Traveling with a pet can be an exciting adventure, as long as you know what to expect and how to choose the perfect airline approved dog kennel for flying.
If you’re flying with your dog in the cargo hold, this guide provides all the info you need to feel secure that your pup is safe and ready for takeoff and will help you pick out the right crate for your trip.
Quick glance: Top Airline-approved dog kennels for flying
Best overall dog kennel for flying: Petmate Sky Kennel
Best versatile dog kennel for flying: Dakota283 G3
What to Know Before Flying With Your Pet
Rules vary between domestic flights and international flights, so it’s essential to do your homework as far in advance as possible to avoid any miscommunication.
Call the airline Before booking your flight, make sure to call the airline of your choice directly and speak with a representative about their pet policy. You should also double-check their regulations regarding size and weight limitations for both your pet and the kennel they must be in.
Temperature restrictions Airlines will not allow dogs to travel during certain times of the year because the temperatures are too hot or too cold. If your trip is planned during the summer months, then consider booking a red eye or during other times of the day when the temperatures are coolest.
Research travel times Many airlines will not allow animals to fly long-distance or direct flights out of popular airports due to the possibility of a long layover. Knowing these details beforehand will help ensure that you and your pup have a great experience while flying.
Requirements for Airline-Approved Dog Kennels in Cargo
As stated throughout this article, every airline has different rules when it comes to pets traveling on planes. The rules are generally the same across the various carriers for animals traveling in cargo. You can use the below information as a guide, but check directly with the airline of choice before purchasing a kennel and booking your ticket.
Airlines have strict policies for sizing, which may vary across carriers. In general, all airlines require that dogs must be able to stand up, turn around, sit upright, and lie in a natural position inside the kennel.
Be sure to measure your dog prior to purchasing a kennel if you plan to buy online. You can find the appropriate size with the Guidance for Dimensions of Container at IATA (all major airlines support this standard).
Kennels cannot exceed the maximum combined weight (pet + kennel) designated by the airline. For reference, American’s weight limit is 100 pounds, while Alaska’s is 150. Shop around if you have a larger dog.
The kennel must be made from either wood, metal, plastic, or other similar materials. The door must be a metal grated door that fastens shut. Some airlines require it be secured with zip ties to prevent escape. The top and bottom of the carrier must be secured with nuts and bolts.
Carriers must have appropriate ventilation on three sides for domestic travel and four sides for international travel. The material must be durable enough that the dog cannot poke through any gaps of the container.
Kennels may not have any cracks or other damage to the frame. Some airlines require handles and some do not allow wheels.
Food and Water
Most airlines require that a food and water dish be attached to the inside of the kennel. The staff can provide food and water for your pet, as long as they do not have to open the kennel door. Any food that your pet may eat must be securely attached to the top of the kennel.
Which Are the Best Airline-Approved Dog Kennels for Flying?
The best kennels for flying with a dog will of course meet airline standards. Again, note that each airline has their own requirements and may vary across carriers. Call ahead to verify that the kennel you wish to get meets those specific standards.
The two kennels listed below meet IATA requirements and are intended for travel with a dog in the cargo hold.
Wait, just two kennels?
Yes, there are only two kennels on this list. The reason is because these were the two that met my personal standards for flying with a dog in cargo. Other similar models either felt less durable or were not as versatile. I did a lot of research and these were my two picks. I’ve used both and can honestly say that I would trust them on a flight in the cargo hold with my dog.
Petmate Sky Kennel – Best overall kennel for various breeds and sizes
Petmate is a well-known and trusted brand for air travel with pets. The IATA-approved Petmate Sky Kennel has over 6,000 reviews on Amazon, and is available in six different sizes. This kennel is made from heavy-duty eco-friendly plastic, features plenty of ventilation, and includes two “LIVE ANIMAL” stickers, with options to include food and water dishes that attach to the kennel door.
Dakota G3 – Best multi-use kennel for flying
I listed the Dakota 283 G3 as one of my top picks for car travel due to its durability and high-quality roto-molded military-grade materials. I believe that it would also make a great kennel for flying in cargo with a dog.
The G3 comes in three different sizes: medium, large, and X-large, as well as a variety of colors.
Dakota also makes the Kennebec Jet Stream, which is specifically designed for air travel, but is discontinued. There are still some places you can find the kennel in stock, so if this is the one for you, get it while you can!
The airline-approved Jet Stream includes nylon airline straps and LIVE ANIMAL stickers is essentially damage resistant. Four handles on the top of the kennel make it easier to lift and maneuver and the door secures with a double latch.
What I like about Dakota Kennels is that you can easily use them for the car and air travel, which means you won’t need two different kennels for flying and driving. This kennel isn’t cheap, but I have full confidence that it will keep a dog safe in the event of an accident.
Note that neither the G3 series or the Jet Stream IATA CR-82 compliant, but the Jet Stream is airline-approved. That doesn’t mean that it cannot go in the cargo hold, it just means that you’ll need to check with the airline prior to travel.
What about a Gunner Kennel?
Why didn’t I include my beloved Gunner Kennel? It’s not that I wouldn’t trust it on a plane. The reason it didn’t make it on this list is because they are designed specifically for car use, which means they are more snug than home or travel kennels. Spending a long period of time in the kennel could be uncomfortable for a dog.
They’re also quite heavy, which may quickly exceed weight limits for larger dogs on certain airlines.