Successfully Traveling By Air With Your Pet Bird

Flying on commercial planes is one of the safest, most convenient, and recently most cost-effective forms of transportation when traveling vast distances to bird exhibitions. Unfortunately, if one is uninformed of the laws and restrictions, it might be the most limiting and hence irritating experience.

As someone who frequently flies 20,000 to 50,000 miles per year with birds, I wish to assist aviculturists overcome the challenges they may face while flying with their birds. In my experience, the greatest method to overcome difficulties is to assess and comprehend the problem from the other perspective. This is often the greatest tactical edge for achieving success. The difficulties presented from both the airlines’ and the government’s perspectives, two different entities that must be handled by the bird-flying public, will enable everyone to enjoy a stress-free experience while traveling with birds.

Aviculturists must understand that while flying with birds, they are dealing with two independent yet vital components of the aviation business that may either hinder or enable a successful flight. The Federal government, which oversees aviation security through the Transportation Security Administration, and the carriers themselves, who develop the regulations and limits for their respective aircraft, are two of these components. To have a great flying experience, it is critical to understand each person’s motivations and aspirations.

I will discuss these concerns and thoughts, as well as how to address them. One thing bird owners should keep in mind is that flight is a privilege, not a right. Nothing in the United States Constitution gives anybody the right to fly in an aircraft. Furthermore, flying with pets, especially birds, is a luxury that other members of the public may not appreciate. Airlines are companies, and as such, they must generate revenue in order to remain in operation. Some airlines will not let any animals or birds on their flights at all, which is their right as a company. The following major airlines DO NOT ALLOW ANIMALS ON THEIR FLIGHTS:

  • American Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Jet Blue Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines

Before reserving a flight, all aviculturists should verify with their airline. Under certain situations, several airlines may accept members of the bird flying public. This is for the benefit of other members of the public who are also their customers’ health and safety. It is the obligation of the bird owner to understand and follow these laws and restrictions. Otherwise, airlines are not required to allow passengers to travel with their birds. The following airlines allow a limited number of pets (birds) in the cabin:

Airline# Birds First-Class# Birds Main Cabin
Air Tran Airlines 2
Alaska Air15
America West 1
Continental Airlines11
Delta Airlines12
Northwest Airlines24
United – Canaries, Finches & Parakeets ONLY NO PARROTS 2
US Airways12

We are all aware of how litigious our culture is, and if someone has an allergic response or falls unwell as a result of birds, the airlines will be held responsible. That is why most airlines restrict the number of pets, including birds, allowed in the cabin. Most airlines, for example, impose a two-pet restriction per trip. This encompasses all animals, including pets such as dogs and cats, as well as birds. The lone exception is assistance animals like seeing-eye dogs, which are always permitted on all flights. It is essential to reserve the bird reservation as soon as possible in order to ensure that there is room available on the flight. If other passengers have already made reservations for their dog or cat, you may be unable to get your birds on the trip.

If an airline permits a bird owner to board with 10 birds and another passenger has a problem, the airline is entirely responsible for any discomfort and harm that person experiences. The agent who permitted the rule violation to occur may be suspended or dismissed, and the airline may be required to explain to the Federal Aviation Administration why they broke their own rules and regulations. The consequences might include fines or other penalties, not to mention that the airline will have to answer to its insurance liability carrier, which could result in increased rates or the cancellation of the policy. The key is to understand and adhere to the guideline about the quantity of birds permitted. If the exhibitor informs the agent that they have ten birds instead of two, the agent will not allow the birds to board the aircraft. They are not malicious; they are only obeying the regulations to protect themselves. While one may argue that flying two parrots is not the same as flying two canaries, airlines seem unconcerned with the size of the birds. They are solely concerned with adhering to their own rules and regulations in order to safeguard their corporate interests.

Another issue that many bird owners are concerned about is the need for a health certificate. Under the Animal Welfare Act, all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the federal government require that any birds going over state boundaries have a veterinarian-issued certificate of health. This legislation is not enforced by all airlines or even all states, but it is a law nevertheless. Because of the recent media frenzy about avian influenza (H5N1 “bird flu”), it is virtually certain that this restriction will be implemented by every airline when the epidemic reaches the United States. Again, the purpose will be to insulate the airlines from public culpability and litigation. People flying with birds who choose to disregard this restriction risk being unable to board the airline with their animals.

While most airlines that accept birds on flights specify “household” birds in their regulations, others explicitly identify the sorts of birds that are permitted. Canaries, finches, and parakeets are expressly listed as permitted by America West and United airlines. If an exhibitor attempts to board the aircraft with a cockatiel, they will most likely be denied. This is because airline staff are not trained to detect similar birds and instead strictly adhere to the guideline regarding the sorts of birds permitted. Aviculturists must be aware of the permitted bird species and ensure that they adhere to the guidelines.

Reservations for birds are required by all airlines prior to the trip and are typically best done while the bird owner is buying their ticket. Airlines will also charge a pet-in-cabin fee on flights both to and from the exhibition. The birds must be transported in containers that fit beneath the seat and fulfill airline requirements. During the trip, birds must remain beneath the seat and in their container. They must also be housed in “humane” and “sanitary” circumstances so that they do not annoy other passengers with loud noises or bad scents.

If you understand and follow these principles, you will have a pleasant time flying with birds. Remember that airlines are not required to assist those of us travelling with birds, and by according to the laws and standards, you and your bird, as well as the airline and other passengers, will arrive safely and stress-free at your destination. If we attempt to bend or refuse to obey the restrictions, the airlines may decide not to let birds on flights at all. So, be kind, know and respect the regulations, and you and your birds will have a peaceful, relaxing journey to your destination.

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