Airline Pet Carriers and Cargo Pet Crates – Choosing the Right One for Your Pet

If you and your pet are planning to ride in the car or fly in the cabin of an aircraft, the first thing you need to do is to is to measure your pet. If your pet is at most 18 inches from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail and between 12 and 14 inches high from top of head to the ground, there is a good possibility that your pet can travel in the cabin with you if your airline’s pet policies allow it. If your pet is larger than that, they will have to travel as checked baggage. Very large dogs, unaccompanied pets or pets flying to the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong or South Africa will need to travel as air cargo.

In Cabin Pet Travel

Unless your pet must fly as air cargo, contact the reservation department of the airline and notify them that you are flying with a pet. Most airlines allow only a limited number of pets in the cabin, so make your reservations early. Ask the airlines the dimension under the seat in front of you on the plane that services your route so you know what space your have to work with. If you do not have a flexible airline pet carrier, you need to get one. The airlines will require that your pet can stand up and turn around in the carrier. Do not stuff your pet into a carrier that is too small. The airlines will not accept your pet on the plane.

Additionally, the carrier must have a waterproof bottom and plenty of ventilation. The fasteners and zippers must close securely. An absorbent pad?or two are really a must, especially for long trips. A high quality, padded shoulder strap is a big help, especially if you have other carry-on items. Your pet carrier will be considered by the agent as a piece of carry-on luggage.

If your pet is too large to travel in the cabin, but not over about 70 (or so) pounds, your pet can fly as accompanied checked baggage if your airline offers this class of service. You will check them in at the ticket desk where luggage is checked. Your pet will fly in an area of the airplane which is temperature and pressure controlled just like the cabin. You will need an IPATA compliant cargo pet crate.

– Your crate should be made of sturdy plastic and large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around.
– The fasteners must be secure and many airlines require steel nuts and bolts instead of plastic fasteners.
– The crate must have adequate ventilation in the sides, and all four sides must be ventilated on international flights.
– Live Animal stickers with writing at least one inch tall must be present on the sides and top of the crate.
– Food and water bowls must be attached to the door of the crate and accessible to baggage handlers.
– The lock on the door of the crate must be a spring lock mechanism that cannot be opened easily. (Many pets are clever escape artists!)
– No wheels are allowed on any crates.
– Unless the crate is of a medium size or smaller, handles are not allowed.
– On international flights, a health certificate must be attached to the outside of the crate for inspection.
Pet absorbent pads are a good idea to keep your pet dry and smelling good.

Here is information on how to measure your pet for a pet crate.

Cargo Travel

If your pet is over 70 pounds (for most airlines) you will need to make a reservation with the cargo department of the airline. Ask them the location of the cargo department of the airport you are traveling from because you will need to drop off your pet at that location. Your pet can travel on the same flight as you and will be in the same compartment as if they were traveling as checked baggage. The crate they will travel in will be subject to the same requirements as those above. If a giant airline cargo pet crate does not fit your pet, you need to contact the airline for a carrier or the IPATA regulations for crates for larger pets or contact us at for custom crates..

Whether your pet travels in an airline pet carrier or a cargo pet crate, be sure and give your pet time to be acclimated to the carrier. Keep the pet carrier out where your pet can become familiar with it. Put a toy or treat inside and always keep the door open. Don’t forget lots of phrase when your pet goes inside. If possible, take your pet for a trip to the dog park or someplace fun in the carrier or crate before your trip. Doing all of these things ahead of time will make the trip far smoother when travel day arrives.

More information on airline pet carriers and cargo pet crates.


Airline Pet Carriers and Cargo Pet Crates – Choosing the Right One for Your Pet — 31 Comments

  1. Cheryl – there are 2 considerations with transporting larger dogs domestically within the US. The first is the type of aircraft that serves the route and the size of the cargo hold door. The second is that both United Airlines and Delta no longer will fly larger crates under their current regulations. Should you fail to find an airline that flies a larger plane into JAX, you may consider flying to ATL and renting a car to drive to Jacksonville.

  2. So im flying from Auckland New Zealand Jacksonville and we have a pet relocater moving the dogs to LA then we will book there flight from LA to Jacksonville florida.. my question is…i was told that the cargo holds are getting smaller and they may not be able to accommodate my dogs? I quite honestly dont understand.

  3. Paul – the size of the cargo door on the aircraft that is serving your route will restrict the size of crate that can fit in the cargo hold. You can check with another airline that serves your route for the type of aircraft that they use or you can plan to fly from another airport that may accommodate larger aircraft.

  4. why does the airline tell you to get a create to fit you animal, but when I went to book the flight I was told it could not be taller then 27 inches(my rotti is 30 inches tall) I bought the create and now American airline says it cant be greater than 27 inches. any advice?

  5. Hi, I’m traveling from Puerto Rico to Florida my dog is about 16 pounds his a mix Labrador right now his 4 month I’ll be traveling for November or question is how big I have to buy his cage cause definitely he will go on the cargo.

  6. my question is our dog is big like a great dane. he is 32 inches at the shoulders, head is over our kitchen cabinets. Is there any made pet carriers big enough for him to fly. Air North will fly him as cargo, but how do I find a crate big enough for him?

  7. Terrie – it is fine for your pet to travel in a crate that is one size larger than ordinarily required. BA is pretty strict on allowing room for pets traveling in crates, so it would not be a bad thing unless the crate is obviously not sized for the pet.

  8. Hi
    I’m traveling with my dog from buenos Aires to Ireland, a two stop journey.
    Here in Argentina is difficult to get the crates, my dog need a 36 inch but they only have smaller or larger 40 inch. So it ok for the dog to have a much bigger crate than needed or is this against regulations? I think we’ll be flying with British airways or KLM
    Tanks you

  9. Melissa – this is a question for your airline. If you are traveling with British Airlines, it would make a difference. Technically, on international flights, there should be a 3″ clearance between your pet’s head (or ears if they stand erect) and the top of the crate. Your airline may not be as strict, but better to know ahead of time and in writing if you can get it.

  10. Hello, I am flying my germans shepherd cross lab from Canada to Australia. I originally got a giant crate for her where she has lots of room. when the airline quoted me a price on this crate it was crazy expensive. I have now gotten an extra large crate. my dog can still stand and turn around without being cramped. but if she wouldn’t being able to stand with her head high fully erect. Is this acceptable?? It will save me about $1500 if it is.

  11. I just bought and then returned the Giant crate from you that is airline compliant. The problem has been that none of the airlines that fly into Germany accept the Giant size crate. Apparently, it is about 2′ too tall and too wide. Does anyone know of an airline (we have tried Delta, Lufthansa, Air Berlin) that fly’s direct to Germany and accepts Giant crates? Otherwise, any suggestions on how I might get my dog that is bigger than and extra large crate and probably a little smaller than the giant crate is made for to Germany?

  12. Matin – to better answer your question, I need to know what country you are going to Turkey from. First of all, it is the policy of the airline whether they will fly your pet in the cabin, not a country requirement. There are airlines that will allow pets in the cabin on international flights.

    If you change airlines in Germany (airlines, not airplanes), then most likely you will have to clear customs and conform to German requirements. If you are traveling from the US, Canada or Mexico, your pet will need to be microchipped, then vaccinated and you will need the health certificate for Germany. If you are traveling from another country, you could require a Blood Titer Test 3 months ahead of time as well.

    If you are only changing airplanes, but staying on the same airlines, you can stay behind the customs clearance and transit through the country. If your layover is more than several hours and your pet is traveling as checked baggage in the cargo hold, you should be able to make arrangements with the airline to care for them.
    Hope this information helps you. Let me know if I can assist further.

    You will clear customs on your second stop in Turkey and, if you have the time between flights, can walk your pet.

  13. Hi, I am going to turkey in summer with 2 stop flight one in germany and the other one is in one of the turkey’s city. I have 13 pound chihuahua which is a really shy dog. i do not know if the airline policy put my dog in cargo, how I can transfer my dog between these stop? beside, my flight is about 24 hours, is there any way to get my dog for a pee?

  14. Liz – where is your dog traveling from? Are you traveling with your dog? Have you made your dog’s reservations?
    If you cannot get your pup all the way to Rochester on the same airline, then you will need someone to pick up your pet in JFK and transfer it to another airline. You can do this with the services of a pet transporter. If you are looking for ground transportation, let me know that and I will find someone for you. We do not recommend “freight companies” because we have heard too many varied reports about their service.

  15. hello again. im planning to fly by 2nd week of march. can you refer me to a freight company that ships dogs for domestic travel? the flight only takes my dog up to new york (jfk) airport. and my last stop would be rochester, new york.

  16. Hi Megan – As a general rule, the airlines will need to see that your dog can stand up and turn around in the carrier comfortably. There should be no cramping, especially on a long flight. You may want to consider a larger carrier as you may have to delay your trip if the reservation agent objects to the size of your carrier. We don’t know if your airlines will enforce that rule, but it would be very inconvenient for you if they did.

  17. Hello,

    I’ll be flying with my dog from Korea to America in June or July. She can fit in a small carrier but it’s a little cramped. Lying down is fine, but she kind of has to crouch down to stand in her carrier. She can turn around and lay straight or curl up, but there’s not a lot of free space. I know she will be lying down most of the time, so I was wondering if that’s okay by the airlines standards? For her to be a little cramped 10% of the time and fine 90% of the time?

  18. Hi Liz – Delta is the carrier with the best route for your min-pin. Frankly, I would be concerned about transporting this breed of dog into Rochester in January. The temperatures are very cold and small, shorthaired dogs are especially vulnerable. You should really consider waiting until the temperatures rise or meeting your pet at a point along the way and flying them in the cabin to Rochester.

  19. I am planning to relocate my mini pinshcer from Manila to Rochester in New York through Delta but the cargo company said that as of Jan 2013, Delta will not take any pets because of the weather condition. Can u refer me another airline that has a route going to my destination and has cheaper rates? Your help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  20. Great website thank you!
    We need to ship two terriers to Thailand from the USA . One is 15″ high by 29 long ( her tail is not docked) and a schnauzer at 14″ high by 33″ long. These guys often share there crate at home and are good friends. We would like to crate them together for transport and company.
    Is this possible in a compliant crate?
    RESPONSE: this will depend on the airline that you choose for your route. Some airlines will allow 2 dogs or cats to travel in the same crate, but most will not. If you need assistance with shipping your pets, you can get a free quote here:

  21. im am going to bring my dwarf hamster on a plain in his cariier cage can i put his little house in there? And do you half to have food and water atttached to gage cause mine is almost full plastick and has holes on top were i open and close it?

    RESPONSE: If your hamster is traveling as cargo, it must be in an IATA compliant cargo crate like these: The airlines do not like metal objects in the crate that could bounce around and hurt your pet. Best to put something soft to cuddle in loke a small blanket or sock and shredded newspaper.

    You will need a spring locked door with water bowls attached to the inside of the door. You can attach a zip lock bag with food in it to the outside of the crate.

  22. I am looking for an airline that will allow me to take my very small dog into the UK in cabin. The paperwork to have her come into the UK without quarantine isn’t a problem, but I either:

    Need to find an airline that will let me have her in cabin and flies from North America (Toronto) to the UK


    Am I allowed to fly her into Europe in cabin (lots of airlines will allow in cabin pets to other european countries) and then get a connecting flight on an airline that allows in cabin pets short haul. i.e. My journey would be Air France (Toronto > Paris), Air France (Paris > London). In short, can I fly within europe without a pet passport?

    RESPONSE: It is a DEFRA requirement that your dog arrive in the UK as manifest cargo. You can fly Air France into Paris, rent a car and take the ferry or the tunnel to the UK as another option. Your pet will still need a pet passport to enter France and the UK. You can find them here:

    Any answers would be extremely appreciated!

  23. My dog is traveling in the cargo area. Can I put toys (like a kong) inside?

    RESPONSE: The airlines frown upon putting hard objects in the crate. Most animals sleep during the flight.

  24. Thanks for information I was looking for that.

    BTW Some law regulations abiut the cages are more tahn silly. Those cages regulations are just crazy is it possible to buy one of these?
    The IATA compliant pet crates are available here:

  25. Want to know what animal rights have to say about airlines setting pet carrier dimensions for example a 55x40x20cm for a cat carrier? How can a cat pet of about 5.75kg fit in a 20cm wide carrier?
    Seems to me that airline regulators have a problem with understanding animal rights here.

    RESPONSE: The 20cm is actually the height requirement. We would suggest a soft sided carrier so that the carrier can compress to get under the seat. Your pet will be laying down when the carrier is under the seat. It is upsetting that the newer airlines have less space under the seats than the older planes do. Also, you need to be careful about electronics which many airlines are putting under middle seats which takes more space away.

  26. Really informative post. I plan to travel to our hometown next month and I want to bring my pet hamster with me. I’m expecting that since these rodents are quite small I can bring them with me in my seat. I just hope that the airline people would allow me to do that. Do you have any tips available regarding bringing really tiny pets (like rodents) with you during your airline travel?
    You will need to call the airlines reservations offices to see if it will be allowed (each airline has different rules) and you have to make a reservation for the animal to travel in an approved carrier under the seat. Most airlines do not allow rodents, only cats and dogs to travel in the cabin so it may have to travel as checked baggage in an IATA compliant pet crate. Only the telephone reservations office will be able to answer your question.

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