Emotional support animals face restrictions in Southwest airlines, Royal Caribbean cruises, reports say

Anyone requiring an emotional support animal may need a few moments with that pet now: Airlines and cruise ship operators have announced tighter restrictions on such animals traveling by air and sea.

Southwest Airlines said Tuesday it is limiting the emotional support animals (ESAs) allowed on its flights to only dogs and cats, while Royal Caribbean is prohibiting all such creatures, reports said.

That means no emotional support ducks, peacocks or hamsters.

Southwest's policy requires that all such dogs and cats be restrained by a leash or kept in a carrier, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Dallas-based airline will also limit each passenger to one emotional support animal, according to the report.

For service animals that are trained to assist with passengers' physical disabilities, the carrier will accept dogs, cats and miniature horses, the paper reported.

“We want to make sure our guidelines are clear and easy to understand while providing customers and employees a comfortable and safe experience,” said Steve Goldberg, Southwest's senior vice president of operations and hospitality, according to the Times.

JETBLUE CHANGING EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL POLICY, ADDING REQUIRMENTS FOR ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION

Southwest's new policy, which takes effect Sept. 17, requires travelers with an emotional support animal to present a letter from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional "attesting that the passenger must fly with the animal," the Times reported.

Several other airlines, including Alaska, Delta, JetBlue and United have also adopted stricter rules on pets boarding planes.

For travel by sea, cruise ships are tightening restrictions on ESAs, with Royal Caribbean prohibiting all emotional support animals aboard its international ships effective immediately, according to Miami's WFOR-TV and the Royal Caribbean blog, an unaffiliated industry site.

The first in the Quantum Ultra Class of Royal Caribbean ships. Accommodating 4,246 guests at double occupancy, she will be the largest and most expensive ship in Asia when she sails from Shanghai, China in June 2019.

The first in the Quantum Ultra Class of Royal Caribbean ships. Accommodating 4,246 guests at double occupancy, she will be the largest and most expensive ship in Asia when she sails from Shanghai, China in June 2019. (PRNewsfoto/Royal Caribbean International)

"We are updating the policy to differentiate emotional support animals from service animals that are trained and certified to perform a function for a person with a disability," Royal Caribbean said in a statement, according to the blog.

The cruise ship company also said it's "important to us that all our guests enjoy their vacation, which is why we put into practice this new policy," adding that the policy for service animals traveling with guests who have a disability would remain the same.

Reservations of travelers with ESAs noted on bookings prior to July 30 would be allowed to sail, the report said.

Other cruise lines Norwegian and Carnival also do not allow emotional support animals onboard, but does permit trained service animals, MarketWatch reported.