Preparing Your Bird For Airline Travel
So, you’ve decided to fly with your parrot whether your relocating, going for an extended vacay or other reason there’s a lot to do and prepare. And, not every airline allows birds onboard, dogs and cats are a lot more common and easier to get on a flight. Even when you can carry your bird onboard (usually in cargo) all airlines have restrictions on when and where you can travel. Even though at pet parents we don’t consider our birds as cargo unfortunately airlines do and there’s nothing we can do about it except prepare ourselves and our bird for a smooth experience. We also need to work with the airline to make sure our birds are safe.
Bringing any pet onboard a flight will require an extra fee that varies depending on the airline and flight. The fee is anywhere from $100 up to $300 sometimes it could be more depending on the airline.
Airline travel with a bird is not simple, to be honest, it’s quite a lot of steps and I am going to share my tips from our experience!
Here is everything you need to know about flying with your pet bird so both of you can have a safe and happy trip.
- You will need to get all the paperwork sorted. The first step includes CITES, visit www.cites.org, to find CITES in your export and import country and contact them to get a list of the requirements to obtain your CITES permits for export and import.
- I highly recommend finding a pet agent to help you handle CITES along with all the other paperwork, veterinary health check a few days before the flight, any specific requirements in the country you're traveling from and into (yes they all vary), quarantine, etc. They will outline all the steps for you and help you with each one, otherwise, it can be a headache! Check IPATA.org for a list of reliable pet agents and make sure that it specifies whether they deal with birds (not all pet agents focus on all pets).
- The paperwork needs to be done in advance and CITES is only valid for 6 months therefore you need to travel within that time frame. With that being said it can take weeks or months to get the paperwork completed depending on where you are and the circumstances of the world!
- Crate prepare your bird, lets them see the crate they will travel in for a few weeks, and let them explore it on their terms and own time. Use food rewards to get them to feel comfortable going in and out of the travel crate.
- Find an airline that accepts birds on their flights whether it's domestic or international. Make a reservation for the flight and your bird onboard - usually, it's one pet per passenger and a certain number of animals per flight. Try to book a direct flight, if you can.
- Upon booking make sure the cargo is temperature-controlled, and check the temperature for the holding area, where most pets fly.
- Check to see what the airline’s rules and requirements are for transporting your parrot to the plane. 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 an early morning or late evening flight when the weather is cooler. 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.
PREPARING FOR FLIGHT DAY
- To ease your bird's stress or anxiety you can try offering your bird cooled-down chamomile tea according to Jamieleigh from BirdTricks.
- Prepare your bird's crate with a food and water dish - fill the water dish with ice so it melts over time and they continue to have a water supply, fill the food dish with dry foods like pellets or our Birdie Travel Trail Mix.
- A few days before (no more than 7-10) you will need to go to the vet to get a health certificate that they are fit for travel and healthy.
- Make sure the perch is positioned to the front of your bird carrier so they have enough room for their tail without it touching the bottom.
- Before putting your bird in the carrier make sure to feed them and get them to drink some water.
- Arrive at the airport early for check-in.
- Try not to do it often, travelling can be stressful for you and your bird. It also will take them some time to adjust to a new environment and timezone. They can get jet-lagged just like us!
- Travel food and water bowls can spill so you can also add some fruit for your bird to keep them well-fed and hydrated like apples, grapes or oranges.
- The night before your flight check-in with the airline to ensure they have the reservation for your bird on file and there have been no changes to your travel plans with pets.
- Have a separate folder for all your bird's documents.
- You can tape a bag of pellets on top of the crate as well in case you have a long flight.
- If you have a daytime flight keep your bird up the night before so that they sleep through the flight and are tired the next day.
- Before the planned movement of the companion bird, make sure that the country of origin of the bird is not covered by import bans, e.g. due to an infectious disease.
- Choose a large enough carrier that is accepted by the airline your travelling with. You want your feathered friend to be comfy, so choose a travel cage that’s specifically for birds and one that contains a perch. If you’re taking your bird into the cabin, you’ll need a soft-sided carrier that can fit under the seat. Airline bird carriers meet specific requirements. IATA, the International Air Travel association specifies minimum requirements for transporting animals.
Approved bird travel carriers must comply with the following standards:
- Bird travel carriers must be of sufficient height to allow your parrot to perch naturally without its head or tail touching the top or bottom. Perch: A wooden perch of appropriate diameter must be firmly attached inside of the bird travel carrier.
- The door on the bird carrier must be easy to open from the outside yet secure enough to keep the parrot inside. All bird travel carriers must have doors that provide ventilation.
- Bird travel carriers must have a solid, leak-proof floor. Cover floor with absorbent lining. All internal edges on the bird's travel carrier must be smooth with no sharp projections.
- The bird's travel carrier must be well ventilated with openings that make up at least 14 percent of the total wall space. At least one-third of the openings must be located in the top half of the bird carrier. The birds travel carrier must have side 3/4" rims to prevent ventilation openings from being blocked by other cargo.
- Bird travel carriers must have grips or handles for lifting to prevent cargo personnel from bite injuries. Bird travel carriers must be marked "live animals" on the top and one side with directional arrows indicating the proper position of the bird carrier. Lettering must be at least 1 inch high.
- You can put a screen mesh over the door for added protection, write the measurement of the crate on top and their name, and use zip ties to seal each corner and door.
- You can add some information on top of the crate - I like to print it and laminate it then tape it. This can include your name, your contact info (phone number and email), crate measurements and even flight number(s).
- Put the perch towards the front of the crate so your bird can perch comfortably, with enough room for their tail and even rest their head forward on the front of the crate if they need to.
As you can see it takes time and preparation but it can be done. Have a safe flight!
Don’t forget to check out our Youtube video on pet travel tips as well and subscribe to the channel!