Flying with a pet for free is easier than you think

Flying with a pet for free is easier than you think

Originally reported by News Channel 3 Memphis, November 15, 2017

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Forget a lack of leg room, the next time you fly you might have to share part of your row with a large dog or even a farm animal.

Those in the airline industry say the cabins are getting crowded with companion pets and say most of the people bringing them on board don't really need them.

"Dogs, we've seen monkeys, we`ve seen birds. There was a turkey on a delta flight once before," said Eric Goldman.

Passengers haven't been shy about sharing pictures of some of the emotional pets on board. There is even a hash tag on Twitter #ESAoftheday.

Eric Goldman travels about once a week for work and is one of those who has been documenting the ESA's.

Goldman has a pet allergy and says it appears animals have more rights than humans.

"The rules are the dog has to sit at the feet of the passenger in their space. So, a lot of these dogs are intruding in other passengers area as well as being out in the aisle and getting in the way of the flight attendants," said Goldmann.

The Associations of Flight Attendants has noticed the increase in furry and feathered over the last few years.

"Noah's ark on our planes that is what we are hearing and flight attendants are saying it's out of control out there, " said Sara Nelson.

So much so, union president Sara Nelson says it's become a safety issue.

" Flight attendants have had to de-escalate more than ever before with conflict between passengers and this is one more irritant, " said Nelson.

Thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act anyone can fly with an emotional support animals for free. You just need a letter from a licensed medical professional.

As we found out it easier than you think.

My dog Finely has flown before as a paid passenger in a carrier under the seat, but it only took a few minutes on the internet to make her an ESA.

I logged on to one of the many ESA sites, paid a few, answered a few questions about stress and days later had a note from a family doctor in California who said I had a psychological disorder and needed Finely with me in the cabin of the plane.

We were also able to buy a service dog vest off Amazon-- no questions asked.

"It really is frustrating for us because we have had to work so hard for this," said Melissa Essary.

A couple of years ago Melissa and Brad Essary got a service dog from the group 'Retrieving Freedom' for their son Korben who has autism.

Jet keeps Korben from running off and calms him down when he has a meltdown.

"Training is very extensive for every single dog and of course Jet went through it like a year and then not only him, but we had to get through training," said Brad Essary.

The couple says the fake service animals are making it harder for people with legitimate service dogs to be accepted in public.

"It's not fair for people to try to take advantage of that and get a free ride," said Melissa Essary

The Association of Flight Attendants agrees and say the DOT is considering new guidelines to cut down on some of the abuse and make air travel safer for everyone.

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