Southwest Airlines acaba de realizar un cambio largamente esperado y parece el fin de una era

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Esta es una historia sobre Southwest Airlines poniéndose al día con sus competidores.

Breve historia: Hace tan solo unos años, uno de los principales desafíos que enfrentan Southwest y otras aerolíneas era la proliferación de pasajeros que insistían en llevar animales a bordo con apoyo emocional.

Las aerolíneas no tenían otra opción en este asunto. Las regulaciones federales permitían que las personas fueran escoltadas por animales de servicio en aviones, pero no definían «animal de servicio».

¿El resultado? Los pasajeros trajeron a bordo «pavos confortables, zarigüeyas deslizantes conocidas como planeadores del azúcar, serpientes, arañas y más» como animales de apoyo emocional un informe de la industria.

Esto, a su vez, provocó un «aumento» en los incidentes de «ladridos, mordiscos, mordiscos, gruñidos y peleas» en las cabinas de pasajeros, según el mismo informe.

La semana pasada, sin embargo, Southwest Airlines dio el paso de gigante al prohibir la entrada a la mayoría de los llamados animales de apoyo emocional en sus cabinas.

«A partir del 1 de marzo de 2021», dijo Southwest en un comunicado, «la aerolínea solo aceptará perros de servicio entrenados para viajar y ya no transportará animales con apoyo emocional», agregó:

Con esta revisión, Southwest Airlines solo permitirá que los perros de servicio que hayan sido entrenados individualmente para realizar trabajos o tareas en beneficio de una persona calificada con una discapacidad viajen con el cliente.

Los tipos de discapacidades incluyen discapacidades físicas, sensoriales, psiquiátricas, intelectuales u otras discapacidades mentales. Solo se aceptan perros (incluidos los del servicio de salud mental). No se aceptará ninguna otra especie como animal de servicio entrenado.

Por supuesto, el suroeste no está solo con esta nueva política. Como escribí anteriormente, American, Delta y United Airlines, junto con aerolíneas más pequeñas, cambiaron sus reglas a principios de este mes.

En ese entonces, Southwest me dijo que no había cambios que anunciar. Al menos un informe sugirió que algunos viajeros esperaban que el suroeste, «conocido por su espíritu independiente, no se uniera a la prohibición». Desafortunadamente, ahora se han puesto al día con los demás.

Todo esto es en respuesta a la revisión del gobierno de EE. UU. De sus propias regulaciones en diciembre que introdujo una definición de animales de servicio, permitió a las aerolíneas exigir pruebas de que realmente estaban capacitadas y permitió que las aerolíneas usen animales para ser clasificados como mascotas con apoyo emocional.

Por supuesto, algunas personas necesitan con razón animales de servicio reales. Todavía está permitido.

Sin embargo, este cambio de regla tenía como objetivo facilitar la vida de los auxiliares de vuelo que tenían que lidiar con los animales, incluidas las situaciones en las que los pasajeros y los auxiliares de vuelo eran mordidos o heridos por ellos. (Ejemplos: Aquí, aquí y Aquí.)

Ahora sé que todo se ve como hace cinco crisis, por así decirlo. Es un gran momento estar en la industria de la aviación ahora.

La semana pasada tuvimos muchos otros desarrollos: por ejemplo, el CDC exigió que todos los pasajeros (y personas en otros medios de transporte público) usen máscaras, lo que con suerte debería aliviar los hombros de los asistentes de vuelo.

Agregue a esto las enormes pérdidas que la mayoría de las aerolíneas han tenido recientemente (Southwest tuvo su primera pérdida anual en casi 50 años), el debate sobre el bloqueo de los asientos del medio y, como dijo el presidente de Southwest, Tom Nealon, la perspectiva de una « Rodeo de cabras «si el gobierno requería que las aerolíneas hicieran pruebas de Covid a los pasajeros antes de los vuelos domésticos.

Todo esto hace que sea un poco mejor para llegar al final (aparentemente) de la historia animal de apoyo emocional.

Un punto más: no soy consciente de que este problema haya tenido alguna vez un impacto real en los resultados de las aerolíneas. Los pasajeros que querían volar podrían haberse quejado, pero no era como si pudieran ir a otra aerolínea que tuviera reglas más estrictas. Todos tenían que seguir la ley federal.

Pero aquí las aerolíneas podrían trabajar juntas, en última instancia, para el beneficio del personal que no quería supervisar este problema en todas sus demás funciones. Tomó años resolverlo, y si usted es un líder en una industria, vale la pena tomar esta lección en serio.

Cuando se trata de promover cambios que faciliten la vida de sus empleados, apéguese a ello, demuéstreles que está de su lado y sea el tipo de líder que intenta resolver los problemas donde puede.

Las opiniones expresadas aquí por los columnistas de Inc.com son las suyas propias, no las de Inc.com.

That in turn led to a "surge" in incidents of "barking, biting, nipping, growling, and fighting" in passenger cabins, according to the same report.

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Last week, however, Southwest Airlines took the big step of basically banning most so-called emotional support animals from their cabins.

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"Effective March 1, 2021," Southwest said in a statement, "the airline will accept only trained service dogs for travel and will no longer transport emotional support animals," adding:

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With this revision, Southwest Airlines will only allow service dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability to travel with the Customer.

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The types of disability include a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability and only dogs will be accepted (including those for psychiatric service) -- no other species will be accepted as a trained service animal. 

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Now, of course Southwest is not out on its own with this new policy. As I wrote previously, American, Delta, and United Airlines, along with smaller airlines, changed their rules earlier this month.

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Back then, Southwest told me it didn't have any changes to announce. At least one report suggested some travelers hoped that Southwest, "known for its independent spirit, might not join in" on the ban. Alas, now they've caught up to the others.

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It all comes in response to U.S. government's revision of its own rules in December, establishing a definition for service animals, allowing airlines to require proof that they're actually trained, and giving airlines the option to classify emotional support animals as pets.

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Of course, some people legitimately need real service animals. They're still allowed.

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But this rule change should make life easier for flight attendants, who had to deal with the animals -- including situations where passengers and flight attendants were bitten or otherwise hurt by them. (Examples:  here,  here and  here.)

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Now, I know this whole thing seems like five crises ago, so to speak. It is one heck of a time to be in the airline industry right now. 

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Just in this past week, we've have had so many other developments: the CDC requiring all airline passengers (and people on other forms of public transportation) to wear masks, for example, which should hopefully remove some burdens from flight attendants' shoulders.

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Add to that the giant losses that most airlines posted recently (Southwest had its first annual loss in almost 50 years), the debate over whether to block middle seats, and as Southwest president Tom Nealon put it, the prospect of a " goat rodeo" if the government were to require airlines to test passengers for Covid prior to domestic flights.

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All of which makes it feel a bit better to reach the end (apparently) of the emotional support animal story.

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One more point: I'm unaware that there was ever any real impact on the airlines' bottom line because of this issue. Passengers who were going to fly might have complained, but it wasn't as if they could go to another airline that had stricter rules; they all had to follow federal law. 

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But here, the airlines were able to work together, ultimately for the benefit of employees who didn't want to have to police this issue among all their other responsibilities. It took years to resolve, and if you're a business leader in any industry, I think the lesson is worth taking to heart.

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When it comes to advocating for changes to make your employees' lives easier, keep at it, show them you're on their side, and be the type of leader who seeks to solve problems where you can.

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