Taking Birds on Planes: All You Need to Know.
Taking birds on planes probably seems like a daunting experience. Birds are often prone to getting stressed quite easily, so it’s important to ensure that your bird is as comfortable as possible. Fortunately, with the right preparation and knowledge, taking birds on planes can be a feasible and safe option.
In this article, we will provide essential tips, guidelines, and considerations to ensure a smooth and stress-free travel experience for both you and your feathered friend.
What bird species are allowed on planes?
Different airlines have specific rules on which bird species they allow on their planes, as either carry-on or as checked baggage. Generally, in order to fly, your bird must be a ‘household bird’.
Household birds include parrots, cockatoos, parakeets, cockatiels, budgies, canaries and finches, among others.
Most airlines won’t allow chickens or other poultry on their flights.
It is important to note that some birds are illegal in certain countries, states or territories. If travelling to or passing through one of these areas with a bird that is illegal, you will need to make prior arrangements to ensure you follow the state law.
For example – quaker parakeets are illegal to own in California, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wyoming.
Before travelling, check the rules for the country and territory that you are travelling to or through.
Taking birds on planes in cabin.
If you’re like me, your’d rather travel with your bird in the plane cabin. This way you can keep an eye on them and provide them with some comfort. Some airlines will allow flying with pet birds in cabin, however unfortunately many do not.
Your bird may be allowed to fly in the cabin with you, depending on the following:
- The airline you fly with: Many airlines allow small, household birds to fly in the cabin of the plane. Each airline has different rules, so check these with the airline you are flying with.
- The size of your bird: Some airlines allow birds to fly with their owners in the cabin, as long as their cage fits under the seat in front.
- Departure/destination: Many airlines only allow birds to fly in the cabin of the plane on certain routes.
When taking birds on planes in cabin, airlines usually require that your bird is odourless and quiet. If you have a particularly noisy bird and want to take him/her in the cabin, call your airline to find out whether it would be okay.
For more information: 13 Airlines That Allow Pet Birds on Planes [Policies & Prices]
Which airlines allow taking birds on planes in cabin?
The following airlines allow flying with pet birds in cabin:
The rules and regulations for each airline differ, so be sure check the specific pet policies for the airline that you are flying with.
For more information: 13 Airlines That Allow Pet Birds on Planes [Policies & Prices]
Can I take my bird on an international flight?
Possibly! It depends on which airline you will be flying with, where you are flying to, stopover countries, and how long your flight is.
Most airlines will not allow birds on extra long flights, as this puts them at a greater risk of harm and stress. In most cases, birds are only allowed on planes on domestic or short haul flights.
For example – Delta and Delta Cargo do not accept warm-blooded animals on flights with an average flight time of greater than 12 hours.
Additionally, the EU and the Ministry of Health have placed a total ban on the importation of birds on certain routes. Specifically, from Asia, Turkey, Russia, South Africa, Romania and the Balkan Peninsula.
Taking birds on planes: how to book.
For the most comfortable and safe flight for your bird, try to follow the following guidelines when booking your flight:
a) Book a direct, counter to counter, flight.
It is highly recommended that you only book a direct, counter to counter, flight for your bird. That way, the journey will be much less stressful and safer for your bird.
On a counter to counter flight, your bird will be taken directly to the ticket counter inside the airline terminal.
However, if your bird was put on a connecting flight, then he/she risks being left in a drafty, hot or cold cargo area in between flights.
In the case that you must take a connecting flight, consider shipping your bird on a separate, direct flight.
b) Avoid booking your bird on a flight during major holidays and on weekends.
During holiday periods, airports and flights will be much busier and noisier.
Not only will the extra noise be stressful, there would be a higher risk of delays.
c) Try not to travel during the hottest or coldest months.
Avoiding travelling during extreme conditions will minimise stress for your bird.
Some airlines will even refuse to transport your pet bird during times of extreme weather conditions.
d) Ship birds separately.
When stressed, birds have a tendency to pluck their feathers and gnaw things around them.
Therefore, birds shipped together are at risk of harming each other or fighting.
Even bonded pairs should be shipped separately, or in a separate compartment within the cage to avoid stress wounds.
What bird cage should I get and how should I prepare it?
The cage that you buy depends on which airline you and your bird are planning on flying with. Airlines have different restrictions when it comes to bird travel carriers. These also differ depending on whether your bird will be in the cabin or cargo area of the plane.
Bird travel cages in cabin.
Generally, if you bird is travelling in the cabin with you, airlines require that cages are small enough to fit under the seat in front of their owners.
For example – United Airlines states the following:
A pet traveling in cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times. The maximum dimensions for hard-sided kennels are 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches high (44 cm x 30 cm x 19 cm). The recommended maximum dimensions for soft-sided kennels are 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm). Soft-sided pet carriers may exceed these dimensions slightly, as they are collapsible and able to conform to under-seat space without blocking the aisle.
Your bird travel cage must be spacious enough to allow him/her to stretch and flap their wings, and climb around. Additionally, there must be room for a water dish, a food dish, a perch and a toy.
Bird travel cages for cargo.
The container must be spacious enough to allow your bird to stretch and flap their wings, and climb around.
However, it should not be too large that the bird(s) risk getting thrown around during air turbulence.
Get in contact with your airline to ask them about their crate requirements. Airline’s requirements are not always found on their websites.
Preparing your bird’s travel cage.
Label your birds cage.
Stick a note to the side with large letters saying ‘LIVE ANIMAL‘. Therefore, people will know to be extra careful when handling the cage.
Also, include your your name, contact information and destination, in case of emergency.
Install a perch no higher than 1 inch from the bottom.
This will prevent your bird from getting stuck underneath, if you experience some turbulence and he gets knocked off.
Perches screwed from the outside of the container, will allow airline staff to help your bird, if he/she does get stuck.
Cover the cage with lightweight, breathable fabric.
When taking birds on planes, always cover the cage. This will reduce stress as your birds won’t be able to see the commotion happening around them.
With this said, the container must still be able to be inspected be security.
Fill the bottom of the travel cage with food.
Depending on your bird’s diet, fill the bottom with seeds or pellets.
Not only will this provide them with nourishment during the flight, but it will work as a good bedding liner.
Also pop some pieces of fruit in a container on the floor. This will provide them with liquids during their flight
Add tie wraps to the sides and front door of the cage.
This is just for extra security.
If you have a large, strong bird like a parrot, avoid using plastic and ensure that the cage is extra strong and unbreakable.
Popular bird travel cages.
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What documents do I need to take birds on planes?
When taking birds on planes, you will usually need a health certificate. This will show that he/she is fit and healthy for travel.
Health certificates for your bird are only valid for 10 days. Therefore you will need to obtain it within 10 days before travel. Additionally, if you are planning on staying at your destination for over 10 days, you will require another health certificate for your return flight.
It’s also important to note that the requirements to return to your country may be different than those to leave it and travel to another.
Check the specific requirements of your airline, departure country and country/territory of arrival.
Taking birds on planes: Preparation is key.
Condition your bird.
It’s important that you condition your birds with stress-formula vitamins and minerals for at least a week before your flight. It’s also recommended that you also condition them for a week after your flight.
These will help reduce stress levels. Additionally, the vitamins and minerals will make them less prone to getting sick from the flight by averting bacterial infections that result from stress.
Avitec’s AviBios and Mardel’s Ornabac™ are powdered mixes that can be added to your bird’s soft foods, such as fruit.
Familiarise your bird with the travel cage.
You want your bird to feel as calm and at home in their travel cage.
Introduce him/her to their travel cage weeks before your flight. Give them treats whilst in there and fill it with some of your bird’s favourite toys.
Related post: 7 Easy Ways to Keep a Bird or Parrot Calm While Travelling
Provide plenty of food and water.
As mentioned earlier, fill the bottom of his/her cage with food, pellets or seeds, depending on their diet. Also put some fresh, juicy fruits in their food dish. They will all provide your bird with extra liquid on their flight.
Watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes and peppers (capsium) are all good choices. If your bird isn’t used to having these fruits as part of their diet, incorporate them slowly over the weeks prior the flight.
Double-check all identification material and stickers on the cage.
Make sure you have all required documents for travel. This could include your bird’s health certificate and any import permits you may need to travel.
Arrive at the airport early.
Try to arrive at least 2 hours early. However, some airports or airlines may require you to arrive extra earlier, so check beforehand.
When checking in at your ticket counter, be sure to mention that you have a bird joining you.
You will probably be required to show them your bird’s health certificate and receipt of reservation. Hold onto these as it is likely you will need to present these again to airport or airline staff.
If your bird is not flying with you in the cabin, stay with your bird as long as possible. This will relieve stress for both of you.
Okay, so as you have now learnt, taking your bird on a flight does take a lot of planning. However, it is worth it to ensure your flight is as stress-free as possible for both you and your bird.
Be sure to check your airline’s policies, get your bird an appropriate travel cage and ensure he/she is fit and healthy for the trip.
In addition, obtain your bird’s health certificate within 10 days of your flight. If you are planning on staying abroad for longer than 10 days, look into obtaining another health certificate for your return trip.
If you are concerned about anything, or if your bird has had some problems travelling before – ask your veterinary for advise.
Hope you have found this helpful.