British Columbia

This tiny pet can't fly in Air Canada cabin and her owner wants to know why

A Vancouver man wants to know why his beloved chinchilla can't fly in the cabin of his Air Canada flight to Montreal. He's worried the stress could be fatal for his 13-year-old pet.

Vancouver man says 13-year-old chinchilla is more than a pet

Jeffrey Oberman of Vancouver is upset that Mandzy, his pet chinchilla, won't be allowed to fly in the cabin of an Air Canada plane. (Jeffrey Oberman)

Jeffrey Oberman insists his Mandzy, 13, is not a troublemaker.

She's quiet, loves biscuits and neck rubs and provides him with a sense of peace he can't find anywhere else.

But because Mandzy is a chinchilla, she won't be allowed to fly with Oberman in the cabin of an Air Canada plane from Vancouver to Montreal this spring.

"I can't figure out the logic behind this. I'm totally shocked," he said. "If the chinchilla could hear this, she'd be upset.

"When you fly in a flight for five hours and you have a baby screaming behind you, I personally think that's worse than having a chinchilla."

Oberman, 53, is adamant Mandzy must ride in the cabin with him and his girlfriend because he believes the stress of flying as cargo could kill her.

Oberman's girlfriend, Stephanie Saust, caresses Mandzy as she is carried in a box. (CBC)

Oberman claims an Air Canada representative told him over the phone Tuesday that having Mandzy in the cabin was against the law.

But Transport Canada says there are no regulations about animals being in cabins or cargo holds of planes.

Air Canada declined an interview request.

"To ensure the comfort and safety of all customers onboard, Air Canada accepts only cats and dogs as pets in the cabin, and accepts only dogs as support animals," a spokesperson wrote in an email.

If those animals are allowed in cabins, Oberman wonders why Mandzy isn't, especially because he says she's more than a pet.

He suffers from insomnia and merely stroking Mandzy at night helps him sleep better than any medicine, he says, and without any side effects.

"She's the cure. And if I can't get her on the flight I don't know what I'm going to do."

Veterinarian Rob Ashburner says generally, passengers can feel confident leaving their pets in cargo holds on long flights.

Oberman, 53, says Mandzy helps with his insomnia. (CBC)

He says cargo holds are heated and airlines are "really good" at making sure animals are positioned comfortably.

"In certain individuals it causes anxiety," he said. "It's a new experience, it's noisy [but] it's probably just as stressful riding in the car to the airport as it is riding in the plane."

He says for particularly anxiety-prone animals, it might be worth medicating them before a flight to sedate them.


Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is an award-winning journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten.

With files from Joel Ballard