Need to fly with your dog or cat but they can't fit in the cabin with you?  Need recommendations for the best pet carrier or dog crate that is iata approved?

Traveling by air isn’t what it used to be for humans or their four-legged friends. If your pet isn’t small enough to be carried on and stowed beneath the seat in front of yours, be prepared for anything ranging from flat-out rejection to meeting a host of safety criteria with your pet and the airline's limited liability in mind. For instance, Southwest Airlines no longer allows pets to be transported with checked baggage, and they only allow six pet carriers on board per scheduled flight, so you'll probably need to book in advance if you want to your pet to make the trip.

Here is a list of some important things for you to consider when flying with your dog or cat in cargo together with our recommendations for the best pet cargo carriers for airline travel.

Best IATA Approved Dog Carriers

Check Your Airline Policies for Pets


Flying with pets can be stressful: Invest in a quality pet carrier for airline travel

It's important to check with the airline’s rules and regulations for bringing your dog or cat on board. While American Airlines still allows pets to be transported via baggage, they have very specific guidelines that must be met — which include the proper transport container — and they will not accept brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs like Frenchies or Pugs due to possible breathing complications. Most airlines have strict regulations on flights lasting 12 hours or longer and certain destinations are off limits to pets. There are even rules regarding age. Educating yourself in advance will make it easier to quickly determine who you'll be flying with and what to expect before, during and after the flight. Each airline will have its own policies and restrictions, so it's recommended you become acquainted with them.

To give you an overall sense of airline restrictions and rules, here's the info on traveling with pets for some of the most popular airlines: American Airlines- Flying with Pets and Kennel Guidelines;  Delta Airlines  - Flying With Pets and Kennel Requirements and United - Flying With Pets In Cabin and In Transport. Remember that for Southwest, there is no flying with pets in cargo. For your airlines, just search online for your airlines and "travel with pets" to find the info on traveling with your pets. If you need specific info on cargo travel, search your airline and "pet cargo travel".

French Bulldog: Brachycephalic dogs aren't allowed to fly some airlinesFrench Bulldog: Brachycephalic dogs aren't allowed to fly some airlines



Book Pet Travel Plans Early

As mentioned above, most airlines have a limited number of pets they'll accept for any one flight. With some airlines that limitation may extend to pets traveling in cargo as well. That's why it's important to find out your particular airline's restrictions and book your trip in advance if you want to travel together. It's also worth noting that, unlike children, most airlines will not fly a pet unattended. For that you'd need a company like Pet Movers. In other words, you can't use an airline as an air cargo transport unless you plan on tagging along for the ride.


Check And Get The Green Light for Pet Travel


Animal Health Certificate: Get your pet checked out before flyingAnimal Health Certificate: Get your pet checked out before flying


Before you can fly together, you need to take your pet in for a checkup. Besides the fact that only healthy pets should be subjected to flying, this is mandatory for air travel with animals. You'll need to make sure all vaccinations are up to date and that you get a health certificate within 10 days of your flight. Whether it's called a Certificate of Good Health, a Zoo Sanitary Certificate or even a Veterinary Certificate, it's essential if you're going to take to the skies. Once again, check with your specific air carrier to make sure you've got the right verification and that it covers the time frame surrounding your trip.


Precautions for Pets Traveling in Cargo

Pets traveling in cargo should be afforded a few extra precautions, like booking flights that are direct and non-stop, thus minimizing the time they're in the air and in the hold. Another good idea is to plan flights for early morning or late evening to avoid extreme temperatures during summer months and take midday flights during colder winter months. Another thing to consider is to sedate or not to sedate. Most airlines would prefer you didn't, and in most cases the American Veterinary Medical Association would agree. Having said that, some airlines will request additional information from you if you have sedated your pet and may even require you to sign a waiver of some sort should the animal founder during transport. If they ask you about sedation, be upfront about it or risk being denied your flight. Finally, make sure your furry friend and their airline approved pet carrier have plainly visible ID tags and emergency contact information attached to both.  


Consider Food & Water Needs During Flight


Traveling with Pets: Federal regulations require Certificates of Proof for food and waterTraveling with Pets: Federal regulations require Certificates of Proof for food and water


Due to Federal regulations, you’ll need to provide written certification that your pet has been fed and offered water within four hours (with the specific time noted) of your delivering them to the airport. Yup, things have tightened up, so you'll need to find yourself a notary. This certification needs to be securely and visibly attached to the outside of the kennel/pet carrier and must contain your signature with the date and time you signed it. You’ll also need to provide feeding and watering instructions for a 24-hour period, presumably in case your pet is lost or somehow separated from you during the trip. Be aware that unless specified by a vet, you cannot just leave instructions saying “no food or water." Check with the airlines for all the specifics and whether you need to provide them (the air carrier) with your pet's food before take off or what to do in the event of a lengthy delay.


Buy the Right Pet Carrier for Airline Travel

Commonly called sky kennels, there are weight and size restrictions along with impact criteria that need to be met for pet carriers used in air travel. Each airline is different. On Delta, for instance, pet carriers must have wheels that can be removed or made inoperable. Bearing this in mind, save yourself the headache by making sure the model you're thinking of purchasing is IATA (International Air Transport Association) compliant before you buy it and that it meets all airline criteria, including size in connection to the animal being housed within it. This is extremely important. Airlines want to ensure that the animal has the ability to stand and sit erect with sufficient space to turn about normally while standing and to be able to lie in a natural position. When choosing your air kennel, look for a size large enough to comfortably house your dog, make sure there are plenty of air holes, and make sure that the kennel is easily transportable. Most importantly, check your airlines requirements as no pet carrier fits requirements for all the airlines.

Here are five of the best pet carriers for airline cargo travel that I think meet the key requirements to look for that are IATA Approved:

1. Petmate Sky Kennel Airline Cargo Crate


Petmate Cargo Crate: IATA approved pet carrierPetmate Cargo Crate: IATA approved pet carrier


Approved by the USDA and IATA, Petmate offers affordable sky kennels in a variety of sizes and meets most airline requirements. They come with heavy-duty plastic nuts and bolts, though, and it seems some airlines require this kind of hardware to be metal, so you may need to swap them out with these. This is good to know in advance. The hardware is easily replaced with steel, should your air carrier require the switch. Petmate Cargo Crates also come with "Live Animal" stickers and clip-on bowls, so you don't have to purchase them separately. These carriers have some of the best reviews for strength and durability and comes closest to meeting most airline standards


2. Midwest Skudo Plastic Pet Carriers


Skudo Plastic Sky Kennel by Midwest: IATA approved pet carrierSkudo Plastic Sky Kennel by Midwest: IATA approved pet carrier


The Skudo Plastic Pet Carrier by Midwest claims to be as airline compliant as the other pet carriers we've highlighted, but it offers features and accessories most pet owners will really appreciate. First off, snap-lock buckles make assembly a breeze and — wait for it! — casters can be added to the carrier itself, so you can roll it along by the handy-dandy towing handle on top. This portable sky kennel is made of durable plastic with a metal grid door and multiple vents for air circulation and visibility. If you're flying Delta, this might be the pet carrier for you. It does not have some of the durability of other carriers but Midwest offers the option of both the wheels you can add and handy pull handles to easily transport your dog. We think the Midwest Carriers may be the first carrier you look at before considering the others if it comes in a size that can work for you and can be easily made to meet your airline's requirements. You can see the size options here

3. Favorite® Airline Approved Pet Carrier

Favorite Airline Dog Carrier

Favorite Pet Carriers and Sky Kennels: IATA approved pet carriers


The Favorite® portable pet carriers by MFPS is said to meet U.S. and international airline standards and comes with an IATA certification. It boasts easy assembly, has movable wheels on the larger kennels for easy transporting (but alas no handles on top), ventilation on four sides for plenty of air flow, quick-latching door, handle on the top for easy carrying and hasps on the top that could be combined with a strap for carrying on the shoulder on the smaller kennels. It comes in  several sizes including XXL for larger dogs up to 70 pounds and several colors and is probably the most affordable of the best pet carriers for airline travel.


3. Grreat Choice® Dog Carrier


 Grreat Choice Dog Carrier from PetsMart: IATA approved pet carrierGrreat Choice Dog Carrier from PetsMart: IATA approved pet carrier


Grreat Choice® is a pet carrier made exclusively for PetSmart and meets IATA and USDA air travel requirements. It features tough, durable construction with reinforced sidewalls and assembles in minutes with no tools required. As an airline approved pet carrier, it offers adequate flow-through ventilation, safety door locks and a convenient carrying handle for safe travel. As with all pet carriers, check with your airline to ensure it meets their standards before purchase.


5. Aspenpet Pet Porter Kennel

Aspen Pet Porter Airline Cargo KennelAspen Pet Porter Airline Cargo Kennel

The AspenPet  is a lightweight yet sturdy kennel that is compliant with most airline regulations. You will need to make a few adjustments to make it compliant will all recommendations for airline cargo kennels.  It offers a heavy duty plastic shells that is lightweight when you consider it's size along with wire doors with a squeeze chrome door latch. It has  plastic wing-nuts that  may need to be replaced with metal ones for airline travel (you can purchase this airline travel  kit for it) and an interior perimeter moat to keep pet dry. It has holes on all four corners to tie down the kennel. It is vented on three sides so for some airline requirements, you may need to drill some additional holes on the back side of the kennel. It's made of plastic so a regular drill will quickly take care of putting air holes on all sides of the kennel. It comes with "live animal" stickers.  It is a good quality kennel and comes in a large size to accommodate larger dogs.


More Pet Travel Considerations

Just like travel insurance is a good idea before embarking on any major trip, getting pet insurance before you depart is another good idea. The coverage should allow you to seek treatment at any licensed veterinarian in the United States and Canada and could very well salvage your trip should the unthinkable happen while you're away from home. Finally, if you're not staying with family or friends, look into pet-friendly accommodations before booking your flight to ensure a seamless vacation that will be remembered for all the things that went right and not the things that went wrong.

Now that you have done all this work preparing for your pet's upcoming flight, here is a silly and amusing video of a dog flying that you may enjoy. Or take a look at our tips for traveling with pets on the road, including ideas you probably did not think of. Remember to save and share this article. This article is one of our Always Fresh Articles - articles on our site that we update several times a year to make sure they include the latest info you need.


Originally posted July 2015 and last updated October 2016.

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