Pet Cargo Crate Requirements for Airlines-A COMPLETE Guide

Pet Travel Cargo Crate Kennel for Airline Travel

Step by Step Guide for Finding the Right Airline Approved Pet Cargo Crate for Flying in Cargo.

To find the right cargo crate for your pet: measure your pet nose to base of tail, width, and height, add 3”-5” for room on each side (top, sides, front, back). Choose plastic, fiberglass or metal material with metal fasteners.  Next, the outside must include space bars/handles, and ventilation on 2 side (domestic), 3 sides (international).

1. Finding the Right Size Pet Cargo For Your Dog


SOURCE: IATA Pet Cargo Crate Requirements

  • Measure tip of nose to base of tail (do not include the length of the tail).
  • Measure shoulder width. This should be the widest part of your pet. Then double (x2) for the minimum width of crate.
  • Measure from Top of Head (or Ears if they stay erect) to the Ground.
  • The kennel must be large enough that the animal can easily stand up, turn around, sit erect, and lie down in a natural position.

Snub Nose/Brachycephalic Breeds require 1 size larger crate if using the Standard Sizes from Manufactures or an additional 10%.

See: What Airlines Allow Snub Nose Breed Dogs and Cats.

  • Add measurements of your Dog and add 3-6 inches and you have your ideal crate size.

Crate SizeLengthWeight of CrateCommon Breeds
Xs 19”<20 lbs. Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian
S24″20-30lbsJack Russel, Miniature Poodle
M30″30-40lbsCocker Spaniel, French Bulldog
LG36″40-70lbsBeagle, Bulldog, English Setter
XL42″70-90lbsLabrador, Retriever, Boxer
2XL48″90+lbsGreat Dane, Rottweiler, Burmese
Dog Crate Sizes for Flying with Dogs

TIP: It may seem like you’re giving your pet a bit more comfort by buying an oversized crate; however, they are not necessarily better or more comfortable when they are jostling around during transport. They need the comfort of a well-fitted pet crate.

Pet Cargo Crates for Flying with Dogs must have:

1. Pet Crate Materials that Are Sturdy

Hard Plastic, Metal, Fiberglass. Some carriers will accept wood crates. (KLM and Air France do not accept wood crates).

2. Pet Crates Must have Metal Fasteners

Most crates are plastic, fiberglass.  Most plastic and fiberglass crates are fastened by plastic fasteners.  Fasteners join the top and bottom halves together.

IATA does not require metal fasteners but, most airlines do not allow plastic fasteners. (United Airlines allow plastic or nylon fasteners).

If the crate is not a one piece construction, the pieces (usually 2: top and bottom) must secured with nut-and-bolt type fasteners. This is an inexpensive replacement so, even if the airline allows plastic fasteners, exchanging to metal will allow use with other airlines.

Many companies sell replacements kits (as pictured below).  Any hardware will have replacement bolts.  Just take the plastic bolts with you for comparison.

I use this Pet Travel Kit, the Complete GT Deluxe Pet Airline Kit with Pad. The kit has the “Live Animal” stickers, in the IAPTA required size, the information sticker with all the Information about your Pet, a Pee Pad, Pouch for Food, Funnel, 2 clip on Bowls and especially the metal fasteners to change my plastic fasteners to metal fasteners and a few other helpful items so my Crate is ready for Travel.

Dog Travel Crate for Flying with Dogs

3. Pet Crate Flooring

The floor must be solid and sturdy and leakproof. Look for a removable tray, drainage at the bottom of crate. Plastic is best–fiberboard is porous and will fall apart quickly.

4. Handholds

Handles can be on top for smaller crates or bars on the long sides for larger crates.  The handlers need to have handholds on both side of the crate to lift without tipping.

4. The Placement of ForkLift Spacers for Xtra Large Dogs

For Dogs over 132 lbs/60kg, airline handlers use a forklift to move your Dog’s crate and so you must have forklift spacers.

5. Proper Ventilation

Two sides are recommended for domestic flights and 3 side for international fight. Ventilation on sides and the door.  Most airlines require there be no ventilation on the roof.  Look for ventilation slots that are paw and gnaw proof. Your pet should not be able to put their paw or jaw into the ventilation slots.

Here you will find reviews of Crates we have used for flying with Pets and Roadtrips: Best Cargo Crate for Flying with Large Dogs in 2022

Most airlines require there be no ventilation on the roof. Airlines do stack smaller crates on top of larger crates. This is another reason airlines do not accept collapsible crates.

6. The Quality of Door on Your Dog’s Crate

The door must be escape-proof with one metal grated door fastened securely to prevent accidental opening. Attach releasable zip ties securing the closed door to the frame, using all the original drill holes.

7. Metal Door Locks are Required by Most Airlines

Your crate door must be a spring loaded with a locking system including pins extending at least 5/8”/1.6 cm above and below the door. Doors must be constructed of heavy plastic, welded or cast metal so that it is paw and gnaw proof.

Pet Cargo Crates Must Not Have:

1. Non-Removable Wheels

Your crate must not have permanently attached wheels.  If your crate has wheels, they should be removeable or must be foldable and unusable when the crate is in the cargo hold.

2. Collapsible Material

No soft-sided material, not composed of wire, mesh, carboard or particle board or wicker. Remember, many Pet Crates are stacked in the Cargo hold. You do not want material so thin that it will collapse under the weight of a crate placed on top of yours. The crates I have used are all solid and strong They vary in other aspects but, sturdiness is mandatory. See them here: Best Cargo Crate for Flying with Large Dogs in 2022

Here is an example of an unacceptable crate.

Image of Crate that Compresses and is Not IATA or Airline Compliant
Image of Crate that Compresses and is Not IATA or Airline Compliant

3. No Twist, Slide or Snap Fasteners

Do not use twist, slide or snap fasteners.  Zip ties, duct tape or rubber bands to construct the frame. (Zip ties are used for attaching your Document pouch, food and water and funnel. 

Here is an example of improperly fastened crates:

Pet Cargo Crates Cannot Have Slide or  Snap Fasteners Shown Here.  Metal Fasteners for Pet Travel Only
Pet Cargo Crates Cannot Have Slide or Snap Fasteners Shown Here. Metal Fasteners for Pet Travel Only

4. No Plastic Doors on your Dog’s Cargo Crate

The crate door must have a secure, spring loaded, all around locking system
with the pins extending at least 5/8” 1.6 cm above and below the door. Doors must be constructed of heavy plastic, welded or cast metal strong enough so it is paw and gnaw proof.

5. No Plastic of Fabric Covering

No tarp or fabric crate/kennel cover. They will likely be lost or damaged. Remember, many Pet Crates are stacked in the Cargo hold. Any fabric covering will only be removed by the flight crew.

Small Crate How to Prepare a Pet Kennel for Airline Travel in Cargo

This is a smaller crate showing how to Prepare a Pet Crate for Air Travel and make ventilation and doors compliant with IATA and Airline Policies.

CHECK THE AIRLINE YOU MIGHT BOOK WITH FOR THEIR SPECIFIC CARGO CRATE REQUIREMENTS. Specifically, Check Total Weight of Pet and Crate requirements from your airlines.

Now that you know how to choose the right crate for your pet, the next step is:

The best Pet cargo crate is IATA compliant, made of rigid plastic or fiberglass material, metal fasteners and door locks that are paw and gnaw proof, without wheels and has ventilation on 3 sides for international flights and 2 sides for domestic flights.  

Source Authority: International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Pet Shipping Crate/Container Requirements. IATA and APHIS.

See also, Prepare a Pet Crate for Air Travel

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