Delta is upholding a rule it imposed just last year: no pit bulls.
Pit bulls remain banned from boarding any Delta Air Lines flight, according to the company, which enacted the mandate in 2018. The company says the move was provoked by a sharp increase in onboard animal incidents and attacks.
In citing dozens of cases last year alone, the company says they still haven't figured out how to ensure passengers’ safety around pit bulls.
“We will never compromise on safety, and we will do what is right for the health and safety of our customers and employees,” said John Laughter, senior vice president of corporate safety, security and compliance in the company statement. “We continue to work with the DOT to find solutions that support the rights of customers who have legitimate needs to travel with trained animals.”
Delta says it had more than 40 cases of aggressive animal behavior on planes in 2018, a year after a Delta passenger was allegedly mauled so badly in 2017 that he needed 28 stitches, although the dog was a lab-pointer mix. The alleged attack left the Alabama man bleeding so badly, he had to be removed from the plane, according to The Washington Post. The incident prompted a negligence lawsuit against Delta Air Lines and the dog's owner.
The alleged attacks pushed the airline to crack down on which animals they allow on planes.
The decision, however, directly contradicts guidance from the federal government who says banning specific breeds is a violation of regulations covering service animals.
"The Enforcement Office intends to use available resources to ensure that dogs as a species are accepted for transport," the U.S. Department of Transportation said in an August statement.
Kitty Block, president of the Humane Society of the United States, called the ban discriminatory and misguided. The American Veterinary Medical Association says any dog can bite, and regulations aimed at specific breeds aren’t effective.
The company says it continuously reviews and enhances its policies and procedures for animals onboard as part of its commitment to customer and employee safety.
“The safety of our people is paramount. In 2018 alone, more than 40 instances of aggressive animal behavior occurred aboard a Delta aircraft,” said Allison Ausband, senior vice president for in-flight service. “Our 25,000 flight attendants are my greatest responsibility, and I will do everything I can to keep them safe and send them home to their families in the same condition they came to work.”
The move accompanies a mandate by the company discontinuing its 8-hour flight limit for emotional support animals.
Delta says it worked closely alongside the Department of Transportation and cross-divisional business groups in order to develop a solution to protect the health and safety of those onboard while also allowing emotional support animals to fly on longer flights.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.