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How to Fly with your Bird

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(By Larry Gasner)

   I made my reservations to visit Minnesota and Iowa for Thanksgiving on Northwest Airlines.  Having second thought, I decided that my mother and sisters would be delighted with a visit from "Skeeter-Bug," my African Grey, who has become a regular chatterbox in her second year.  She could fit in her travel cage under the seat.  I called NW to find out the dimensions of that space.  The agent said that NW only allowed dogs and cats in the cabin.  I would have to ship my one pound pet bird air freight! The agent said that NW had had a previous lawsuit about a bird allergy.

    So I called TWA.  TWA allows a maximum of two pet kennels in the cabin per flight and they will accept birds.   Reservations are required and the weight of the kennel must be supplied to make a reservation.  The kennel or cage can be no greater than 24"x16"x10".   TWA charges $50 each direction.  A health certificate, issued within 10 days of the flight, is required for each pet.

    Delta Airlines will allow up to 2 pet kennels in coach, plus one in First Class per flight and they will accept birds.   Each kennel must be  accompanied by a person and it counts as one piece of carry-on luggage.  They forbid the purchase of an extra seat for a second pet by any one passenger.  Each pet must be at least 8 weeks old.  A health certificate will be required if either endpoint state requires it; your vet can look that up.

    Delta charges $60 each direction.   The bird must remain secured in the kennel during the entire flight, including in the waiting area of the terminal.  The kennel can be no larger than 21"x13"x9".  It must be leakproof (no open cages) and ventilated on at least two sides.  Delta will sell ($30) a hard sided kennel, 17"x12"x8", which you must order in advance., but which you can pick up at check-in.  Also, they said it would be cheaper at your pet shop.

    From the above, I learned that every airline has different requirements.  To learn the requirements, call the reservations 800 number of each of the various airlines before purchasing tickets.  Also, consider Air Freight shipment.  Many of the "bird friendly" pet shops around are knowledgeable about this and will be helpful.   They may have a shipment coming in and they may save the cardboard shipping carton for you to re-use or they will help you find a new one.

    Unfortunately, I bought an unrefundable ticket before I learned that my airline did not allow birds to travel in the cabin, so Skeeter-Bug stayed home this year.