Nothing beats airline travel for its speed and convenience. So it’s not surprising that many pet parents are choosing to bring their birds along with them. The good news is that it’s absolutely safe to fly with your pet, says Dr. Katherine Quesenberry, head of avian and exotic pets at New York City’s Animal Medical Center.
If you’re flying with your pet bird, however, you need to prepare. Not every airline allows parrots to come onboard with their parents. And even when you can carry on your bird, all airlines have restrictions on when and where you can travel. Plus you’ll have to pay—many airlines charge extra fees that can set you back on average $100 per flight per pet.
Here is everything you need to know about flying with your pet bird so both of you can have a safe and happy trip.
Flying With Your Pet Bird Prep
1. Choose a large-enough carrier.
You want your feathered friend to be comfy, so choose a travel cage that’s specifically for birds and one that contains a perch. That way, your bird will have something to sit on, which makes your bird more comfortable, says Quesenberry. If you’re taking your bird into the cabin, you’ll need a soft-sided carrier that can stow under the seat during takeoff and landings.
Whatever type of carrier you get, make sure your bird gets used to it a few weeks before you travel, Quesenberry recommends. Let your pet explore their new cage and give them plenty of treats and praise for going inside. It helps if you put in a favorite toy or foods to entice them further.
If your bird is stressed whenever they goes in their carrier, then covering a clear-sided one may help calm her down once you’re onboard the plane. Although sedatives are generally not recommended, talk to your vet about them, especially if you have a cockatoo or other species of bird who screams a lot.
2. Go to the vet.
Another reason to take your pet for a checkup: To make sure your bird is travel-ready. Many airlines require recent health certificates when you’re flying with your pet bird—even on domestic flights.
3. Check airline regulations.
Even airlines that allow parrots onboard may have blackout dates where no pets are allowed (like holidays) or strict rules about the size of carriers and how many pets you can bring onboard. If you already looked at the airline’s policies when you booked your flight, double-check before you go to make sure the rules haven’t changed.
4. Pack food and water.
You want your pet bird to be well-fed and hydrated on the trip. Because water bowls can spill, Quesenberry suggests putting some fruit in the cage to keep your bird hydrated, like apples or grapes.
Flying with Your Pet Bird In Cargo
If you can’t bring your bird onboard with you, they’ll have to fly cargo. And that’s where it gets tricky, because you must work with the airlines to make sure your pet is safe, says Quesenberry.
First, make sure the cargo is temperature controlled, and check the temperature for the hold area, where most pets fly. Next, check to see what the airline’s rules are for transporting your parrot to the plane. Some airlines will load pets last—and unload them first—so they’re not waiting around on the tarmac while baggage is being loaded and unloaded.
No matter when your pet is loaded, try not to travel during the hottest or coldest months. (Some airlines will even refuse to transport your pet bird in cargo during those times.) If you must travel during summer, book early morning or late evening flights when the weather is cooler.
Last, but not least, take a direct flight. Your pet bird will thank you.
Airlines That Allow Pet Birds to Fly in the Cabin
Even pet-friendly airlines have restrictions for the size of the carrier and the size of your bird (most allow small household birds). Certain routes might be off-limits, and blackout dates might exist. Please consult with the airline before you book your flight.
Airlines That Don’t Allow You to Fly With Your Pet Bird
- Jet Blue
- American Airlines
By: Linda Rodgers