Southwest Airlines Co would limit emotional support animals to only dogs and cats on its flights and will allow one per passenger, the U.S. airline said on Tuesday as it updated its service animal policies.
The emotional support animal must remain in a carrier or be on a leash at all times, Southwest said, adding that customers traveling with pets will need to present a complete letter from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional on the day of the departure.
Airlines have started to tighten policies to fly animals on growing concerns about passengers bringing aboard exotic pets that could pose a safety risk.
There are also growing complaints of some passengers falsely claiming pets as emotional support or psychiatric service animals to avoid paying.
The U.S. Transportation Department told U.S. airlines in may that they must continue to allow the transport of the most common service animals, but said it was asking for public comment about amending its existing regulations.
Southwest said it would formally accept fully-trained psychiatric support animals as trained service animals. The changes would be come into effect on Sept. 17, it added.
Rival Delta Air Lines Inc tightened its requirements for passengers traveling with onboard service and emotional support animals earlier this year, while Alaska Air Group Inc has also introduced new rules.
Reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva