Emotional support animals can be helpful for certain people while traveling and under current regulations, airlines have to make allowances for all ESA’s except snakes (the animals even fly for free). However, as the laws have largely been abused, United Airlines has begun to crack down. And so, recently, when a passenger tried to board a flight leaving Newark Liberty International Airport with her ES peacock, the airline said no.


While the woman did offer to purchase a second ticket for her animal the airline denied her request because, according to them, the animal “…did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size. We explained this to the customers on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport.” 1

Photos of the peacock at the airport made their rounds on the internet with some people supporting United’s decision and others condemning it. However, a spokesperson for United says that the traveler with the peacock was repeatedly told they would NOT be able to bring it on board.

On Jan. 19, the airline announced that in an effort to “…better balance protecting our employees and customers while accommodating passengers with disabilities,”2 that they would be reviewing their existing ESA policy which has seen an 84 percent increase in animal behavior “such as urinating, defecating, biting and attacks on flights.”3 We will update you when the new policy is announced.


One other airline has also recently looked at their policies and made some changes. Effective March 1, Delta will not only prohibit exotic ESAs including ferrets, insects, spiders, goats or animals with tusks or hooves to fly but require passengers flying with ES or PSAs (psychiatric service) to submit a veterinarian health form and immunization record to the airline with 48-hours’ notice. Then, before boarding a doctor’s note, signed veterinarian health form, and proof of animal training will also need to be presented.

What do you think about ESAs? What do you think about United’s decision to deny the peacock?

Sources and References

  1. Fox, January 30, 2018.
  2. Fox, January 30, 2018.
  3. Fox, January 30, 2018.