Best Dog Crate for Air Travel

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Best Dog Crate for Air Travel ReviewsI’ll admit it, I’m a nancy when it comes to flying!

And the thought of leaving my 3 dogs; Charley, Zèzè and Lexi in the cargo hold of a plane scares me just as much.

But it beats driving over 1000 miles with 3 busy dogs cooped up in our car.  So, air travel is the shortest and least stressful for my dogs.

At A Glance: Our Top 4 Picks For Dog Crates for Air Travel

Head straight to my detailed comparison table

Although, travelling by air with your pooch is not as simple as it sounds.  I mean, think about it…

Firstly, your dog’s safety is crucial.  The last thing you want is for your dog to jailbreak inside the cargo hold!

Secondly, you don’t want the airline company to refuse to take your dog at number 99 because the crate doesn’t meet their standards.  That’ll dampen your trip even before it’s started.

So, if you’re here looking for the best dog crate for air travel, you’re in the right place today.

I’ve researched a ton of crates and I’ve brought you the crème de la crème of dog crates made especially for air travel.

Now, you don’t have to spend days on end, wading through information and specs because it’s all here in one place.

The fact is no crate is completely compliant with IATA and airline regulations.  I’ll share with you in a minute why. So you’ll know what extras you’ll need.

And I’ll share with you the good stuff and also the weaknesses of each crate.

The handy comparison table will help you compare each crate side-by-side.  And with the buyer’s guide, you’ll learn exactly what to look for in a travel crate.

Quick Overview: Our Top Picks for Dog Crates for Air Travel

JW Pet Tanzanian Mountain Ball Our Top Pick

Petmate Sky Kennel

  • Sizes: 6 sizes available
  • Ventilation: 4-way ventilation
  • An absorbent floor pad
View on Amazon
West Paw Design Tux

Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel

  • Sizes: 4 sizes available
  • Ventilation: 2-way ventilation
  • Tie-down strap holes (to accommodate zip-ties)
View on Amazon
Aspen Pet Porter Kennel

Aspen Pet Porter Kennel

  • Sizes: 3 sizes available
  • Ventilation: 2-way ventilation
  • Easy to assemble with no-rust plastic wing-nuts
View on Amazon
Favorite Portable Pet Carrier

Favorite Portable Pet Carrier

  • Sizes: 3 sizes available
  • Ventilation: 4-way ventilation
  • Quick latching system
View on Amazon

Or use the links below and be magically transported to any section you’re interested in.

Quick Navigation Menu

  1. Best Dog Crate for Air Travel – Comparison Table
  2. Best Dog Crate for Air Travel Product Reviews
  3. Essential Accessories for Air Travel Crates
  4. My Choices for the Best and Worst Crates
  5. Buyer’s Guide to Find the Best Dog Crate for Air Travel
  6. How to Measure Your Dog to Choose the Right Size
  7. Planning Your Trip
  8. Final Conclusion

Best Dog Crate for Air Travel Reviews

So, let’s dive into each crate and see what options are out there for you…

Petmate Sky Kennel

Petmate Sky Kennel Specs
Heavy duty plastic construction
Made in the USA
Non-corrosive plastic wing nuts
Extra strong steel wire
Easy to operate secure door latches
Four way ventilation
Mostly airline approved - see review below
6 sizes available
An absorbent floor pad
Food and water cups
“Live Animal” sticker with this-end-up arrows


As with most of the best dog crates for air travel, this one comes apart into two halves that nest for storage. The smaller models have handles on top, and the larger ones don’t.

This is a great feature, as it encourages airport personnel to lift a larger crate properly – from the side and with two people.

Handles on the top of large crates have been known to fail. Which makes sense.  I mean picking up an 80 lbs dog in a crate is looking for trouble.

This crate has 4 holes drilled at the corners for zip ties. It also has a solid metal door. Some of the larger crates have metal doors with a middle fold to make packing easier.

These 2 part doors are not approved by all airlines, and they can make it easy for your dog to escape. Solid doors are more secure. Some users have complained that the door locking mechanism can be tricky and temperamental.


All sizes of this crate have ventilation on all four sides, and the ventilation is in the form of metal grates. Dogs have been known to chew through the plastic between the air holes in some models.

Check out the Petmate Sky Kennel on Amazon.

Airline Approved

There is one small issues here. The nuts and bolts are heavy duty plastic on this model. In order to be airline compliant, all hardware must be metal.

This is solved easily by ordering metal nuts and bolts with the crate. Regulations also require zip-ties at the four corners. You want to make sure to zip tie the door to the kennel and this model has holes to accommodate this.

Do this yourself.  It’ll give you peace of mind since airline personnel don’t always do it properly.

Size Variety

This crate comes in 6 sizes and have options to hold a dog that weighs up to 125 lbs.


This crate comes with nice, deep bowls that attach to the kennel door, an absorbent pad, and “live animal” stickers.

The airlines also provide “live animal” stickers.  And chances are if you apply the stickers before you get to the airport, the agent who checks in your pet will put the plastic envelope with the documentation right over your sticker!


Overall this is one that should be on your list for the best dog crate for air travel.  The handy food and water bowls that come with it means you don’t have to buy them as an extra.  And the absorbent pad is a nice touch too.

The only issue with this crate is that it comes with plastic bolts that need to be replaced in order to make it compliant.  But the price of the replacement bolts won’t even buy you a latte with all the trimmings at Starbucks.  So it’s really a small issue.

Check out the Petmate Sky Kennel on Amazon.

Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel

Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel Specs
Durable plastic shell, easy to assemble
Made in the USA
Easy-open squeeze latch
Interior floor moat
Tie-down strap holes (to accommodate zip-ties)
Metal side air vents
Meets most airline requirements - see review below
4 sizes available


This crate is a well designed, sturdy dog crate. And only the smallest size – rated for 25-30 lbs dogs – has a handle. All of the larger sizes have side bars that require two people to properly lift. This is important because it forces airport staff to lift the crate properly.

This model has a moat on the floor! I love this feature. It’s basically a channel around the perimeter of the floor – kind of like a meat carving board.  So if your dog urinates, the liquid settles in the channel, keeping your pooch pee-free.

But you should still use absorbent pads to keep your dog dry.


Both of the long sides of the kennel have metal grates. The rear has holes punched in the plastic. So the crate gives excellent ventilation.  But keep in mind that the plastic holes could be an invitation for an aggressive chewer to chew his way out of the crate.

Check out the Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel on Amazon.

Airline Approved

Two issues here – The screws are metal, but the nuts are plastic covered metal.  This can be annoying because your airline company might view the nuts as plastic and refuse the crates.

So, I suggest buying an extra set of metal nuts and use those instead.

Size Variety

There are 4 sizes available accommodating dogs from 25 pounds to 90 pounds. From user reports that the exterior measurements of this crate do not reflect the interior space for you dog.  So, I recommend going one size up from your dog’s measurements.


This model does not come with any extras.


The two issues that come up repeatedly with this model is that the hardware is defective and that the measurements, although accurate are misleading.

The interior space is much smaller than the exterior dimensions would lead you to believe. As a result, after doing proper sizing calculations, the crate may be too small.  Meaning you have to return it and order the larger size.

Some pooch parents have also reported that many of the screws that came with the crate were defective.

Check out the Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel on Amazon.

Aspen Pet Porter Kennel

Pet Porter Kennel Specs
Lightweight pet kennel made with heavy-duty plastic
Made in the USA
Easy to assemble with no-rust plastic wing-nuts
Side air vents
Interior perimeter floor moat
Wire door, secures with chrome squeeze latch
Meets most airline requirements - see Review below
Tie down holes on all 4 corners for zip-ties
3 sizes available


This crate is a little flimsier than the previous two pet carriers that I have reviewed.  None of the sizes in this crate have a top handle, as the smallest size is meant for a medium size dog. This model also has a mote along the floor, and a roomy interior.


There are ample ventilation holes in the sides of this crate, but there are no air holes on the back. The one thing that I did not like about this crate is that the venting is provided by perforations in the side wall plastic.

This, with the flimsy design means if your dog is an aggressive chewer a jail-break might be on the cards. And a stressed dog could do this carrier some serious damage.

Check out the Aspen Pet Porter Kennel on Amazon.

Airline Approved

The main issue here you’ll need to fix is the wingnuts.  They are plastic but the screws are metal.  So for this crate to be airline approved, you’ll need to replace the wingnuts.

Size Variety

This model comes in 3 sizes, accommodating dogs from 25 to 90 pounds. A positive for this crate is that most pooch parents have reported it’s very roomy inside.


This model does not come with any accessories.


The main feature I like about this crate is how spacious it is inside.  And the ample ventilation on the sides too.  The fact that there’s no ventilation holes at the back could be a drawback.

But in my opinion it’s not.  Some dogs become overwhelmed by their surroundings so having a place where they can hide inside the crate is a good thing.

It is a little more flimsy as I mentioned.  But the largest size is meant for a medium sized dog so I think it’s actually a very well made crate.  If your pooch is a medium size like my Lexi this crate is a definite contender for the best dog crate for air travel.

Check out the Aspen Pet Porter Kennel on Amazon.

Favorite Portable Pet Carrier

Favorite Portable Carrier Specs
Lightweight plastic
4 movable wheels
Steel wire door
Quick latching system
4 side air vents
Airline approved
Easy assembly
3 sizes available


This crate is designed with a mix of plastic clips and bolts.  I find it flimsy at best.  I don’t understand the hybrid of plastic clips AND bolts to put the two halves of this crate together.

The wheels are too small for the crate, and users have reported wheel failure. There is no handle on the top of this crate for guiding it along. Imagine wheeling your suitcase through the airport without a handle. Not a pleasant thought.


This kennel has vents on all four sides, but they are perforations on the sides of the crate and not actual vent holes.

Check out the Favorite Pet Porter Carrier on Amazon.

Airline Approved

Users report airlines accepting this crate, but it has plastic wing nuts and no pre-drilled holes for zip-ties.  This means you’ll need to buy metal wingnuts which is not uncommon.  But the fact that there are no pre-drilled holes for zip ties puts me off considerably.

Size Variety

There appear to be three sizes available. Not being able to find the company website, I cannot verify the actual number of sizes available.


No accessories are included with this crate.


This is my least favorite crate for air travel.  The design is not well thought out.  The wheels are too small and have been known to break.

The missing handles are also a deal-breaker for me.  How are you supposed to wheel your crate along the vast distances at airports without a handle?

And, the fact that there are no pre-drilled holes for zip ties puts me off too.  This means you have to drill into the plastic which will weaken it.  Not a good thing at all.

I don’t recommend this crate and would not use it for my own dogs during air travel.

Check out the Favorite Pet Porter Carrier on Amazon.

Essential Accessories for Air Travel Crates

Although referred to as “accessories,” these items are mandatory.  And required by the USDA and airlines if you want to fly with your dog.

Petmate 290300 Kennel Travel Kit for Pets

This kit comes with everything that you need to fly with your dog – even the all-metal nuts and bolts required by the USDA. At less than 15 bucks, it’s worth it to not have to hunt down these items separately.

Here’s what you’ll get with this handy kit…

  • Spill resistant food and water cup
  • Cut-to-fit absorbent kennel pad
  • 12 each, nuts, bolts, and washers
  • 2 “Live Animal” stickers
  • Temporary pet ID tag
  • 12 zip ties
  • Shipping identification sticker

The absorbent kennel pad included with the kennel travel kit is really a wee-wee pad, so you will also want to provide a cushy mat for the crate.

Don’t be tempted to put a thick pet bed in the crate with your dog. Look for a washable and preferably waterproof mat that closely fits the inside dimensions of the crate. Place this over the absorbent pad for travel.

A Word About Cushy Mats

Whether required or not by your airline, you will want to provide a nice, soft bed for your dog during their journey in cargo.

Travel is tough enough without your dog having to lie on a cold, hard surface. There are a number of very nice, low profile beds to choose from, and they come in various sizes, so it will not be difficult to find one that fits your carrier.

This kennel pad from Teton Dog has a waterproof, machine washable cover. If your dog has an accident, it will not leak through to the padding.

A second option is the Aspen Pet kennel mat by Petmate. It comes in seven versatile sizes.  The whole mat is machine washable and it has a handy nonskid bottom. The non-skid bottom is a nice feature, to keep your dog steady while they travel.

My Choices for the Best and Worst Crates

My favorite crate for flying is the Petmate Sky Kennel.  I like the fact that you have a choice of 6 sizes.  And considering that your dog’s size could make or break your choice, variety is important.

It has all of the right design features as well as the quality construction that would make me feel comfortable using it to put my dog into cargo.

The Ultra Vari Kennel (also by Petmate) was a close second, although I have reservations about the perforated venting on the back wall of the kennel.

Zèzè is a chewer, so I’d be worried about him escaping in the cargo hold. I’m also a little concerned about the interior space issue.  Although if you go one size larger than you think you need the crate will be more roomy.

The Aspen Pet Porter is also a well designed crate but it is a little flimsy.  But like I mentioned the largest crate in this range is suitable for a medium dog, so it should be fine as long as your dog’s not too big.

But I would only consider purchasing it if I had no worries about my dog chewing through the plastic perforations in the walls.  This crate is only suitable for domestic travel, as it does not have ventilation on all four sides.

The Favorite Portable Airline Approved Carrier is definitely my least favorite, and it is the only kennel of the four reviewed that I don’t recommend. The kennel is flimsy, the wheels are ridiculous, and there is no way to steer the kennel, even if the wheels were not bound to fail.

In addition, I really don’t like making important purchases from a company who has no Internet presence. It’s a big red flag when I cannot identify a company or find any contact information at all.

Buyer’s Guide to Find the Best Dog Crate for Air Travel

Best Dog Crate for Air Travel

The right crate for air travel must meet airline standards. It must be safe and comfortable for your dog too.

When flying with your dog, the decision on what to buy depends on whether your dog will travel in the passenger cabin with you, or in the cargo hold. Generally speaking, for cabin travel, a small, soft sided carrier is desirable.  But check with your airline first.

For the cargo hold, you will need a rigid crate that meets airline specifications. As a side note, make sure that you zip tie the door to the kennel with quick release zip ties. It will make setting your dog free at the end of the flight so much easier!

Knowledge is peace of mind when it comes to your pooch and air travel.  The United States Department of Agriculture regulates pet travel within the United States on commercial carriers.

So when you are planning your travel, check out the USDA regulations.  But also check with the airline that you plan to fly. Every airline has their own regulations, so the more you know, the less hassle you will encounter on travel day.

Here are some key features you should focus on when shopping for the best dog crate for air travel.


I’m amazed at how a product that’s specs are created by a government agency can vary so much.  In a perfect world, dog crates for air travel should all be pretty much the same, with the exception of size.

Guess what..

They’re not!

Handles, hardware, size to dimension ratio, metal grates versus perforated plastic, wheels, and other design parameters are different.

As far as sturdiness is concerned, stronger is better. Even if you have a laid back pup, air travel is traumatic and terrifying to your dog. You never know what they might do in the cargo hold of an airplane.

Agitation and fear can turn a calm dog into a terror, and I wouldn’t want to take any chances. In addition to your dog’s behavior, baggage handlers are notoriously careless.  Dog crates can be dropped, jostled, or bumped.

And cargo can shift during flight. You really want your dog to fly in a fortress.

The best air travel crates for dogs

The weakest part of a travel crate is its door and vents. Make sure you get the best you can afford.

The weakest parts of a dog kennel for air travel are the doors and the vents. Make sure that you buy the crate with the strongest, best designed door and air vents you can afford.

Most of the design aspects of these crates are dictated by the USDA guidelines, but there are some other considerations too.

How easy is the crate to lift? Are the handles ergonomically designed?  Remember, you will have to get your dog from the car to the airport and the airport to the car.

How easy is it to assemble? Does the crate have pre-drilled holes to accommodate the zip ties required to make sure that it is extra-secure?

How wide are the side margins that prevent other cargo from blocking the air vents? Are the side rails comfortable to hold?

Are all of the fasteners metal, or are they mixed, some metal, others plastic clips.


All of the crates approved for air travel have the correct proportion of air vents.  And dictated by the USDA guidelines.  Although I doubt that airline personnel are going to pull out a slide rule and make sure that the proportion is correct!

But this can be a potential weak spot. Aggressive chewers can chew through plastic like a hot knife through butter. You don’t want that happening in the cargo hold of an airplane.

Vents are mostly on the top half of the carrier.  But some crates are designed with some vents on the bottom half too. The best crates have vents like metal grids riveted into the walls of the carrier.  But many have vent perforations in the plastic walls.

Airline Approved

This is a tricky one because all of the airlines have their own rules.

Here’s the part that astounds me…

Not one of the airline crates come with the specified all metal hardware.  Virtually any crate that you buy will need to be upgraded in terms of the nuts and bolts.

All of the crates I reviewed here, except the Favorite brand, have corner holes drilled for zip-ties, which are compulsory.

I think the trick here is to find a crate that is more approved than not.

As a side note, I have a pair of 40 year old dog crates in my basement that are made of plywood and metal. They were made for my parent’s dogs by BOAC when they flew two dogs to London.

These crate can survive anything.  And they weigh a ton.  But of course, they’d never pass as airline approved today!

Best Airline Crate for Dogs

To be airline approved all nuts and bolts of the crate must be metal.

Size Varieties

When it comes to airline crates for dogs, size really does matter.  Does it come in a size that accommodated the size of your dog?  Whether you are flying domestic or internationally with your dog, you want them to be comfortable.

And remember this isn’t a home crate so you must measure and size your dog appropriately for either domestic or international travel.

We’ve flown several times with our dogs, and I’ve never seen the airport handlers measure my dog and do the calculations.  But they do make the dog stand up and turn around in the crate to make sure that there is ample room.

You don’t want your dog to be cramped, and this is one instance where federal regulations ensure that that won’t happen!


The price for these kennels goes up in proportion with the size of your dog. If you have a small dog, the prices are relatively inexpensive, but if you have a behemoth of a dog, expect to pay somewhere between $200 and $250.

In my opinion, shopping for anything that determines the safety and comfort of your dog, you should consider features before price.  A poorly designed, cheap kennel could be very dangerous for your dog.


Does the carrier come with wheels? A pad for the base of the crate? Bowls? Appropriate stickers?

Although my favorite crate came with some of the extras, you’ll want to purchase the accessory pack.  Besides all the other goodies your airline will require the accessory pack has the metal nuts and bolts you need.

If you choose the Petmate Sky Kennel, it comes with a single pad and bowls.  So, you may end up with an extra bowl, and zip-ties.  But I can think of a few things to do with those extras so no big deal there.

And if you plan on flying with your dog more than once, you will eventually need more pads, so go ahead and order the travel accessory kit for good measure.

How to Measure Your Dog to Choose the Right Size

If you crate your dog at home, you most likely purchased the crate based on the weight of your dog. The USDA has other ideas though.

And they’re not quite as simple…

If you don’t get it right, your chosen airline could turn your pet away and end your trip before it even starts.

Best Dog Crate for Air Travel

How to Measure Your Pet for a Travel Crate. Image courtesy of

The first step is to take your dogs measurements.

A = Length of your dog from the tip of his nose to the root of his tail

B = Height from the ground to the elbow joint

C = Width across the shoulders

D = Height of your animal standing, from the ground to the top of their head. If your dog has cropped ears, then measure from the ground to the tips of his ears.

Now comes the fun part!

For Domestic Flights

The length of the kennel must be equal to A + ½ B

The width of the kennel must be equal to C x 2

The height of the kennel must be equal to D

For International Flights

The length of the kennel must be equal to A + B

The width of the kennel must be equal to (C + 1) x 2

The height of the kennel must be equal to D + 3″

Making sure you follow these measurement guidelines might make your head hurt with all the algebra.  But it’ll give you peace of mind that your crate won’t be rejected on travel day.

Planning Your Trip

Checklist for Air Travel with your dog.

Planning to Air Travel with your pooch take a lot of planning. Make a checklist using the information here.

If I’m honest I’m not a fan of planning trips.  But I’m a bit of a control freak so I have a check list I follow.  And because airline travel with you dog takes a lot of planning I’ve put together all the information you’ll need.

As you start to plan your voyage, make sure that you speak with your airline to confirm what is acceptable.  Make sure that you have all of the proper documentation, and that your crate really does meets the specs of your chosen airline.

I also reconfirm my flight both 48 hours AND 24 hours prior to departure. Just in case.

I thought it might be useful to share everything from the minimum standards your dog’s crate must meet.  How to measure your dog for their crate.  And a few other tips on things like sedation, vaccinations and travel documents.

Minimum Cargo Crate Regulations

There’s a ton of regulations to follow.  And it’s a good thing because the safety and comfort of your dog is the most important thing during something as stressful as air travel.

Here’s a list of the minimum standards your dog’s crate must meet…

  • The crate must be large enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
  • Snub nosed breeds (such as pugs) need one size larger for most airlines to permit them to fly in cargo.
  • The crate must be made of metal, fiberglass, plastic, or solid wood.
  • The floor must be solid and leak proof
  • Handles must be present along the length of the container, and there must be rims so that other cargo cannot block the ventilation holes – in other words, the sides of the crate cannot be a flat plane.
  • The container door must have a secure, spring loaded locking system with the pins extending at least 1.6 cm beyond the horizontal extrusions above and below the door.
  • The door must be strong enough so that your dog cannot bend it, and must be paw and nose proof so that your dog cannot injure himself.
  • The crate cannot be collapsible. The roof should be sturdy but can have ventilation.
  • Although not an International Air Travel Association (IATA) requirement, many airlines now require all steel hardware on pet crates.
  • Many airlines also require cable ties (also known as zip-ties) at the corners of the container.
  • Water and food bowls must be attached to the inside of the front door and refillable from the outside of the crate.
  • The crate must be ventilated on two sides for domestic flights and 4 sides for international flights.The total ventilated area must be at least 16% of the total surface of the four walls of the crate.
  • The container must have “Live animal” stickers on the top and sides in letters that are at least 1 inch tall. There should also be directional “this end up” stickers.
  • On the top of the crate, there needs to be a “Shipper’s Declaration” sticker stating when your dog was last fed and watered.
  • If the crate has wheels, they should be removed or taped securely for flying.
  • The container must be identified with your dog’s name and your contact information.
  • Forklift spacers must be present if your pet exceeds 132 lbs (60 kg).

Flying Commercial with Your Dog

On commercial airlines, there are three ways in which your dog can travel…

In-cabin: For small dogs only. Your dog can be checked into the cabin, but must be in a carrier that can stow under the seat in front of you.

Checked baggage cargo: Pets traveling with a passenger but are too large to fit into an under-seat carrier travel as checked baggage.

Manifest cargo: Unaccompanied or very large dogs travel as manifest cargo.

Service dogs: Service or emotional support animals can travel in the cabin with their person on many airlines.

Best Dog Crate for Air Travel

Follow These Handy Tips for Flying with Your Pooch

8 Handy Tips for Flying with Your Pooch

  1. Attaching a funnel and food (taped to the top of the crate in a zip-lock bag) will make it easier for airport handlers to refill water bowls.
  2. If your dog crate has a deep, spill resistant bowl, it’s not a bad idea to freeze water in it before you head to the airport. That will ensure that he has access to some water during the flight.
  3. Tape a leash (packed in a zip-lock bag) to the outside of the crate.
  4. Include a pet pad or a towel on the floor of the crate. Many airlines require this.
  5. Include an unwashed t-shirt in the kennel. Your dog finds your scent comforting.
  6. Tape any health certificates or papers required by your destination (if you are flying internationally) to the crate in a plastic bag and mark the bag “Do not remove! Original documents.”
  7. Include your contact information, AND contact information of someone at your destination.
  8. Do not include hard toys that could injure your dog if they bounce around during take-off, landing, or turbulence.

Other Tips and Tricks for Air Travel with Your Dog

If you’re lucky enough to be able to charter a flight, you and your pet will travel in the cabin in the lap of luxury.

If you need to fly commercial, there are a ton of things you need to know.  I’ve already mentioned many of them above.  The more prepared you are the better, so here are a few others too…

  • The first of which is NO TRANSFERS.  Make sure that you reserve a nonstop flight. If you absolutely need to have a layover, make sure that both legs of the flight are with the same carrier.
  • When booking your flight, call the airline directly to make your reservation. Confirm that there is cargo space available for your dog.
  • I can’t stress enough how important it is to call the airline 24 to 48 hours before you travel to reconfirm your reservation.  And more importantly, your dog’s reservation.
  • Your dog will be more comfortable if he is used to his crate, so make sure that you do several trial runs. I actually feed my dog in his crate for a week or two before we travel.

Airlines reserve the right to refuse to transport your dog for pretty much any reason they choose. Some of the reasons are:

  • Extreme temperature (hot or cold).
  • A carrier that does not meet USDA or the airlines specifications.
  • If your dog is ill.
  • Agitation of your dog.
  • Aggressive behavior of your dog.

Emotional Support Animals

If you suffer from mental health illness, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD, your pooch (or cat) might qualify to be your Emotional Support Animal (ESA).

If you qualify, it’s essential that you get the proper certification before you travel. Save yourself the hassle over the holidays and go for a legitimate emotional support animal registration such as CertaPet.

Health Certificates

Dog Air Travel Health Certificates

If your dog is crossing state borders they will need a health certificate not older than 30 days.

The USDA requires that your dog must be at least 8 weeks old and fully weaned before flying.  And only dogs in good health are allowed to fly.

If your dog is crossing state borders they are required to have a rabies vaccination and have a valid health certificate provided by your vet within 30 days of travel.

Guide dogs are exempted from this rule.  I’m not sure why because why wouldn’t you vaccinate your service dog?

To Sedate or not to Sedate?

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that most dogs not be tranquilized for air travel. Because it affects their sense of balance.

Also, in a pressurized cabin sedation can cause cardiovascular issues. Snub-nosed breeds like Pugs, Boxers, and King Charles Spaniels – to name a few – are especially susceptible to these problems.

Of course there are exceptions, and you should discuss this with your vet. Should you decide to sedate, the name of the drug, dosage, and time given should be noted on the side of your dog’s carrier.

So You’re Ready to Fly!

It's Flight Day - Do these few checks before boarding

It’s time to fly! Here are a few last minute checks before boarding.

Okay, so it’s flight day!  You’ve spent weeks maybe even months preparing for this day.  And you’ve left no stone un-turned.

But there are a few more checks you must do just before checking your dog and yourself in…

USDA regulations require that your dog is offered food and water within four hours before you check in. I feed mine at the 4 hour mark.

Lexi is famous for vomiting in the car 10 minutes before we arrive at our destination.  So I don’t want her flying on a full belly.

Also, make sure you give your dog access to water right up to the time of the flight.

Give your dog a good bout of exercise and a potty run right before check-in.  So, make sure you have a leash in your carry-on bag.  A good brisk walk will also help them burn off some energy and calm them down before the stress of flying.

Arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before flying. Make sure that you ask about timing when you call to reconfirm your flight with your dog.

You cannot do curbside check-in with your dog, so make sure that you allow for waiting to check in at the counter.

Final Conclusion

The thought of flying with our dogs might be scary, but sometimes it’s the only way to travel with our pooches. Knowing the ins and outs of traveling by air with your pets helps tremendously.

And having the best dog crate for air travel will give you peace of mind and make your dog safe and happy.

Now that you have all the information at your fingertips, you can plan ahead.  Knowing what to look for in an air crate will help you shop with confidence and make the right choice for you and your pooch.

If you’re in a rush, check out my top choice for the best dog crate for air travel on Amazon…
Petmate Sky Kennel.

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About the author: Gabriella is a certified professional dog trainer with the Victoria Stilwell Academy. She has a special passion for teaching GSD guardians to train their dogs with kindness and clarity using positive reinforcement methods without force, pain, or fear. Join “Dog Speak” for free dog training tips and advice from a professional dog trainer.

  • Heather Kindberg

    We have an adult male Labrador and own a Petmate Sky Kennel – Giant 700 series. The dimensions of this crate are 122 x 81 x 89. Our flight is an international flight (Germany to USA) and according to Lufthansa, the airline allows for the largest crate to be no more than 125 x 75 x 33. I cannot even find a crate with those dimensions. Do you have any experience flying with the series 700 crate on Lufthansa? Any suggestions you have would be appreciated.

    • Hi Heather,

      Thank you for reaching out with your question.

      I don’t have experience transporting dogs with Lufthansa in particular. Although I’ve found that speaking with manager-level staff at airlines often helps. If not to arrange for permission to use a crate with some dimensions over the limit, they can often give guidance on which particular crate they prefer and perhaps give a brand name.

      The other alternatives (if Lufthansa has this) is to find out if they provide crates in the max dimensions that will comfortably fit your Lab. Some airlines do provide these at the cost of purchase. It may be expensive but you get to keep the crate for any future travel.

      And the last alternative is to work with a pet transport company. They always have friendly relationships with the airlines. They also know the ins-and-outs of pet transport so they may be able to direct you to a crate that meets the size requirements.

      I hope this helps some.

    • Meg

      Hey Heather,

      Were you able to fly with the giant crate?


  • Suzanne Pace

    Lufthansa told me today that German Shepherds are considered a cross-breed of two other shepherds in the “fighting dogs” breed; therefore, I have to locate a crate with a front sliding panel that covers the metal grill. The maximum allowed size of crate is 125 cm l x 75 cm w x 85 cm h. Can a 1.5 year-old German Shepherd fit in this?
    Can you please look at’s web site under crates for fighting breeds, and recommend the best crate? We plan to travel from Athens,Greece via Frankfurt, Germany to Chicago.
    Many thanks.

    • I would speak with someone in upper management at Lufthansa. As far as I know, the GSD is not considered a fighting breed. It’s a herding breed.

  • Alex


    Firstly thanks for the info – great amount of detail in one place!

    We have a bitch Swiss White Shepherd, and recently purchased the XL PetMate Sky Kennel, believing this would do the job. Suffice to say it does not – she is too tall, and too long. Even the XXL will be a tight fit height wise. I am surprised you manage with GS’s, as to my mind they are slightly larger, especially if male.

    My question is around traveling with the dog as extra large luggage. The XXL PM Sky Kennel weighs 23kg, and with a 29kg bith, it puts us just over the 50kg limit the airline has as a limit.

    Have you experienced similar issues? Have the airlines been rigid on the weight limit if flying as luggage, or have you simply bitten the bullet and paid the heavy costs of going cargo?

    Would love to hear from you if you have any guidance!

    Thanks, Alex

    • Hi Alex,

      My male is not as large as he should be since he had a retained testicle which I believe affected his growth. Some airlines don’t mind a couple of extra kilograms. But others will charge even for one or two extra kilograms over the weight limit. I’ve found that it depends a lot on how full the flight already is.

      Hope this helps.

  • Ronald

    We are heading out to visit family in Tampa over the holidays and I’m looking for a crate for my dog. He’s very shy and frightens easily so I want something sturdy. I’m looking at the Sky Kennel you recommended.

    I thought it would be okay to have my dog sedated for the trip. But now that I’ve read your advice, I’m not so sure if it’s a good idea.

    Thanks for this thoroughly thought out article. It’s a great help.

    • Hi Ronald.

      I’m pleased you’ve found this useful.

      I think your best bet is to chat with your vet about sedation so both of you can make the right decision for your pooch.

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