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Roaming with Reggie 

I am fortunate enough to share my life in Georgia with 2 dogs, 2 cats, 1 husband and 1 incredibly adorable male Eclectus, Reggie. Reggie has been in my life since he was approximately 1 month old although he didn’t move into our house until he was fully weaned (about 4 months) and is now 8 years old.

Reggie is very well adjusted and is pretty much fearless with a special fondness for women although there is no problem with small children handling him (with supervision, of course).  Reggie will look to me to make sure everything is ok and if I’m calm, cool and collected, so is he.  Since he thing in stride so well, it became natural for him to start traveling via airplane (in the cabin) with me. Initially it was short weekend trips to Ohio to see my family. Then we progressed to longer and farther trips to places like Colorado.  So far, all our trips have been in the continental US only; it’s just a matter of planning and preparation to make it a safe, pleasant trip!

First and foremost, before I make my flight reservation, I make sure the airline I’m traveling allows pets in the cabin. I check their rules and regulations. So far, he’s flown with me on Delta, United and Air Tran with Air Train being the MOST companion bird friendly and United to be the LEAST companion bird friendly. Delta fell somewhere in the middle. I fully expect however, with all the press on avian bird flu, the restrictions could tighten, so ALWAYS check with the airline prior to travel. Check their website and be sure to speak with a live person (take notes including names of people you speak with).

Once I’m sure he can travel with me without problems, I usually make my own reservation online and then call the airline to make Reggie’s reservation. You usually have to speak with an airline agent representative to make companion animal reservations. Each airline has restrictions on how many companion animals are allowed in the cabin on any given flight so book as early as possible. The fee each airline charges also varies from $50-100 EACH way. Traveling with your companion parrot won’t be a cheap endeavor, but it certainly can be fun, memorable and rewarding if you plan and prepare correctly.

Another important thing to do prior to your trip is to get your vet to check the USDA regulations for the state(s) you are traveling to. Each state has their own regulations that must be followed or you run the risk of having your bird confiscated. All the states I have traveled to with him have only required a vet examination and health certificate no older than 10 days before travel. I keep a copy of his health certificate with my plane ticket as well as in the luggage tag holder for his carrier. Often times, I’ll even have an extra copy in my wallet, just to be safe. This way I’m sure to be able to lay my hands on a copy in a moment’s notice.

The items I always use for travels (and will explain in further detail later) are:

  • Airline approved carrier (I prefer the hard plastic)
  • A bird harness or flight suit
  • A folding travel cage with perches, bowls & water
  • A comfortable/spacious/lightweight/folding travel carrier
  • A portable T-stand perch
  • A portable tabletop perch
  • Bottled water (small bottle)
  • A few favorite toys
  • Dry food & pellets
  • Health Certificate
  • Towels (varying sizes: hand/dish towels & bath towel)
  • A few paper towels (or a small travel pack of paper towels)
  • A backpack
  • Wet food (frozen) & a very small soft-sided cooler
  • Newspaper (for the bottom of his travel cage)
  • And a large enough suitcase to hold all of the above!

Backpack: I put Reggie’s food, water, favorite toys, bath towel, extra hand/dish towel, paper towels and other items I might need for him and or me in flight in a backpack. This makes it easy to carry important things while leaving my hands free to carry Reggie in his carrier and hang onto my tickets and his health certificate.

Carrier: As mentioned, I prefer a hard cased carrier to help protect him. I also like the one that has a small extra door and cage bars on the top for easy access if needed. My husband mounted a comfortable perch close to the bottom of one side in the carrier. When traveling I put a hand or dish towel on the bottom to keep him from sliding and to catch droppings.  I have a small lightweight wood toy hanging on a bird friendly vegetable tanned piece of leather in side the carrier, near the perch which he ingeniously uses to hold onto when we are walking thru the terminal.

I usually put a couple of grapes or other juicy pieces of fruit in a paper cup or extremely light weight bowl on the floor of the carrier. You don’t want him getting jarred and being hit by anything in his carrier that could hurt him.

Because the carrier will have to stay under the seat during the flight, I take an old bath towel and use it as a portable cover for the carrier while it’s under the seat. It serves 2 purposes. One is to keep cool or draft air off of him and the second is to make the carrier dark so he naps usually most if not all of the flight.

Always allow extra time for departure at the airport. Not only will you have to clear security with your precious cargo, you will in most cases, attract a crowd and be asked lots of questions about your bird.

That brings me to another point. Usually, you’ll need to take your bird out of the carrier when you go thru security. They’ll want to put the carrier thru x-ray. I take Reggie out of his carrier ONLY when his harness (or flight suit) is on. I know, I know, lots of birds don’t like harnesses and neither does Reggie. I have learned he won’t let me put his harness on him at home, but he will away from home. I usually put him in his carrier without it on. Then when I get to the airport, I put it on him while still in my car. So far that has worked well for me. I would NEVER get him out of his carrier in a public place WITHOUT a harness … I just wouldn’t want to risk it.

After we go thru security, back into the carrier he goes until we reach the gate. Once at the gate, time allowing, I get him out of his carrier until we’re ready to board. Mainly this is because their airline approved carriers don’t afford him much room and while in flight, he has to stay in the carrier so I want him to spend as little time in the carrier as possible. I also use this opportunity to offer a snack, some water and put a grape or tidbit of fruit in his carrier for the flight. Having your parrot out of the carrier in plain view also means you must be prepared for people coming over to meet your parrot. Many of them will want to touch him. I tell people not to try to pet him and explain how parrots are prey animals so they don’t like anything touching their back or coming from behind. I will sometimes let them touch his beak—only because I know he won’t bite. It’s completely up to you about how you want or don’t want your parrot to interact with strangers. But I will say, this is a MARVELOUS opportunity to educate people about parrots, so don’t pass it up.

Right before we board, into the carrier he goes. I cover the carrier with a bath towel I’ve brought. Once on board, his carrier, covered up, goes under the seat.   After we land, I don’t take him out of his carrier until we’re someplace “safe” like a car. When traveling with Reggie, I’m usually going to family or friends’ home and not a hotel (but if we were to stay in a hotel, I wouldn’t leave him in a room unattended).  Once at my family or friends’ house, I make sure he gets food and water while I set up his travel cage.  I usually set up the portable T-stand & tabletop perches in the rooms where we’ll be spending most of our time. Once everything is all set up, I let him lounge and relax after our flight. I stay close by initially so he feels comfortable in the unfamiliar surroundings.

For the return trip, you just do it all over again, except you don’t need a new health certificate unless you stayed longer than 10 days.  Reggie seems to enjoy traveling with me and although it takes considerable planning, preparation, and PACKING to take him with me, I truly enjoy traveling with him!


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This page was last updated on 08/17/2012

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