Traveling by air has changed a lot over the last two decades. So much so that flying with your four-legged friend is no longer a matter of simply shipping him off as checked luggage in his crate. We have reviewed some favorites here. There are other considerations to make such as his comfort, security and ease of handling by airport staff while in transit.
If you need to fly with your dog but they’re too big to fit in the cabin, here’s a list of things you should know regarding the type of airline approved dog crate you should use.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade association for the world’s airlines, has put in place rules regulating the kind of containers you can use for your dog, cat or any other pet creature when flying. Many airlines have in turn embraced these rules and now make special provisions for handling live animals transported as cargo.
Requirements for Pet Cargo Crates
Besides traveling in an IATA compliant pet crate, their Live Animal Regulations discourage having more than one animal per container. They do, however, allow sharing if the creatures are less than 30lbs and belong to the same species.
Here’s a list of the other rules you need to observe regarding your dog crate.
- Loading: All kennels must be capable of being loaded standing upright in the aircraft luggage bin.
- Pet crate size: The pet crate must have enough room for your pet to stand, turn around, and lie down with minimal discomfort.
- Material: The crate must be made from metal, firm plastics, fiberglass, solid wood or plywood (some airlines like Air France and KLM do not allow in wooden crates). It should be should have a sturdy design and shouldn’t be collapsible.
- Floor and handles: The floor must be solid and leak-proof. The long side of the crate must have handles or handling space bars in place.
- The crate door must be fitted with a spring-loaded, all around locking system. A number of airlines also require extra securing of the door with cable ties at each corner of the container. Plastic clips for fastening are discouraged. Doors must be made of heavy plastic, welded or cast metal that’s strong enough to bend under force. Where mesh wire is used, it must be firmly attached to the crate door, not stapled. The door must be nose and paw proofed to avoid causing injury to your pet.
- Roof: The crate should have a solid roof that may include ventilation provided the strength of the roof isn’t affected.
- Feeding: The crate should have two separate food and water bowls attached to the front door from the inside. They should be refillable from the outside without having to open the door for the safety of airline personnel who feed the pets. Food may be attached to the top of the crate in a plastic bag.
- Ventillation: The container must have vents fitted on at least two sides for domestic flights, and on 4 sides for international flights. Additional vents may be fitted on the container roof or sides provided they don’t compromise the crate’s strength. Airlines also require there be a spacing rim of no less than ¾ on all sides with vents so as to prevent dogs from biting handlers and to make a provision for cargo handlers to carry the crate.
- Labelling: The crate must be labeled with LIVE ANIMAL STICKERS both on the top and the sides in large letters. There must be directional stickers as well. There must also be a Shipper’s Declaration indicating when your pet was given water and food.
- Documentation: Pet Info and contacts. On your dog’s kennel, your pet’s important details like name, medications as well as your address and phone number should be included. Your final destination, flight number, and a second person’s contact (at your destination) are also important details to include. It’s also recommended to attach feeding instructions and a bag of food on top of the container.
- Crate Lining: It’s important that the pet travel crates be lined with cushioning and absorbent papers to protect your dog from potential accidents during the flight.
Features That Are Not Allowed
The following features are often included in crates designed for car travel. Although they’re convenient for pet owners to use, they are prohibited from air travel.
- Top Opening Doors: these are not permitted for air travel kennels.
- Plastic Front Doors or Latches for securing the top and bottom of the kennel are not allowed.
- Wheels are prohibited unless they’re detachable, in which case they should be removed or taped securely to prevent the kennel from rolling.
- Crates made Of Unstable Materials such as wire mesh, wicker, wire mesh, or canvass are not allowed.
Note: Forklift spacers must be put in place for pets exceeding 132 lbs in weight.
Sizing Your Pet Crate
Irrespective of whichever means of travel you plan to use, you need a sturdily built crate that will secure your pet while keeping him comfortable during the journey. In air travel, this is especially important to prevent your pet from escaping from his container.
Before buying a crate, it’s advisable to get the right size of crate to fit your dog. To do this successfully go through the following steps:
- Measure your pet accurately as shown in the diagram below:
2. Select your crate using your pet’s measurements in line with the chart below:
||A + 1/2 B
||C x 2
NOTE: These measurements are the minimums as specified by IATA. Individual carriers can, however, increase these specifications. United Cargo, for example, specifies that the dimensions should be Length = A+B, Width = (C+1) x 2 and Height = D + 3″. Snub-nosed dogs require that an allowance of 10 of the dimensions be added.
- To avoid inconvenience it is best to find out in advance what the crate requirements are for the specific airline you plan to travel with.
How to Measure Your Pet
When taking these measurements your dog should be standing in a natural position.
- Length: Start by measuring your dog from the tip of his nose to the base of the tail. Make sure you exclude any part of the tail from your measurements. This measurement is called A.
- Height: Measure your dog from the elbow joint in his forearm to the ground level and call this measurement B.
- Width: Measure your pet across the shoulders and label this measurement C.
- With your pet standing erect, measure him from the top of his head to the ground level. If your dog’s ears are kept erect include the measurement from the top of the head to the tip of his ears. This is measurement D.
- To avoid difficulties measure your pet using a piece of string
Travel Dog Crate Requirements for Specific Airlines
Besides IATA rules on pet carriers, different airlines have their own additional standards you should be aware of when purchasing a sky kennel for your pup. Click on the links below for details.
US Airways, JetBlue and Southwest and allow only in-cabin pets. No cargo pets! Here are some more tips for traveling with your pets along with one showing you how to travel with your dog in the car