Delta has adopted a new policy after an 84% increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals during 2016-2017.
The incidents involved animals biting, urinating, defecating, and in some cases attacking passengers, leaving serious injuries.
Delta’s service and support animal policy bans service and support animals under four months of age regardless of flight length as well as a ban on emotional support animals on flights longer than eight hours.
“These updates support Delta’s commitment to safety and also protect the rights of customers with documented needs — such as veterans with disabilities — to travel with trained service and support animals,” said John Laughter, Delta senior vice president of corporate safety, security and compliance.
Delta cited a widely reported attack by a 50-pound dog that left a passenger in the adjacent seat needing 28 stitches and so much blood on the nearby seats that the seats had to be replaced, not to mention the costly lawsuits.
Delta carried approximately 700 service or support animals daily in 2017.
“Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more. Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs,” the airline wrote on its blog in 2018, when it first started cracking down on the range of emotional support animals it allowed. “In 2017, Delta employees reported increased acts of aggression (barking, growling, lunging and biting) from service and support animals, behavior not typically seen in these animals when properly trained and working.”
Delta’s policy is more lenient than the one instituted by Alaska Airlines, effective Jan. 1.