Airline Pet Cargo Crate Requirements
The rules regarding approved types of containers for cats, dogs, ferrets and birds flying in cabin and as cargo were created by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and, for the most part, have been accepted by the world's airlines.
To view the requirements for individual airlines, visit our airline pet policies page.
Whether your pet is flying as checked baggage or cargo, it will travel in a temperature controlled and pressurized compartment right under the cabin. Most airlines flying larger aircraft (not commuter planes) accept live animals as cargo and have made special provisions for their handling. Exceptions to this are Southwest, AirTran, JetBlue, Frontier, Virgin America, and those airlines that do not accept pets in the cargo hold.
REQUIREMENTS FOR AIRLINE PET CARGO CRATES
Your pet must be in an IATA compliant pet crate and meet certain other requirements depending on the airline. It is considered best to have only one animal per container, but the IATA rules state that two animals can share the same container if the animals are under 14kg (30lbs) and are of the same species and compatible. It is up to the airline to set their own rules and most of them do.
We recommend these pet crates made by PetMate as they meet all of the standards for pets traveling as air cargo or checked baggage. They are one of the safest commercial cargo crates on the market today.
Minimum cargo crate requirements:
- The pet crate must be large enough for your pet(s) to
stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Brachycephalic
breeds (snub nosed) will require one size larger than normal for
most airlines that permit them to fly in cargo. See sizing
- The crate must be made of fiberglass, metal, rigid plastics, weld metal mesh,
solid wood or plywood (note that not all airlines will accept
crates made of wood, e.g. Air France and KLM)
- The floor must be solid and leakproof.
- Handling space bars or handles must be present on the long side of the crate.
- The container door must have a secure, spring loaded, all around locking system
with the pins extending at least 1.6 cm (5/8 in) beyond the
horizontal extrusions above and below the door. Many airlines will also require that the
door be further secured with cable ties at each corner. Doors
must be constructed of heavy plastic, welded or cast metal
strong enough so that a pet cannot bend them. (We recommend
metal.) The door must be nose and paw proof so as not to injure
your pet in any way.
- The crate should be should be sturdy in design and not collapsible.
Roof should be solid but can have ventilation as long as the
strength of the roof is not comprimised. (We do not
recommend crates with doors on the top.)
- Although this is not an IATA requirement, many airlines are now requiring steel
crate hardware instead of
plastic fasteners. We would recommend that you use this hardware on your pet's crate to be sure there will be
no problems. Also, many airlines require cable ties in the
corners of the crate. Plastic clips are not recommended. All
hardware and fasteners must be in place.
- Both water and food bowls must be attached to the inside of
the front door and be refillable from the outside of the
crate without opening the door. Small funnels attached to the
door by cable ties make it easier for airport handlers to refill
water bowls. Food can be attached to the top of the crate in a
- The container must have ventilation on a minimum of one end,
which can be the door (domestic flights) and 2 ends
The openings must be a minimum of 1 in(2.5 cm) over the upper two thirds of the opposite end and the remaining two sides, at a distance of
4 in (10 cm) from
centre to centre of each opening.
The total ventilated area must be at least 16% of the total surface of the four sides.
Additional holes on the roof or sides are permitted as long as
they do not affect the strength of the crate. The ventillation holes must not be taped over or blocked in any
- The container must have LIVE ANIMAL STICKERS on the top and
sides in letters at least one inch tall as well as directional
stickers. Also, there must
be a sticker adhered to the top of the crate called a Shipper's
Declaration stating when your
pet was last watered and fed. These stickers can be found in our
- NO WHEELS. If the container has wheels, they should be removed
or taped securely so that the kennel cannot roll.
- The container must be identified with you pet's name and
owner's contact information. The best way to do this is to attach your pet's information to the outside of the
crate with duct tape or other sturdy tape.
- Forklift spacers must be provided when the pet exceeds
132 lbs. (60kg)
- Find more information on pet cargo crates. Here are examples of IATA compliant pet cargo crates.
Extra crate recommendations:
- Attach a leash and collar to the outside of the kennel. (put in a
plastic bag and tape)
- Tape or print your pet's name on the outside of the crate as
well as the owner's name, address and cell phone number.
- Include a pet pad or shredded newspaper. This is a requirement
of many airlines.
- Include an unwashed t-shirt with your scent on it. This will
provide comfort to your pet.
- Tape the original health certificate and any other papers
required by your destintion country to the
top of the crate in a plastic bag marked "DO NOT REMOVE! ORIGINAL
- Do not include any hard toys or objects that could bounce around and injure your pet.
Sizing Your Pet Crate
This is a crucial step in ensuring your pet's safety and comfort and can
make the difference between being accepted or refused by your airline.
Measure your pet according to the chart below for domestic flights. See below for international requirements. Compare your findings with the interior measurements of the crate.
A= length of animal from nose to root of tail
B = height from ground to elbow joint
C = width across shoulders
D = height of animal in standing position (top of head for pets with non-erect ears - from tip of ears for pets with erect ears)
The length of the kennel must be equal to A + 1/2 B. (domestic flights) A+B (International flights)
The width of the kennel must be equal to Cx2 (domestic flights) (C+1 in) x 2 (international flights)
The height of the kennel (top flat or arched) must be equal to D (domestic flights) D+3 in (international flights).
If you are traveling internationally, the length of the crate will equal A+B and the height of the crate will equal D+3 in for pets with non-erect ears and from tip of ears + 3 in for pets with erect ears.
Snakes require a crate at least two thirds as long as the snake and at least 50% of the snake's length in the crate width. Container preferences will vary by airline.
Rabbits & Hamsters
All small rodents as well as hamsters will travel in the cargo area in a cargo container as described above. A few airlines will allow rabbits in the cabin. Do not put objects in the cage as the airlines frown upon non attached items in the crate. A pet pad and old t-shirt is fine.
Turtles traveling in the cabin (call the airline to ask if they will allow it.) will need a sturdy container with absorbent material (shredded newspaper) and a place for your turtle to hide. Traveling in the cargo hold may require protection from the cold. Container must be a sturdy material (not cardboard) such as heavy plastic or wood and be of a minimum size set by the airlines.
Containers for birds can vary by airline, so we would suggest that you contact the reservations desk (in-cabin and checked baggage travel) and cargo department (manifest cargo travel) of the airline you are using for details. Adequate clearance must be allowed for the bird's tail and crown, and a perch must be attached to the crate. It is advised that the ventilation holes be covered with loosely woven material to allow for ventilation while providing privacy for your bird. There must be water available to your bird in a bowl attached to the door. Keep any unattached items to a minimum.