimes although I would prefer not to. My ESA dog not only calms me but takes my mind away from all the noise and anxieties of the outside world. Although it may appear that I am taking care of her, her presence keeps me busy and focused on her instead of my own issues. I wish people could understand that and stop judging. You don't know my story. 

The last flight back to LAX was the worst. Out of courtesy and to avoid more nasty looks I opted to skip pre-boarding. Anxiety was quite high for me that day and I wanted to stay as invisible as possible. Even with a boarding group of B I was surprised to see that there were very few seats left on the plane. My teen daughter and I (with my ESA) proceeded to the back of the plane - only middle seats available. With 4 bags already checked-in we quickly realized that we may have overpacked one of our carry-ons thus making it quite difficult for my daughter to lift into the overhead bin. It was a scene I was trying so hard to avoid. As much as I wanted to help her, my physical disabilities did not allow this. It felt like the air was getting thin and my heart began to race. Thank God for a very kind passenger who offered to help. As my daughter and I stood there trying to assist the kind passenger in finding the right angle to make our carry-on fit into the overhead bin, the seats began to disappear. From the back of the plane I heard a flight attendant ask in a condescending tone "whose bag is that?" - I said ours. As she stood a few inches away from my face she looked at my ESA dog, looked at me and rolled her eyes as she turned around to walk away. I had to ask why she had to do that and she responded that she felt sorry for the man that was helping us and that we should have checked the bag in. It was  embarrassing to be put on the spot like that in the middle of the aisle. Were we being reprimanded for receiving assistance from another passenger who voluntarily offered to help us? 

As I tried to frantically find a seat, the first 3 middle seats I attempted to sit in had passengers refusing to sit with me and my dog. They all claimed to be allergic to dogs. It was such a horrible feeling to walk up and down the aisle desperately trying to get away from the center of  other people's snickering and insensitive comments. Luckily, with the help of one of the flight attendants I was able to find a seat in the middle of passengers not having a problem with my dog.  I am very thankful to these 2 gentlemen who allowed my ESA dog and I to get away from the embarrassment. I apologize for crying my eyes out for the whole duration of the trip. It is a disability that I have no control over and one of which I never wished to have. 

I may walk and talk like you but I am not you. Please learn to respect that. 


Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

Explorer B

People can be so cruel. I have had both kind and unkind experiences with Southwest employees.  You do get alot of attitude and eye rolling when you travel with an ESA.  Which only feeds the stress and anxiety that is part of my issues. We all have to deal with uncomfortable situations. What about the crying baby or the body order or the napping snoring passanger, or someone wearing perfume when you have allergies.  Life is full of situtions that there is no perfect answer to. I applaude Southwest for doing the best they can to service their customers.  Back in the day, pets flew free, (with size limits) Now people feel since there is a fee ESA is being abused.  And that may well be, but you can't punish the legitimate customers traveling with an ESA or Service animal. It seems to me the people objecting to ESA (on this thread) are selfish and only care about themselves.  They do not care about others. The whine about their issues health or otherwise.  I even read where someone said they should stay home if they require and ESA.  Well maybe they should stay home if they can't deal with accomedating all people. And as they pointed out for others, chose another mode of transportation. I do agree with them on one point, a service dog or ESA should behave properly. I have trouble with people wanting to pet or talk to my ESA. As for the free farr for my ESA.  Yes that is great! I love that! That being said I'd gladly pay the pet fare and give you my cancer.  Seems like a fair trade.  The complainers can have my cancer and I'll pay the pet fare...and then won't we all be happy! In closing I'd like to say sometimes we think the only wounds that are real are the ones you see.  Not true. We should work together to accomadate everyone to the best of our abilities and exclude no one from living their life .

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

Frequent Flyer C



Yeah, I agree with you. They won't let me take Pookie ( my Pitbull ) with me. One of these day, many peoples for no reason tried to takes up on me. I decided to fly with Pookie, unfortunely, SWA will not let me fly with my dog. It is so sad, I know Pookie gave me that sad eyes looking. Because he is much worried about me going without him while I am on the trip...

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

Explorer A

Yes I am being judgemental when I see someone who presents as needing a service or ESA dog but has a dog that is outfitted with a vest purchased online and an "ID" tag on the collar provided by the "registry." There is no registry in existence for service animals or ESAs.  So if someone meets the criteria for ESA and has the letter from the doctor, just bring the dog onboard without the fake vest and badge. It takes away from credibiity, not the opposite.  And yes I know that service dogs don't need a letter, but that the ADA allows the crew to ask if the dog is needed, and what service the dog performs.


I have a  valid physical disability that severely limits my mobility.  When I flew ten days ago someone who is of sound body had a genuine ESA of smaller than medium size. That person was permitted to board before me, walking down the jetway unassisted.  So that person took a seat closer to the front, and the restroom, than myself.  How appropriate is that? I don't begrudge the dog, I begrudge an able bodied person whose dog does not require the bulkhead being preboarded before those who have physical limitations. I understand some dogs are large and need the bulkhead. That was not the case this time.  I think that the crew onboard needs to board those who need proximity to the lav before those who are fully ambulatory.  In fact there were disabled people who could not walk the airport but who could walk the jetway who were boarded before those in wheelchairs. The gate agents need to use better discretion. I know some people will cite conditions as incontinence as  need to be close to the lav. Well there are two lavs in the back of a 737. I too have this condition intermittantly, so I prepare for the flight by wearing the appropriate undergarment.  Yes there are hidden disabilities, but it does not excuse people with disabilities from doing everything available to them to prepare for flight, instead of expecting everyone else on board to compensate on their behalf.

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

Explorer B

I travel with my Esa and pay Southwests early bird boarding fee just as anyone else can.  I have never been given any preboarding privalage.  What ever my pass says is when I board.  I do try to board early so as to be able to get a seat where I will be the least offensive to passangers.I want to be invisible.  That being said if someone needs my seat because it may be closer to a bathroom , I would gladly give it up. I would not make a blanket statement saying that some one traveling with an ESA does not need a particular seat, but in my case I don't.  I chose my seat  just to be unobtrusive. I feel a window seat is the best for everyone. Having issues myself, I am willing to do what I can to make others with issues comfortable. I am dreading my upcoming flight, but my father was diagnosed with cancer and he lives on the otherside of the country. Flying is getting to be too stressful.  But I have to make myself go for my father.

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

Explorer C

First off I have an ESA for an “invisible” (to some) disease and disability. I have limited travel to my car to not deal with passengers that have issues with ESA’s. To those eye rolling, under breath comments and any ignorant noises you make fly an airline that allows you to reserve your seat where it is convenient for you or keep your comments to yourself! As for pre-boarding, this is the SWA STAFF’s decision of who to board first not the passenger with an ESA who boarded before you. Make your comments, eye rolls and noises at the employee or again keep it to yourself. Other airlines flight attendants help find room and place carryons in the overhead compartment, this may be something to address on any survey requested by SWA, but then again there is usually one helpful passenger on a plane. To the woman with the incontinence issue, unless you are carrying a box of Depends no one knows you have a problem and you said you”prepare” well you should because I don’t want to sit next to you when you have an “accident” and my ESA is blamed for it! I’m sure you can purchase a vest to identify you’re incontinent so you get a seat near a bathroom! Maybe you can get the vest and ID online! What were all you complainers doing when smoking was allowed?

As for all of us that have to take he extra time for Dr notes identifying our conditions for our ESA to board the plane, we are having our privacy rights violated. Our conditions are our business and our dr’s, a letter from Dr stating we require an ESA is sufficient, if you have something that  is life threatening wear an ID bracelet. Thank you for taking time to read my comments!

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

Aviator A

Note that, effective 9/17/18, Southwest is making significant changes to its Emotional Support Animal and Trained Service Animal policies.


More info here.

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

Frequent Flyer B

@beaner_46 wrote:

Many of you are being judgmental. You are judging those of us with diabilities that aren't openly apparent to you and you don't even know us. I have severe PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety. I was prescribed an ESA for my PTSD. When I'm in close contact with large crowds of people (like at an airport or on an airplane), my PTSD affects me. 


It's NOT EASY to get on a SW flight with an ESA. I had to show a letter on a letterhead from my doctor, stating that he prescribed it AND stating my diagnosis. SW doesn't play around with this like you think they do. Just because you don't know the details of getting an ESA doesn't mean there aren't any. The letter can't even be over a year old. And you canNOT get them online. You can order an ESA vest online, but not a letter from a doctor. 


Stop assuming that because people don't have a physical disability that they don't need an ESA. And stop assuming that it's easy to prove your ESA is authentic to SW because it's definitely not. It's a legitimate process that weeds out people who are trying to bring pets onboard for free. SW is providing for people with legitimate disabilities or disorders, according to the law. 


It's my personal opinion that ESAs are becoming more common because doctors are seeing the value and benefits that they provide to their patients. I've definitely noticed more ESAs around in general and that would explain why there are more of them on flights. Laws are being obeyed whether you personally like it or not. 

ACA isnt the controlling regulation when flying with Service/ESA animals, the ACAA is.


You can most certianly get a letter online so you can get your pet on an airline or in an apartment.  RIght now, I just saw one going for $20.  Check a couple of boxes, and you got it.

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

Explorer B

I'm a 55-year-old woman who lost a significant amount of my hearing from an autoimmune disorder.  This is an invisible disability.  I plan to fly with my hearing alert service dog in a few days.  Traveling with my service dog in the USA is protected under federal law.  


A few months ago, I read about a woman from a specific religion that forbids owning dogs.  She claimed she was allergic to dogs and demanded all dogs be removed from her flight. Thankfully, she was removed from the flight instead. This is the United States of America and most Americans own dogs.  If you don't like dogs, don't get on an airplane in the USA.  

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

Adventurer C

ESA dogs and service dogs are not the same. ESA dogs need a letter from a psychologist or other therapist and service dogs do not need any documents. I have been asked about my service dog and have even been asked for certification/registration from an agent at the desk. This is not needed. 

US Government on the Air Carrier Access Act

FAQ on Service Dogs

Southwest Emotional Support Animal Policy 

Southwest Pet Policy