As you know, last Friday Delta Airlines announced changes to their policy for customers traveling with Service Animals. As promised, we are following up with you to share our official position and action plan.
Guide Dogs for the Blind understands the airlines’ desire to address the ever increasing challenges presented by passengers flying with animals and falsely representing them as Service Animals. Guide Dogs for the Blind believes that these animals who have not been trained to behave appropriately in public pose a threat to the safety of guide dog teams and other passengers. However, it is the position of Guide Dogs for the Blind that the proposed policy change at Delta is in direct violation of the Air Carrier Access Act. The new regulations are discriminatory in nature and cause an undue hardship on individuals who are disabled and who travel with the assistance of a properly trained service dog.
– Requiring service dog handlers to present a health certificate for their dogs 48 hours prior to flying is discriminatory as it does not allow for last-minute or emergency travel. Further, it presents an undue hardship on the handler as no other passengers have to submit similar paperwork prior to travel. The Air Carrier Access Act clearly states that passengers with disabilities do not need to let airlines know about their disability prior to flying.
– Requiring persons with service dogs to check in “at the counter” is discriminatory as it does not allow equal access to all services provided by the airline including curbside and online check-in. The Air Carrier Access Act was designed to ensure that persons with disabilities would have free and equal access to the same services as other passengers.
Further, the proposed policy does not directly address the issue of ill-behaved animals and their negative impact on the travel experience for people of all abilities.
Guide Dogs for the Blind is requesting a meeting with Delta airlines as well as a consortium of other airlines to discuss this matter further and to help them develop a solution that does not infringe on the rights of our clients and other handlers of legitimate service animals. If you are also concerned about this new policy we encourage you to let your voice be heard. You can file a complaint at https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint, or by phone at : (202) 366-2220.
We will keep you posted on any further developments.
Christine Benninger, CEO