Small dog on board of airplain looking out the window at the clouds while traveling, selective focus

What Is Air Carrier Access Act?

2 min read

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 has become the next step in the legal protection of disabled people`s rights. This document is the answer to the discriminating policies of major airlines, and it is truly a number one law for those who want to travel with the emotional support animal.

What is ACAA about?

Sunset view of airplane on airport runway

The main idea of this act is to provide a legal support to people with disabilities and to avoid discrimination by air carriers. The document acts on a federal level so it is a guideline for all the airlines that work within the USA. However, keep in mind that it does not have a universal power, so for the world-around flights, there might be different regulations.

What flights does it cover?

The most popular question among travelers is what flights the Air Carrier Access Act covers. Is it relevant only to the ones that have both a departure and the arrival points within the USA?

Fortunately, the answer is NO. There are three kinds of flights ACAA covers:

  1. the ones that depart from the USA (disregarding the country of arrival);
  2. the ones that arrive to the USA (disregarding the country of departure);
  3. flights operated by the US carriers.

ACAA and emotional support animals: where is the link?

traveler woman and her dog at the airport

The Air Carrier Access Act is one of the main legal regulations for ESA owners. It is because an emotional support animal is the registered treatment for people with emotional disabilities (the category that is covered by ACAA).

So, what are the main rights of emotional support animals and their owners under the ACAA?

  1. Emotional support animals can accompany their owners to the plane.
  2. They can sit on its owner`s lap in the plane cabin during the whole flight.

Though, keep in mind that all these rules only apply to the registered emotional support animals. In order to certify your pet as the ESA, you need to get an ESA letter from the local therapist or the specialized online service like here.

Can an airline deny my ESA?

Yes, according to ACAA, there are case when the airline can deny your ESA on board. They are the following:

  1. the size of weight of an animal makes it difficult to take it on board;
  2. the animal is a threat to other passengers (that is why exotic animals are usually not allowed in a cabin);
  3. the animal can damage the plane cabin;
  4. it demonstrates the aggressive or provoking behavior.


If you are going to travel with an ESA, make sure you contact the chosen airline in advance and learn about its specific regulation regarding the emotional support animal. Moreover, some airlines might require additional documentation, so you will have time to gather it in advance.

The other thing to remember is to train your ESA behave in public places. If it is your pet`s first visit to the crowdy place, it can get frightened and demonstrate aggression, so make sure to prepare long before the flight. Good luck!

by GetESA

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ESA Laws and Regulations