These days, many dog owners regard their furry friend as a member of the family, so it’s unthinkable that Fido might be left at home with a pet sitter or put in boarding kennels while the family takes their summer vacation.
If you enjoy traveling by air and you want to take your dog with you, you’ll need an airline-approved dog crate. All dog crates used for airline travel must be manufactured in line with the IATA (International Air Transport Association) guidelines.
Read this guide to learn everything you need to know about air travel with your furry friend and for our reviews of the five best airline-approved dog crates.
Comparison Table of the 5 Best Airline-Approved Dog Crates
Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier
- 15 to 30-pound weight limit
- 28” x 20.5” x 21.5”
Suncast Deluxe Pet Carrier
- Plastic and wire resin construction
- Ideal for medium-sized dogs
- 24” x 17.5” x 18.5”
Aspen Pet Porter Kennel
- 30 to 50-pound weight limit
- 32” x 22.5” x 12”
- Metal and plastic construction
Petmate Compass Plastic Pet
- 50 to 70-pound weight limit
- Steel and plastic construction
- 21” x 23.3” x 26.7”
Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel
- 90 to 125-pound weight limit
- Made from recycled steel and plastic
- 48” x 32” x 35”
What Is an IATA-Compliant Dog Crate?
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has certain specifications for pet crates that you must adhere to when traveling your dog by air. Those requirements apply whether your flight is domestic or international.
IATA-approved dog crates are specifically intended for use when transporting your dog on an airplane. These crates are not like regular dog crates in that they have a few special features that guarantee your pet when he’s flying. Travel crates for airline use are also designed to make it easy for airline staff to care for your pet while he’s in transit.
What Are The IATA Dog Crate Requirements
Although the requirements vary to some extent between individual airlines, there are certain basic requirements that dog crates must meet for airline travel, and we summarize these below.
That being said, you should always check with your airline or travel agent to make sure that your dog is welcome on board your flight at the time you book your vacation. The last thing that you want is to arrive at the airport check-in desk to find that your dog isn’t allowed on board.
The Crate Exterior
Most IATA-compliant pet kennels are made from sturdy, rigid plastic with mesh windows for ventilation. However, that material might not be suitable for very large, heavy, or aggressive animals that need more heavy duty protection. In that case, custom-made containers constructed of plywood, metal, and hardwood and fitted with two secure door fasteners are necessary.
Note that a soft-sided carrier is not suitable unless you’re taking your pet into the cabin with you.
Any container that’s used for transporting pets by air must have good access and ventilation openings. So, the container must feature one open end. That open-ended feature must be covered by a door made from mesh or strong steel wire, smooth metal with air holes punched into it, or bars. The door needs to be secured so that the dog can’t get out of the crate inflight or into the airport building.
Doors that are made using wire mesh must be at least 2.5mm thick with openings between the mesh strands that can’t be greater than 25mm x 25mm.
The ventilation area must account for at least 16% of the total surface area of the four sides of the crate. That’s for international travel. For domestic flights, you must have that minimum ventilation in place on two sides of the crate. If the crate’s ventilation doesn’t provide 16% of the surface area, extra holes on the roof or the sides of the crate can be added, as long as that doesn’t impact the overall stability of the product.
Any ventilation holes in the travel dog crate must be secure so that the dog can’t push out his paw or nose. So, if you have a very small dog, such as a Micro Goldendoodle, you’ll need to put mesh over the holes to ensure that the pup’s extremities don’t protrude from the crate.
For easy portability, the travel carrier must have handles along both sides. That enables the crew members and service staff to move the crate around as required.
It’s mandatory that you place green “This Way Up” and “Live Animals” stickers on all sides of the travel kennel that are clearly visible to all handlers. You also need to attach both your contact information and that of your pet to the exterior of the crate where it’s clearly visible.
The Crate Interior
Inside the crate, your dog’s safety, comfort, and welfare are considered.
Safety and Comfort
The crate must be smooth with nothing protruding, such as metal nuts or metal screws, that might injure your dog or that he could chew.
The floor of the crate should have a solid, leak-proof floor. For extra comfort, you can line the crate with comfy puppy pads, fleece pads, or some absorbent material just in case of accidents.
However, loose litter, such as wood shavings or straw, which could spill out of the crate in transit, is not permitted.
It’s essential that the water bottle or bowl can be refilled easily from the outside of the crate without the need to open the door. Note that airlines will not accept a pet crate that doesn’t provide a hydration solution of some kind for the occupant.
Generally, we recommend a water bottle for airline travel rather than a water dish. Water dishes and clip-on water trays are more likely to spill, potentially leaving your dog thirsty and even dehydrated.
When it comes to the size of the crate, your dog or other pet must have ample space to be able to stand upright, sit erect, lie down comfortably, and turn around while standing.
Note that brachycephalic or flat-faced dogs must be allowed an additional 10% of space inside their travel crate.
Can You Travel Multiple Dogs By Air In One Crate?
Although we recommend that only one pet travels per container, the IATA will permit two compatible animals to share the same crate. The animals must weigh less than 30 each and must be of the same species.
However, many airlines have different rules concerning traveling multiple pets, so always check what’s allowed before you travel.
IATA Prohibited Crate Features
There are several crate features that are not permitted for air travel under IATA rules, including:
- The crate must NOT be made completely of wire or welded mesh.
- The door must NOT be on the top.
- The door must NOT be made of plastic.
- If you have a carrier with wheels, they must either be removed or securely taped so that the crate can’t roll in transit. Ideally, choose a crate that has detachable wheels that you can simply remove.
- Crates made from soft material are not permitted for air travel.
All the airplane crates we’ve reviewed in this guide are generally regarded as being suitable for use when traveling by air with your dog. However, we strongly recommend that you check with your airline that the crate you’re proposing to use is acceptable to them, as the rules can vary between airlines.
Additional Rules To Note
There are a few other important rules that you need to be aware of before you travel by air with your pet:
- You must not store anything inside your pet’s crate.
- Your dog must not wear a muzzle or leash.
- Your dog must be fit, healthy, and free from injuries.
- Your dog must not be tranquilized or doped during travel.
You may also find that certain airlines or countries impose restrictions on traveling particular breeds of dogs and cats. For example, certain countries do not permit you to fly with flat-faced breeds, including bulldogs, pugs, or Pekinese. That’s because these dogs often suffer from breathing difficulties, which could leave the dog vulnerable to collapse during the journey.
Can I Take My Dog Into The Cabin With Me?
Some airlines do permit certain pets to travel in the cabin with you. However, there are strict weight restrictions in place, which you will need to check with the airline before you travel.
Also, your dog must be able to fit comfortably inside a soft, fabric pet carrier that you must put underneath your seat for the duration of the flight.
Do Airlines Provide Crates For Dogs?
Most airlines do not provide dog crates for hire or rent. However, some companies do offer their own dog travel crate brand for sale.
That said, we recommend that you always buy a high-quality dog crate from a reputable company, such as those we review for you later in this guide.
Most airlines have their own regulations with regards to flying with dogs. Before you book your vacation or business trip, always contact your airline to make sure that your dog will be able to come too. Also, remember to find out if there are any specific requirements that you need to take into consideration before you travel with your pet.
How Do I Obtain A Passport For My Dog?
If you’re planning on flying to an international destination with your dog, you will need a passport for your pet.
Luckily, obtaining a pet passport in the US is pretty straightforward.
1. Book A Veterinary Appointment
To get a dog passport, you need to visit a federally accredited vet.
The vet will carry out a full health check on your dog and administer any vaccinations that are required by the country you’re planning on visiting. You’ll then be given a health certificate confirming that your dog is fit to travel.
2. Apply For USDA Endorsement
Before you make your journey, you must send all the relevant paperwork that’s required by your destination country to the State USDA office for endorsement.
3. Requirements For A Pet Passport
So, what do you need to obtain a pet passport for your dog?
To get a pet passport, you will need:
- Rabies vaccination
- Health certificate
- USDA endorsement
Most countries insist that your dog is vaccinated against rabies, and you also need that for dogs that are returning to the US following a trip out of the country.
Generally, your dog must receive his vaccination at least 28 days before you travel. Also, your dog will need to be vaccinated within one to three years, depending on where you are going. For example, the US insists that the date of the vaccination must be less than one year prior to returning to the country.
Most vets will vaccinate your dog against rabies when you attend the clinic for your pet’s health check. You should be given a dated vaccination certificate that you will need for your endorsement.
Your dog will need a health certificate to present to the airline to prove that the animal is fit and well enough to travel. Once your vet has examined your dog, he will issue that certificate.
You must provide all the relevant paperwork for the destination country for your dog to the State USDA office for endorsement/stamping before you depart.
For assistance, you can contact your local USDA vet service center.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Pet Passport?
It can take from a few weeks to several months to obtain a pet passport for your dog. So, always allow plenty of time to get your dog’s passport organized before your travel date.
It’s also essential that you check with your destination country to find out if they have any additional requirements, such as microchipping before you travel.
What Safety Concerns Should I Have About My Dog Flying?
So, is it safe to take your dog on a plane?
There are various opinions on that subject, and many animal welfare organizations discourage flying with your dog unless it’s absolutely necessary. However, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) discourages taking large dogs on airplanes, as those animals would need to travel in cargo. Sadly, dogs do die in the cargo holds of planes.
Temperatures in the cargo hold can become extreme, especially in summer and winter, and the environment is often stuffy with poor air circulation, which can cause breathing problems for some animals, especially breeds of snub-nosed dogs.
However, if you do fly your furry family in cargo, always take a direct flight and keep your journey time to a minimum.
Most vets won’t sedate pets for travel in cargo since there’s nobody there to observe the animal. Also, most airlines don’t permit the use of tranquilizers for dogs in transit. That being said, sedation can sometimes be helpful for anxious pets that are traveling in the cabin with their owners.
If you do plan on sedating your dog for a flight, always test out the drug on your pet well in advance of your journey to make sure that the medication won’t adversely affect your dog and be sure that the dosage is accurate.
You should always take the time to prepare your dog for traveling in his crate if you’re planning on flying. If your pet is accustomed to riding in his crate in your car, he’s much more likely to cope well with flying.
If your dog isn’t already crate-trained, take a few weeks to get him used to his crate at home. Once your dog confidently stays in the crate without becoming upset or anxious, you can begin to take short road trips with him. Most dogs quickly adjust to riding in the crate in your car, so when you take a trip in the air, your pup should hopefully settle well and not become stressed.
5 Best Airline-Approved Dog Crates
In this section of our guide, we review our five best airline-approved dog crates.
1. Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier
15 to 30-pound weight limit
28” x 20.5” x 21.5”
Petmate is a world-renowned manufacturer that produces several different kinds of dog crates, including this Sky Kennel Pet Carrier.
This dog crate is great news for dog owners that like to travel by air with their canine companion, as the crate is acceptable to most airlines. That said, I recommend that you always double-check with the airline before you travel.
The Sky Kennel is made from steel and plastic to provide a strong, robust carrier for your dog, keeping him comfortable and safe throughout your flight. Even the fixings used are made from corrosion-resistant steel that won’t weaken and let you down. To keep your pet comfy during his journey, there’s a 360-degree ventilation system.
For additional value, you get a whole lot of extras included with the crate, including a bowl, stickers, and some ID stickers, too. Although a few users reported that the weight limits that are applied to the crate are not accurate, the overall consensus is that this is one of the best travel crates that you can buy.
You can also use this crate as a cat carrier for your family feline.
- Excellent 360-degree ventilation system
- Lots of accessories included
- 4-way security door to keep your pet safe while in transit
- Adheres to airline cargo specifications
- Weight estimates are not completely accurate
2. Suncast Deluxe Pet Carrier
Plastic and wire resin construction
Ideal for medium-sized dogs
24” x 17.5” x 18.5”
The Suncast Deluxe Pet Carrier is one of the lowest-priced airline-approved dog crates that you can buy.
Despite the crate’s budget price, the product is of pretty good quality. That’s crucial when traveling with your dog, as your pet’s safety and security while in transit are of paramount importance. This travel crate does the job, being sturdy and secure, as well as meeting US airline standards.
The crate is made from highly durable plastic and has a wire resin front gate that’s resistant to even the most determined chewers. The only real drawback that we could find about this crate is that the plastic clamps are on the weak side. Also, although the crate is designed to accommodate small to medium-sized dogs, specific weight limits are not provided.
Included with your purchase you receive an integrated water and food bowl so that you can provide your pet with the nutrition and hydration he needs for a comfortable flight.
- Free water bowl included
- US airline specifications approved
- Ideal for medium and small-sized pups
- Provides adequate ventilation
- Plastic clamp system is not robust
3. Aspen Pet Porter Kennel
30 to 50-pound weight limit
32” x 22.5” x 12”
Metal and plastic construction
This airline-approved dog crate by Aspen provides an excellent flight solution for your dog if you’re taking him on a long-haul flight.
Regardless of what breed or size of dog you have, the wide range of crate sizes that are available to you provides an option for every pup up to 125 pounds. This portable dog kennel is light enough to be easily portable but not flimsy so that it won’t last for years or keep your pooch safe during transit.
There’s ample ventilation for your pet on all three sides of the sky kennel so that you can rest assured that your dog will be comfortable on even the longest of flights. This airline kennel meets most airline requirements, but I do recommend that you check with your airline before you arrive at check-in.
- Lightweight but very sturdy heavy-duty plastic shell
- Available in a range of sizes
- Excellent ventilation
- Not as robust as similar crates
4. Petmate Compass Plastic Pet
50 to 70-pound weight limit
Steel and plastic construction
21” x 23.3” x 26.7”
Petmate is the dominant force in today’s dog crate market, offering many different styles of crates from everyday containment solutions to stackable crate systems. This travel crate offers security and safety for your beloved furry friend, as well as ensuring his comfort and welfare during his flight.
The crate has a lockable door to keep your dog safely contained throughout the flight, and there’s a covered doorpost to ensure that your pet doesn’t injure himself when entering and leaving the crate. To prevent your dog from becoming uncomfortable during his journey, the crate offers excellent ventilation.
For easy portability, the crate features a carrying handle. The crate is suitable for pups that weigh from 50 to 70 pounds, but Petmate offers a range of sizes to accommodate most canines. You can also use the crate for other animals, such as cats, rabbits, and other small animals.
- Provides easy access to your dog
- Suitable for use with other pets, as well as dogs
- Excellent ventilation
- Not as robust as other similar products
5. Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel
90 to 125-pound weight limit
Made from recycled steel and plastic
48” x 32” x 35”
If you have a large dog, you want a travel crate that’s robust and strong enough to handle your pup’s weight, even if he moves around while in transit. Petmate has designed and built this excellent extra-large carrier size that’s specifically intended for use with big dogs from 90 to 125 pounds.
The crates are made using recycled steel and heavy plastic, which is great for the environment. Also, the robust construction of the crate and the hardware that’s used ensure that your dog will be safe and secure for the duration of his journey.
The one downside of this crate is the latching mechanism that doesn’t feel particularly strong.
- Ideal for larger sizes of dogs
- Accepted by most large airlines
- Tie-down holes
- Optimal airflow for safety
- Made from recycled materials
- The latching mechanism is a disappointment
I hope you enjoyed our guide to the best airline-approved crates for dogs for safe travel. Please remember to share the article if you found it helpful.
Our favorite product of those we reviewed is the Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier. This airline-approved crate is acceptable on most airlines and is made from sturdy materials to keep your dog safe and secure throughout his journey. Also, the kennel has an excellent 360-degree ventilation system. With the crate, you get a few nice extras, including ID stickers and a water bowl.
Which airline-approved dog crate for air travel did you pick? Tell us in the comments box below.