Emotional Support Animals Take to the Skies
Can flying with your pet ease anxiety?
As any nervous flyer knows, there are a few tried-and-true methods for dealing with pre-trip panic—and no, self-medicating at the airport bar probably isn’t the best strategy. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends a list of concrete steps to overcome a fear of flying, skills learned in cognitive behavioral therapy can help manage anxiety, and prescription meds can be a lifesaver, but there’s an additional option to consider, and it’s a warm, fuzzy one.
Thanks to a 2003 update to the Department of Transportation’s policy regarding service animals, pets that offer emotional support to people with disabilities are cleared for takeoff, and more travelers than ever are looking to furry friends for in-flight comfort and support. Though airline policies differ, all emotional support animals (ESAs) must be well-behaved (pigs that defecate in the aisles are decidedly unwelcome) and accompanied by recent documentation from a medical professional (companies such as ESA Doctors will provide this service for a fee). As conditions vary, check airline websites before you book, and be sure to consider the requirements for your destination—places like Hawaii, the U.K, Japan, and New Zealand have restrictions on entry and exit. Here’s what to expect from the big six:
American Airlines allows emotional support animals at no charge, as long as they fit on your lap, at your feet, or under the seat, and don’t block the aisle. Forget about that extra legroom, though: For security reasons, you won’t be able to sit in an exit row with a service animal in tow. You’ll need to submit an authorization form or provide a doctor’s letter to reservations at least 48 hours before your flight—if the airline can’t validate your documentation, your companion may have to fly in a kennel.
Delta welcomes ESAs in the cabin, but that doesn’t mean your trip will turn into a Noah’s ark reenactment: The airline bans hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, spiders, sugar gliders, reptiles, non-household birds such as chickens, dirty or smelly animals, and anything with a tusk or a hoof. And even if you’re alone in your row, flight attendants will expect your animal to travel in the space below you—pets aren’t allowed in seats designed for human cargo. Passengers with disabilities are entitled to seating accommodations, so make sure you get your assignment when you book; you’ll have to present documentation on letterhead from a licensed medical or mental-health professional upon check-in (a digital version is ok, as long as the pertinent details can be verified), and you’ll be entitled to preboarding if you meet the requirements and give the gate agent the heads-up first.
Because of public health and safety concerns, JetBlue will also deny boarding to passengers with unusual animals such as snakes, rodents, and birds with unclipped wings, but as long as your ESA doesn’t fall in those categories, and you call and advise customer service of your animal before flying, you should be in the clear. JetBlue airport personnel can request your documentation at any time, though, so keep it on hand—a hard copy on your doctor’s letterhead and an electronic version in a non-editable format (like a PDF) are both fine, but email or Word documents won’t be accepted.
If you’re booking a Southwest flight online, you can alert the airline of your intention to travel with an ESA via the site’s traveler-info page; you can also notify customer service after the fact with a quick call or click. Along with the usual suspects mentioned above, Southwest won’t accept therapy dogs for transportation, and all animals must be positioned so they don’t block evacuation paths in the event of an emergency—so, either on the floor or on your lap, but definitely not in the exit row. (Note: If you plan to travel with your ESA on your lap, it must meet the somewhat ambiguous requirement of being smaller than a two-year-old kid.) Bring current documentation on your doctor’s letterhead, and brace for a few fact-finding questions at the airport—though employees can’t ask about the specifics of your disability, they can and probably will enquire as to what assistance your animal provides.
As long as they sit at your feet without sticking out in the aisle, ESAs with the proper documentation are accepted on United flights. At a minimum, you’ll want to give the airline 48 hours advance notice, but it’d be wise to allow more time—the airline’s accessibility desk has to receive and validate your documentation prior to travel, including contacting your mental health professional for verification, and if they can’t validate, you’ll have to transport your animal as a pet and pay the relevant fees.
Virgin also requires recent documentation, such as a letter from a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker, to substantiate disability-related claims for an onboard ESA. Service animals don’t have to be in a pet carrier, but they do have to be confined to your own space and can’t be in a seat or obstruct aisles. And as always, leave the pet snake at home—no reptiles, rodents, or other animals that present health risks are allowed onboard.
That's How She Rolls: Rashida Jones Designs a Cute Luggage Collection You'll Love
Rashida Jones knows a thing or two about globe-trotting. In addition to fulfilling the press-junket duties required of an in-demand actor, writer, and Emmy-nominated producer, the Angie Tribeca star serves as a voice for the International Rescue Committee, visiting refugees in camps in Lebanon and Thailand and in cities such as San Diego and New York as they put down roots. Her time on the road inspired a desire to design luggage that would help relieve the pressures of traveling—and add a measure of whimsy to the process. “Anybody that’s been to a major international airport in the last five years can attest to the fact that it can be really grueling to travel,” she says. “I loved the idea of being able to bring some magic into something banal.” Enter: her new collaboration with Away, the minimalist brand beloved by models, actors, and social-media darlings alike for its lightweight, tough-shelled, stylish suitcases. (Perhaps the ubiquitous millennial-pink edition popped up in your Instagram feed?) Cleared to fit the overhead bins of all major airlines’ planes, each Away carry-on comes equipped with USB ports powered by a rechargeable, removable, FAA-, TSA-, and DOT-approved battery; the suitcase’s polycarbonate exterior, here available in a trio of muted pastels, also comes standard. As batteries aren’t allowed in checked baggage, the bigger versions have other perks—namely, an interior compression system, a built-in lock, and, Jones’s favorite, a removable laundry bag. Rounding out the line are flexible packing cubes in coordinating colors (Marie Kondo disciples, rejoice!) and, perhaps the star of the show, a vegan tote that can slip over the handle of a carry-on when you’re not wearing it crossbody. Jones personally designed the bag for easy access to the necessities, from water bottle to plane ticket. “I wanted to create the perfect tote that was just big enough to fit the smallest computer, but not so big that it was going to break your back when you picked it up, or fall off your luggage when placed on top,” she says. “It was about completing the experience of having an efficient travel day.” At $225 for the basic carry-on, this luggage doesn’t come cheap, but Away delivers value by eliminating retailers’ markup and selling directly to consumers, backing its “unbreakable” promise with a lifetime guarantee (batteries not included—those are subject to a two-year warranty). For Jones, whose bucket list currently includes South America and Australia, the collab provides a comprehensive travel experience. “I love that you can use everything in the collection in several different ways,” she says. “For me, it’s just about having enough components that you can put together so that you feel like you’re being taken care of during your trip.” Sounds like a bargain.
When a Hurricane or Wildfire Damages Your Vacation Destination
We have watched in disbelief as hurricanes have battered the Gulf Coast, Florida, and much of the Caribbean, and wildfires have ravaged the Columbia River Gorge, Glacier National Park, and parts of Los Angeles. While reporting on those disasters in detail is beyond our mission, we can share a few pieces of advice for those who have flights, lodgings, or cruises booked in the areas hardest hit: Contact your airline via phone, email, or Twitter. Airlines are stepping up with more flexible policies in the face of natural disasters, sometimes including waived change/cancellation fees, waived fare differences for changed flights, or refunds for canceled flights. We have found that airline customer service can be especially responsive to private messages on Twitter. What to ask: Is my flight still scheduled? What options do I have to cancel or postpone? Contact cruise lines and package tour companies after reviewing your trip-cancellation policy. Often, cruise lines and package tour companies offer the option of at “cancel for any reason” policy, which can simplify your decision-making. What to ask: Is my cruise or tour still scheduled to go forward? Do I have a "cancel for any reason" policy? Check on hotel status via social media or by calling directly. Hotel staff will have first-hand information about conditions on the ground. But bear in mind that in the days directly following a natural disaster, customer service may have to take a back seat to survival and repair. What to ask: Will the hotel be open on the dates I’m scheduled to stay? What can I expect when I arrive? What options do I have to cancel or postpone? (For hotels, of course, canceling is usually not a problem unless your reservation is within a few days.)
The Best Time to Buy Thanksgiving Plane Tickets Is...
We get asked all the time, “When’s the best time to buy airline tickets?” So you can imagine, as the busy holiday travel season approaches, the urgency with which that question gets asked only increases. THE BEST OF TIMES IS NOW Our friends at the global travel search engine Skyscanner have gotten out ahead of the holiday rush with some research that should help you nab a good deal. The prime time: Now. That is, starting this week, when Skyscanner predicts that travelers can find savings of up to 4 percent and an average round-trip domestic airline ticket around $300. If your first reaction is, “Pounce!” you’re not far from wrong. BY THE NUMBERS If you’re wondering where Skyscanner got its crystal ball, the answer is: Data. By crunching last year’s Thanksgiving travel numbers, the ideal window of opportunity became clear. At the moment, the most popular Thanksgiving destinations are some tried-and-true travel favorites (many a far cry from Grandma’s pumpkin pie), including: Cancun, New York City, Orlando, London, and Paris. AIRFARE BOOKING SECRETS Skyscanner also shared some airfare-booking hacks that you can use this holiday season or any time to nab a deal: Expand flight searches to include other area airports.Tweak travel itinerary dates of departure and return.Set up price alerts to track the cost of a desired flight route and purchase a fare once the price drops.
How Not to Be a Jerk on a Plane
It seems as if hardly a week goes by without us hearing about another incident of bad behavior on an airplane. In January, for instance, a San Francisco-bound flight from Australia had to turn around and make an emergency stop in New Zealand because a man in a middle seat became irrepressibly enraged—swatting at the beverage cart, delivering a loud tirade to the other passengers, speaking offensively to a flight attendant. News reports say he was in the middle seat and was upset because people on either side were having a conversation over him. Every study and report that travel companies release indicates that air travel is on the rise. An increase in the number of aircrafts and routes and the boom in budget airlines make travel more accessible to everyone. That means flights are dependably more crowded, with jostling for overhead bin space. And with all the air traffic, waits on tarmacs can be epic. People are anxious about missing their connections and some are just anxious because, well, flying does that to people. Tensions are high for those reasons and others. It doesn’t take much to make a person snap. And anger and distress begets anger and distress. According to the International Air Transport Association, a trade organization, the number of violent in-flight confrontations is on the rise. A recent report says that the number of air rage incidents last year totaled 10,854, up 14 percent from 2014. Flight crews categorize air rage in one of several categories: belligerent behavior, emotional outburst, noncompliant behavior, and incidents involving drugs, alcohol, smoking, or sex. According to a report published in May 2016 by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, belligerent behavior and intoxication were more common in first class, whereas emotional outbursts, such as a panic attack, were more common among economy passengers. What’s more, an outburst by an economy class passenger is almost four times as likely to have an air rage incident if they’re on a plane with a first-class section. Interestingly, though, according to the study passengers are about two-times as likely to have an outburst if they boarded through first class (vs. boarding in the middle of the plane). But there are ways to keep calm at 36,000 feet and ensure that others around you do the same so that everyone arrives safe in mind and body. We checked in with Lizzie Post, president of The Emily Post Institute, host of the “Awesome Etiquette” podcast, and great-great-granddaughter of the legendary etiquette doyenne Emily Post. Here are her tips. WHAT EVERY AIRLINE PASSENGER SHOULD DO 1. If someone beside you is noticeably anxious because, for instance, of fear of flying, wait a minute to see if it passes, then ask the person if conversation helps or if he’d rather be left alone to breathe and relax. 2. If you feel endangered for any reason by a fellow passenger, quietly and patiently get up and speak to a flight attendant. Tell him or her the person next to you is agitated and you’re uncomfortable. Ask if there’s anything they can do to help your seatmate or, if it’s really bad, can you change seats. Post notes: “Be careful what level of responsibility you put on a flight attendant. They’re there to help. Let them know the situation, but speak in a calm and gentle way while seeking sympathy and support, rather than getting angry at them.” 3. When it comes to the nagging issue of reclining seats in the cramped surroundings of economy class, if the seat in front of you is reclined and it’s really interfering, instead of asking the passenger simply to put the seat up, it is preferable to first establish that you’re not being too self-centered and demanding and ask if, for instance, they can put the seat up for a little while, like, for instance, when the drinks are served. Remember, Post says, “it’ll all be over in a few hours and don’t forget that you can get up and move around to counteract how much time you spend with the person’s head in your face.” WHAT EVERY AIRLINE PASSENGER SHOULD NEVER DO 1. Whatever you do, do not address an irate stranger on your own. “Safety trumps etiquette,” Post insists. So rather than telling someone who’s upset that she needs to sit and be quiet, seek out help from a flight attendant. 2. To avoid rustling the feathers of a potential whiner in the seat behind you, don’t recline, if you can help it. You might call this the "martyr's approach" to a pleasant flight. 3. While you can always make a polite request if a person in front of you has the seat down, do not, under any circumstances, get ticked off if your request doesn’t work. “Every person purchased a seat and they’re allowed to use all its functions,” Post reminds.