The airline industry, like so many businesses across the world, has had some major changes in the year since "COVID-19" became part of our everyday vocabulary. And yesterday, an announcement from one of the United States' biggest carriers has pet owners howling.

Southwest Airlines, known for its laid back and independent vibe, will join American Airlines, United, and Delta Air in banning "emotional support animals" on their domestic flights. The new rule will start March 1 and follows the U.S. Department of Transportation's clearance to ban the support animals in December 2020.

Pet owners had been closely watching Southwest for updates on the ban, and even last week the airline said they were still reviewing the policy. But Monday, it was clear the decision had been made. According to USA Today, Steve Goldberg, who is Southwest's senior vice president of operations and hospitality said “We applaud the Department of Transportation’s recent ruling that allows us to make these important changes to address numerous concerns raised by the public and airline employees regarding the transport of untrained animals in the cabins of aircraft. Southwest Airlines continues to support the ability of qualified individuals with a disability to bring trained service dogs for travel and remains committed to providing a positive and accessible travel experience for all of our customers with disabilities.” The airline also said that passengers who have reservations after March 1 should contact their customer service department for more information.

Trained service dogs with documentation will be the only animals classified as service animals from now on. Small animals (dogs and cats) will still be allowed on domestic flights with a $95 fee each way. They also must be vaccinated and remain in carriers throughout the flight. Emotional support animals have been a hot button issue in the last year, and you can read more about the ban from USA Today.



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