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Southwest will ban emotional support animals in March, joining American, United, Delta

When the U.S. Department of Transportation gave airlines the go-ahead to ban emotional support animals in December, Southwest Airlines didn't immediately join its competitors in changing its policies.

That gave some travelers hope the nation's largest domestic carrier, known for its independent spirit, might not join in. As recently as 10 days ago, the airline was telling travelers on Twitter that it was still reviewing its policy.

The airline dashed any hopes on Monday, announcing it will ban emotional support animals beginning March 1. Until now, they qualified as traditional service animals. The only animals that will be classified as service animals will be trained service dogs with documentation.

“We applaud the Department of Transportation’s recent ruling that allows us to make these important changes to address numerous concerns raised by the public and airline employees regarding the transport of untrained animals in the cabins of aircraft,” Steve Goldberg, Southwest's senior vice president of operations and hospitality, said in a statement. “Southwest Airlines continues to support the ability of qualified individuals with a disability to bring trained service dogs for travel and remains committed to providing a positive and accessible travel experience for all of our customers with disabilities.”

Southwest said travelers with reservations beyond March 1 should contact the airline for more information.

Passengers can still bring on small animals (dogs and cats) on flights within the United States for a $95 fee each way, and they have to be vaccinated and stay in a carrier during the flight.

Critics of emotional support animals often argued that many passengers were bringing their pets on the plane and classifying them as emotional support animals to dodge the fees.

This article originally appeared on USA Today

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