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International Air Transport Association (IATA) Crate Specifications

Published on: March 30, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Animal Transport

IATA-Container-RequirementsIf you’re planning a long-distance move – across the country or out of the country – your pets will probably be traveling by air, most likely as cargo or excess baggage. Among the many things you will need to do to prepare them for their journey, is obtaining a travel crate for each pet. But not just any carrier will do. To ensure your pets’ safety and security, they must fly in a kennel approved by the International Air Transport Association, or IATA.

Airlines make special arrangements for pets, but they still need to move them around from the terminal to the plane and back. Their goal is to ensure that animals and ground workers are protected during this process and that pets remain safe and secure while in flight. One way they do that is through standardized requirements for travel kennels.

Kennel Size

Your pet must be able to sit down, stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably inside the travel kennel.  While cats typically require the same size travel kennel, dog sizes can vary greatly.  It's extremely important that you accurately measure your dog to ensure they have the appropriate size travel kennel. If the airline thinks your travel kennel is too small, they might refuse to accept them for travel. Some airlines require an additional few of inches headroom, so ask about that before buying your dog’s crate.

The calculation used to determine the appropriate kennel size is below.

Dog measurements:

A = length of pet from tip of nose to base or root of tail (not including the entire tail)
B = height from the ground to elbow joint
C = width across the shoulders or widest point (whichever is the greater)
D = height of pet in natural standing position from top of the head or the ear tip to the floor (whichever is higher)

The minimum INTERNAL dimensions of the travel kennel are calculated as follows:

  • Kennel length = A + ½ B
  • Kennel width = C x 2
  • Kennel height = D + bedding (add roughly 2-3 inches)

If you have a snub-nosed breed dog (such as a pug, bulldog, or boxer), then you will need to purchase the next size larger travel kennel than normally required.

Construction of the Kennel

Your pet's travel kennel must be made of fiberglass, metal, rigid plastic, solid wood or plywood and must have ventilation on all 4 sides. Welded metal mesh can be used for ventilation “windows” and doors, but the holes must be small enough that your pet cannot stick their nose or toes through the openings. Lightweight, all-mesh or collapsible kennels do not meet air travel requirements for safety or security and will not be acceptable.

The most common material used is rigid plastic, because it’s light but very sturdy. Kennels not made of rigid plastic have specific requirements for material thickness and hardware as well as mesh type and size. The interior must be completely smooth, for your pet’s safety so they do not become injured. 

If you have a plastic kennel that has a top and bottom portion, these pieces must be secured together with metal nuts and bolts. Clips or twist-locks alone are not secure and will not be accepted. Pet transport companies and/or the airlines will typically use cable ties as well for an added measure of security.

The floor needs to be solid and leak proof. The door must be made of plastic, wood, plywood or welded or cast metal. The door has to be attached so that your pet cannot unhinge it, and it has to have a latch even a crafty pet cannot release. Cable ties will also be used to further secure the door in place.

Depending on the type and size of kennel you have, they will require spacers or handles on the sides of the kennel so that your pet can be lifted into the aircraft. The plastic kennels on the market already have these, so you typically don't need to worry about it.  If you have a custom built wooden, kennel then the person building it must follow all of these specifications.


Custom-Built Wooden Kennels

If you have a dog that is too big to fit in the largest standard plastic kennel, then you may need a custom-built wooden kennel to fit them.  Some other pet transport companies such as those in the UK often use wooden kennels as well (even for cats).  It's very important that wooden kennels are constructed to meet the IATA requirements using the link above.  Just because you are or might know a carpenter, doesn't necessarily mean you should attempt to build your own kennel.  Starwood has a network of custom crate builders, so we can happily provide one for you.  

Plastic Kennels

IATA-approved kennels are easily available online or at major pet stores but do keep the rules above in mind as not all of them will be acceptable for air travel.  Starwood recommends Petmate Sky Kennels, which can be found directly from the Petmate website or Amazon. They come with everything your pet needs, and they’re easy to assemble. If you hire an international pet transport company to assist with your pet’s move (an excellent idea to save time and ensure things go smoothly), they can provide the appropriate kennel as part of their service.

Soft-Sided Kennels

If your pet will be traveling in-cabin with you, you will likely need a soft-sided travel carrier. Each airline has their own requirements regarding in-cabin pet travel, so you'll need to confirm with your airline first. The kennel typically needs to be large enough for your pet to be comfortable, but small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. Here is an example. Even if you already own a hard-sided carrier you use to take your small pet to the vet, the airline may require a soft-sided carrier for in-cabin travel. 

With an IATA-approved carrier, your pet will be well-prepared for their flight to their new home, wherever that may be.

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