Flying With Birds In The Cabin

Since the terrible events of September 11th, we have all been apprised of the extraordinary but much-needed reforms in aviation security. These have been intriguing times for those of us who have had the opportunity to fly with our bird. We all recognize the need of the searches and inspections, and as someone who travels regularly, I support the increased precaution. However, I have discovered that many security staff are unaware how to manage dogs traveling with their owners. I aim to provide some information and advice on how to make your next trip with your pet as smooth and uncomplicated for security employees, owners, and, most importantly, the bird.

Booking Your Flight

Make sure the airline you chose permits dogs in the cabin before booking your travel. Not many airlines do, and they all have the constraint of the bird fitting under the seat in front of you. Others restrict bird size to cockatiels or smaller. Because FAA restrictions allow just two pets in the main cabin, you must book your bird with your airline. There will be a fee ranging from $50 to $100 each trip, which you must pay at the airport when you check in. Also, for your RETURN travel, get a health certificate from your veterinarian no earlier than 10 days. Although not all airlines demand a health certificate, this may be insignificant if you are dealing with someone who is uninformed of the requirement. It’s best to be ready just in case.

Preparing Your Bird

Purchase an airline-approved under-seat carrier. The #100 Cabin Kennel is affordable, simple to clean, and available with a solid or wire top. It is available at most pet supply shops. Get a tiny cage that fits inside the carrier and comfortably contains your bird. Include a perch as well as food and water cups. If you cover the bottom of the cage, you may be compelled to remove your bird. Place a small bag of your bird’s food and a bottle of water inside, but no scissors, wire cutters, or other sharp tools. Do not line the cage or container again.

Clip the bird’s wings if feasible (not possible for people who exhibit birds). This is always excellent insurance under all circumstances, but it is more important today. Feed and hydrate the bird on the day of the flight, then set it in the cage with food, millet, juicy fruits, and an ice cube in the water cup (it will melt before you get on the plane, believe me).

What to Expect at the Airport

Arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight; certain locations need four hours, so verify with your carrier. Before leaving for the airport, confirm your flight and double-check any connecting flights. Some airlines have resumed curbside baggage check-in, but not all. You will also have to check your bags if you are travelling with your bird. The FAA has restricted carry-on luggage to one plus a “personal” item like as a handbag, briefcase, or laptop computer, so even if you are paying extra, your bird will count as your carry-on.

When you get at the desk, notify them right away that you have a pet with a reservation and that you must pay his charges. For the bird bookings, provide your health certificate and confirmation number. Be prepared for the person behind the desk to be inexperienced with how to process the bird’s “ticket,” but be calm and patient. There are many armed police enforcement and military personnel at the airport, and you don’t want to offend anybody. Stay cool and patient; everything will be completed and you will be on your way. Make sure you have both receipts, one for your records and one that is stapled to your ticket. This document indicates you paid for the bird and should be provided to security officers if requested. It is also often requested before to boarding the aircraft. Keep your health certificate on hand as well; airlines and/or security may request it.

Ask for a hand-search of your bird as you reach the security screening sections. Most airports have set their x-ray equipment at the maximum setting, which might be detrimental to your bird. Inform them that the bird may be removed from the carrier for examination. You will be required to give over the carrier to security, pass through the metal detector (without setting it off), and follow all other security procedures (turning on laptops, removing cell phones, etc.) Gather your stuff and open the container quickly to remove the cage with the bird inside. Hold it so that security can view all sides – they may request that the empty carrier be x-rayed to ensure it does not have a fake bottom. Again, this operation may be problematic since security staff have received little instruction in how to check animals, particularly birds. Most people believe you have a cat or a little dog that is easily removed. Be patient and present them any documents they want – flight receipts, health certificates, etc. Do not get upset or impolite; instead, stay cool and, if all else fails, request to see a supervisor.

After passing through security, airline workers may want to see the receipt for the bird and/or the health certificate. This may also be done for future aircraft transfers, so have them ready.

Flying in America has clearly changed for the better, and it is much better for all of us. I am certain that I am now a safer pilot than I was six months ago. However, things would be tough until the security system is uniformly implemented at all airports by qualified and professional personnel. But it is something that we can prepare for and adapt to with a little forethought and awareness.

Tips For Flying With Bird

  1. Make Reservations For Bird
  2. Get Health Certificate
  3. Use Cage in Carrier
  4. No Paper or Substrate on Floor
  5. Use Airline Approved Carrier
  6. Arrive 2 Hours Before Flight
  7. Pay for Bird & Obtain Receipt
  8. Present Receipt/HC When Requested
  9. Have Bird Hand Inspected
  10. Remove Bird in Cage for Inspection
  11. Remain Patient and Calm

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