Unless a pet weighs 15 lbs. or less, it is not eligible to fly in-cabin with its owner and will need to fly either as checked baggage or cargo. As is true with anything that flies these days, there are arduous rules and limitations. For the most part, rules which regulate flying animal passengers as well as the containers and conditions they are allowed to fly in have been created by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Overall, the IATA standards are widely respected and adopted by the world’s airlines. However, it is not 100% standardized at this point. To view individual airlines’ requirements, go to www.pettravel.com. This handy resource allows you to individually look at over 160 airlines’ requirements.
Whether the pet will be flying as checked baggage or as cargo, it will be in a temperature controlled and pressurized compartment – safely just beneath the cabin where the humans are. With the exception of Southwest, AirTran, JetBlue, Frontier and Virgin America – most airlines accept lives animals on board as cargo and have specific provisions and conditions for handling them. Cargo animal crates must be IATA compliant and may need to meet additional standards – dependent upon which airline is involved.
- Crates must be large enough for the pet to stand up and re-position itself comfortably in order to be compliant. For snub nosed dogs with a propensity of breathing and respiratory problems – (officially referred to as Brachycephalic breeds), it is required that the size be increased by one additional size.
- There are stipulations of the material used for construction of the crate. It must be made of fiberglass, metal, rigid plastics, weld metal mesh, solid wood or plywood. Please note: not all airlines accept wooden crates. Always verify with individual airlines to be certain.
- The floor of the crate must be solid and leak-proof.
- Handles or space bars must be present of the long side of the crate for handling.
- The crate door must have a spring loaded locking system with pins extending at least 1.6 cm (5/8 in) beyond the horizontal extrusions both above and below the door. In many cases, airlines will additionally require that cable ties be used at each corner to further reinforce (ensuring it remains closed during flight).
- Doors must be constructed of material strong enough so that a pet cannot bend them. The door should be nose and paw proof to ensure the pet is not injured in any way.
- Crate must be of sturdy construction and collapsible crates are not acceptable.
- The crate must have ventilation on a minimum of two sides for domestic flights and 4 sides if international. The total ventilated area must be at least 16% of the total surface of the four sides. Piercing the kennel to create additional holes on the roof or sides is permitted as long as it does not affect the strength of the crate.
- The crate must have “LIVE ANIMAL” stickers on both the tops and sides of the container and must be at least one inch tall. There must also be a sticker on the top of the crate stating when your pet was last watered and fed.
- No Wheels are allowed. They should be removed or taped to ensure crate cannot roll.
- Crate must be identified with the pet’s name as well as the owner’s contact information.
- If the pet’s weight exceeds 132 lbs. (60 kg), forklift spacers must be provided. Remember, these are the base IATA requirements. Consult the specific airline for exact requirements.