US Service Animals – Virgin America’s Pet Policy

As liberating as visiting a new place can be, traveling – especially via air, can be particularly overwhelming. For people who rely for help on their service animals, or those who just want to take their pets along, flying with their trusted companion can be a difficult task. Luckily, a large number of airline carriers, in the United States and beyond, facilitate their fliers by allowing them to bring on board their furry friends through strict, but extensive, pet policies and requirements.

One such pet friendly airline is Virgin America.

Here’s an in-depth look at Virgin America’s pet policy to evaluate their services for people who need to fly, to and from places, with their ESA’s accompanying them.

Virgin America’s Pet Policy Breakdown

Virgin America is often touted as one of the better, pet friendly airline carriers out there. However, as with every other airline, there are certain rules and requirements which need to be followed in case a passenger wishes to bring on board their pets, service animals, or emotional support animals.

For service animals, a proof of animal’s status is mandatory before the flight. The passenger can provide the following as proof:

  • A harness as well as a harness tag with appropriate markings worn by the animal
  • An identification card
  • A credible verbal statement of the passenger

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) previously allowed all emotional support animals in the cabin of a plane for free with a certified letter. However, the ACAA has since been updated and unfortunately ESAs are treated as regular pets on airplanes now. This means that airlines can charge a pet fee, and can make your ESA ride in the cargo if the animal can’t be accommodated in the plane cabin. Service animals, on the other hand, will always be allowed in the cabin for free.

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The other prerequisites for all pets to travel through Virgin Airlines include:

  • The animal must be well behaved
  • The animal must not pose any risk or cause unnecessary inconvenience to other passengers or airline staff
  • The animal must occupy only the designated space provided within the aircraft
  • The pet cannot block or restrict access to an emergency exit or aisle
  • Service animals are, with proper proof of identification, allowed within the cabin without a pet carrier.
  • If all prerequisites are met, the service animal may travel without travel fee or any other additional charges
  • Animals which may pose a threat to public, passenger, or personnel safety are not admissible on board the aircraft. These animals include reptiles such as snakes, spiders, or rodents of any category.
  • For passengers traveling to and from Hawaii, there is a need to acquire an up to date health certificate that states a full assessment of the pet’s health. This health certificate must not have been issued more than two weeks prior to the date of flight. It is only valid for 30 days – if the return date from the Hawaiian destination extends beyond the 30 day period, a new health certificate may need to be issued before the flight.

Tips to Fly Safely With Your Pet through Virgin America

If you’re planning to fly via Virgin America with your service pet or ESA, there are a few things that can greatly facilitate your travel, allowing you to enjoy a safer, smoother journey.

Call The Airline to Confirm Their Prerequisites

Even if you are a frequent flier, prerequisites and policies are subject to change for every airline. Especially if you are planning on bringing a service animal, it is highly recommended that you call the airline beforehand to discuss the necessary conditions, as well as to request any special seating adjustment, should it be required.

Come Prepared

To ensure stress free flying with your pet, it’s best to come prepared beforehand in order to maintain your pet’s comfort during the flight. We’re talking blankets, toys, a collapsible bowl for water, pee pads or travel diapers and motion sickness medicine as needed.

Exercise Your Pet Before The Flight

It’s highly recommended that you exercise your pet before the flight. Pets, especially dogs get agitated and unnecessarily excited when they don’t get their required movement space. Be sure to give them ample exercise and freedom before the flight so that they’re somewhat calm and comfortable in the duration.

Avoid New Treats For Your Pet

It’s inadvisable to introduce your pet to new treats right before traveling. You cannot guarantee how your pet may react to a new treat, so it’s best to avoid giving them anything they’re not comfortable with before flying.

Don’t Feed Your Pet Right Before the Flight

To avoid any mishaps on the flight, it’s advisable not to feed your ESA for a minimum of a couple of hours before the flight. Withhold food and water from your pet right before the flight, only offering small amounts of ice or water during the flight, in order to avoid dehydration.