Home Cruise Preparation Flying with Service Dogs

Service dogs are welcome on flights.

Service-dog owners have an extra concern when planning their trips and vacations. It’s not just a matter of figuring out your own affairs: You also have to take your service dog’s needs into consideration. Moreover, there’s the question of dealing with security, bathroom breaks and the flight itself with your companion by your side. Many people are worried about what the security process will be like and whether they’ll find themselves without their service animal at some point. However, if you’re well-prepared, you’re likely to find it’s much easier than you thought. Here’s a quick guide to what you can expect when traveling with your service dog:

The law
On the ground, you and your service dog are protected by the American Code of Regulations rules about service animals. Different laws apply in the air, however, since then you’re actually under the rules of the Air Carrier Access Act. Even though the rules are slightly different, they still allow you to travel with your service dog in the cabin, free of charge. Additionally, any equipment your dog needs (crates, for example) are considered medical needs, and can be flown in the cargo hold at no extra cost.

Airline-specific information
Because certain parts of the ACAA are open to interpretation, different airlines may have slightly different rules and regulations when it comes to service dogs. Generally, it’s a good idea to call ahead to see if there are any specific concerns you should take into consideration when flying with that airline. The customer service line should also give you a good idea of what to expect when you arrive at the gate and during boarding, as well as any forms of proof you’ll need.

TSA rules
The Transportation Security Administration website guarantees that you will not be asked to separate from your service dog at any point in the screening process. However, you and your dog may need to go through a longer screening process. When you arrive, let TSA personnel know you have a service dog with you. If they’re able to, they may move you forward in the line so you can begin the screening process sooner. You will be expected to maintain control of your companion the whole time.

Both you and your dog will need to go through the metal detector, which you can chose to do together or one at a time. Your dog will be patted down whether it sets the alarm off or not. TSA personnel cannot ask you to remove your service dog’s vest or other identifying clothing before, during or after this process.

You must go through screening again if you leave the airport for any reason, including if your dog needs to relieve itself. You can explain the situation and you may be moved to the front of the line: However, it’s best to have your dog go to the bathroom before you enter the airport. Some airports also have animal relief locations inside the terminal: Call ahead to see if this will be available.

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