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The 5 Best Airline-Approved Dog Crates for Cargo or Cabin

If you’re traveling with your dog, you have many different options for transportation. If you choose air travel, you’ll need to focus on dog crates because not all of them meet IATA (International Air Transport Association) guidelines.

Choosing the right travel crate for your dog when you’re making a long plane trip is not the easiest buying decision. Before you purchase any crate, call the airline you’re traveling with and check that the dimensions are acceptable. This will save you from buying an unsuitable crate or being turned away at the check-in desk.

You’ll find that some airlines are actually even stricter than the IATA guidelines, so it’s always worth clarifying the position of the airline you’re next flying with. While most airlines allow dogs to travel in either the cabin or cargo section, some airlines like Virgin don’t permit any pets in the cabin at all. 

We chose to put the best IATA-compliant kennels to the test to see which ones work best for air travel while keeping your dog safe and comfortable.

Read our related article, How Do Dogs Travel in Cargo? For more information on traveling by air with your pet!

Our Top Picks

  Product Details    
01 Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier Best Overall: Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier The Petmate Sky Kennel stays safe and durable during travel while keeping pets comfortable and stress-free. The heavy-duty plastic shell, non-corroding wing-nuts, extra strong steel wire, and interlocking door provide long-lasting protection. Check Price
02 Aspen Pet Porter Kennel Runner Up: Aspen Pet Porter Kennel The Aspen Pet Porter keeps pets safe and secure for travel and transport while giving pet owners peace of mind. The heavy-duty plastic shell and metal screws provide safety and protection for your pet. Check Price
03 Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel Best For Larger Dogs: Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel is a secure and comfortable travel kennel that keeps your pet safe. The 360-degree ventilation openings give pets fresh air and increased visibility. Check Price
04 Petmate Compass Plastic Pet Best For Affordability: Petmate Compass Plastic Pet The Petmate Compass Kennel strives for a comfortable and safe experience for pets and peace of mind for pet parents. With the expandable entrance, pet parents can easily assist their pets in entering and exiting the plastic kennel. Check Price
05 Suncast Deluxe Pet Carrier Best For Small And Medium-Sized Dogs: Suncast Deluxe Pet Carrier Help your pets travel in style with the Suncast Pet Carrier with Handle. This portable pet crate has a streamlined design that’s perfect for travel and is designed to fit small-sized dogs and cats up to 11.5″ tall and weighing up to 30 lbs. Check Price

Our Selection and Testing Process

Fluffy dog in crate
Airline-approved crates are crates that have been proven safe for your pet to travel in.

These are the factors that we personally look for when choosing our top picks:


The first and most crucial part of your buying decision concerns the overall dimensions and upper weight limit of the crates you’re considering. Most come in a range of sizes. While manufacturers give guidelines, you are well-advised to read some user reviews, too. 

Sometimes, you’ll find that the quoted weight limits are less than precise. We draw your attention to any such crates.

Materials and Durability

Look for a crate made from durable and toxin-free plastic. The mesh at the front should be made from metal like steel to guarantee a secure containment system. Typically, the more you pay for a crate, the longer it will last, giving you better value than many cheap crates that won’t stand the test of time.


Any crate you’re using to transport your dog inside must be properly ventilated. All those on our shortlist perform pretty well in this regard.


If your crate has wheels, these must be completely detachable for safety, storage, and airline compliance.


Check that the crate is airline-approved. We’ll be giving you some pointers on how to make sure this is in place right after our reviews.

Price to Performance Ratio

Most dog crates are not especially expensive, so this is not an area where you should be shopping based purely on the bottom line. Instead, think about the experience you’ll be giving your pet as you travel, and ask yourself what price you can put on that. Keeping him safe on the flight is priceless. 

That said, everyone shops on some kind of budget, so rather than obsessing over the price, factor in the overall performance and expected lifespan to get a better overall idea of value. Let’s face it, buying a cheap crate is no good if it lets you down and it’s unacceptable if it endangers your dog for the sake of a couple of bucks!

Let’s scope out the best airline-approved dog crates to see which of these takes your fancy.

Read our related article, How Do Dogs Survive On a Plane? Discover is plane travel is right for your dog.

Best airline-approved Dog Crates

1. Best Overall: Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier

Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier

Product Ratings


Size: 28 x 20.5 x 21.5 inches | Material: Plastic and steel | Dog Requirement: 15 to a 30-pound weight limit

What We Liked

  • 4-way door for added security
  • 360-degree ventilation
  • Generous bundle of accessories

What We Didn’t Like

  • Weight estimates are imprecise

Petmate produces a wide range of pet accessories and equipment for dog owners just like you. This classic Sky Kennel allows you to take your dog on your next flight without worrying about whether his crate will be acceptable to the airline.

Now, while this crate does fall in line with most airline standards, we always recommend double-checking before you fly. The last thing you want is any unexpected changes or hiccups at check-in.


This blended model of plastic and steel gives you a container robust enough for your dog, and one that’s built to stop him from wriggling out. The nuts and wire are designed not to corrode and they are strong enough to keep your pup contained.

360-degree ventilation makes your dog’s journey comfy even if you’re taking a lengthy flight.

You get a decent bunch of extras thrown in as always with Petmate. As well as stickers to adorn the crate, you also get some ID stickers and a bowl so you have everything you need for your next trip.

While most users seem delighted with this airline-approved crate, a few complaints center on the weight limits which are claimed to be less than accurate. This potential flashpoint aside, this is one of the best crates you can find from a brand you can rely on.


2. Runner Up: Aspen Pet Porter Kennel

Product Ratings


Size: 32 x 22.5 x 12 inches | Material: Plastic and metal | Dog Requirement: A 30-pound to a 50-pound weight limit

What We Liked

  • Wide choice of sizes
  • Lightweight but long-lasting
  • Well-ventilated

What We Didn’t Like

  • Feels slightly fragile

Aspen serves up a portable dog kennel ideal for long-haul flights, so what do you get for your money?


Firstly, the choice of sizes means there’s something for every dog owner. Choose a crate suitable for pups weighing up to 125 pounds. This crate is intended for dogs from 30 to 50 pounds making it a neat fit for medium-sized breeds.

The crate is light enough not to burden you when you’re traveling into the airport, but it’s durable enough to last for years while keeping your pooch safely tucked inside.


Ventilation on 3 sides guarantees your dog a comfy trip even if you’ll be on the go for hours.

Though it meets most airline specifications, always check with the airline you’re flying with before departure to make certain there will be no problems when you get to the check-in desk.

For a highly effective dog travel crate at a very reasonable price point, Aspen’s Pet Porter is an enduring modern classic giving you everything you need and nothing you don’t.


3. Best for Larger Dogs: Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel

Product Ratings


Size: 48 x 32 x 35 inches | Material: Recycled plastic and steel | Dog Requirement: 90 to a 125-pound weight limit

What We Liked

  • Perfect for large pups
  • Fits most airline cargo specs
  • Tie-down strap holes

What We Didn’t Like

  • The latching mechanism is a let-down

Next up, we have another great travel crate ideal for larger dogs. If you have encountered problems finding transportation solutions for your bigger breed, the ever-reliable Petmate is here to save the day. How does this crate perform?

Off the bat, you benefit from a generous weight limit intended for dogs between 90 and 125 pounds. Even if you have a beefy pup, he should slip inside this crate without feeling too restricted.


Made from recycled plastic, you’ll be doing your part for the environment while also protecting your dog while you travel. The metal screws and hardware and the steel mesh complete a secure package perfect for long-haul flights.

As with all of the best airline-approved dog crates, you should be in luck with most airlines worldwide. Always place a quick call or email the airline before departure and make sure you can place your dog in the cabin or cargo as required.

One area we would like to see improved on this crate is the latching mechanism. This is awkward to use and feels like it could break pretty easily. We would advise handling this with care.

In all other respects, though, this is a first-class travel crate for your dog from a highly reputable brand.


4. Best for Affordability: Petmate Compass Plastic Pet

Product Ratings


Size: 1 x 23.3 x 26.7 inches | Material: Plastic and steel | Dog Requirement: 50 to a 70-pound weight limit

What We Liked

  • Easy access
  • Great airflow
  • Works for a variety of pets

What We Didn’t Like

  • Not the most durable solution

As you can see, Petmate dominates this vertical with a series of efficient and secure travel crates designed with your dog’s welfare uppermost.


The covered doorpost ensures your pup won’t scrape himself as he gets in and out of the crate. The lockable door keeps him safely contained inside even if you’re flying halfway across the world.

There’s a carrying handle to streamline your trip through the airport. Most airlines approve the dimensions of this carrier with the usual proviso: check before flying for total peace of mind. Ideally, check before buying so you can save a potentially costly error from happening.

Suitable for dogs weighing between 50 and 70 pounds, if this doesn’t make the best fit, Petmate offers a spread of other sizes. Airflow is impressive and will leave your dog well-ventilated on long trips so you can relax knowing your canine is comfortable throughout.

While designed for dogs, this crate makes a useful transportation tool for a range of small animals.

Petmate has been making products like this for pet owners like you for over half a century. Why take a chance on a young pretender when you can invest in a winning team instead?


5. Best for Small or Medium-Sized Dogs: Suncast Deluxe Pet Carrier

Product Ratings


Size: 24 x 17.5 x 18.5 inches | Material: Plastic and wire resin | Dog Requirement: Medium-sized dogs

What We Liked

  • Best suited for small and medium dogs
  • Meets US airline standards
  • Water bowl included

What We Didn’t Like

  • Plastic clamps are disappointing

Suncast’s crate is one of the cheapest airline-approved carriers that doesn’t let you down totally in terms of quality. While you can cut corners with cheaper dog products in many areas, transportation isn’t one of them.

The last thing you want is to risk your pup’s safety for the sake of saving a few bucks. Suncast manages to deliver a cheap crate that’s also secure, robust and meets US airline standards. What’s not to love?


Well, the one drawback few users love is the plastic clamps. This seems like a poor decision on the part of the manufacturer and they feel rather weak.

The plastic is durable and the wire resin grate on the front is solid enough to keep even aggressive chewers at bay.

Sized to fit small and medium dogs, the manufacturer is not more specific when it comes to weight limits, which we don’t like.

The integrated food and water bowl ensure you have everything you need to make your dog’s flight as comfy as yours. 


Comparison Chart

ProductsBest OverallRunner UpBest For Larger DogsBest For Affordability Best For Small Or Medium-Sized Dogs
Overall Rating4.7/54.0/53.7/53.7/53.5/5

The Winner

Overall, our best pick for the best airline-approved dog crate is the Petmate Sky Kennel Crate. It was by far the best-reviewed crate for all the criteria that we were looking for! We found that for our dogs it is affordable and durable and keeps them comfortable during travel.

Airline Dog Crate Requirements

Now that you can see some of the best options up for grabs, what constitutes an airline-approved dog crate? Well, you need to focus on the rules you need to follow as well as the things to avoid if you don’t want to get turned away at the boarding gate.

What You Must Have In An Airline-Approved Dog Crate

The International Air Travel Association offers the following guidelines for crates you intend to take on a plane:

  • Size
  • Food and water bowls
  • Metal hardware
  • Ventilation
  • Pet Documents
  • Lining
  • Feeding instructions


The IATA’s baseline requirement is the dog’s ears should not touch the top of the crate when he’s standing.

As a rule of thumb, any crate you’re using for a flight, whether domestic or international, should be one-and-a-half times as long as your pet. It should have ample space and be able to turn and lie down with ease.

Food & Water Bowls

Your dog will need food and water on his trip.

Airline crates must have separate food and water bowls, ideally made from stainless steel. These bowls should be attached to the crate so there’s no risk of them flying around.

Metal Hardware

The nuts and bolts on the crate should be made from metal rather than plastic.

Most airlines also insist that the door of the crate is made from a single piece of metal for added strength.


We cannot overstate the importance of ventilation in an airline dog crate. Flights get very stuffy, whether in the cabin or cargo section.

You owe it to your dog to provide him with a crate that gives him plenty of airflow and the comfiest possible journey.

Pet Documents

You should make sure that all your pet’s identifying information is on top of the crate. This should include your pup’s name, your name, your contact number, your flight number, and your final destination.


IATA guidelines stipulate that a dog travel carrier needs a lining with absorbent papers and cushions.

Feeding Instructions

You must write down all your dog’s feeding instructions along with your food in the carte. You should also make it clear if your dog has any allergies or intolerances to make sure your trip goes without a hitch and your pup arrives safe, sound, and happy.

READ MORE: The Best Dog Carriers and Crates for Car Travel. Discover how to keep your dog safe on the road with these tested and ranked carriers and crates.

What You Can’t Have in an Airline-Approved Dog Crate

Now, just as important as what you need in an airline-approved dog crate is what you are not allowed to have:

  • Plastic doors
  • Top opening doors
  • Soft crates
  • Wheels

Plastic Doors

You need metal nuts and bolts on the doors of any airline-approved crate. Plastic doesn’t make the grade.

Travel kennels with plastic doors or plastic latches on the side are too weak to hold the two parts of the carrier together firmly.

Some airlines go one step further and insist that the door is made from a single piece of metal. While this might seem unnecessarily restrictive, the safety of your beloved dog is on the line, so it’s well worth paying attention to this guideline.

Top Opening Doors

No IATA-compliant dog crate should have a top-opening door.

In fact, most airlines will refuse any portable kennels with doors on the top. This poses a flight risk so don’t even consider one of these top-opening crates.

Soft Crates

A soft-sided dog crate might be a great idea if you’re taking your pooch for a short walk or a quick trip in the car.

When it comes to air travel, though, you should not use a crate with any kind of soft materials. This will be risky for your dog if cargo shifts.


An airline-approved crate can have wheels but they must be detachable. This prevents any chance of the crate moving around in transit, something that’s understandably dangerous.

So, you should use a crate with no wheels or with detachable wheels, but nothing in between.

Beyond these do’s and don’ts, the airline will have their own specific guidelines and sizing, so we return you to our initial advice: get in touch with the airline before you even buy the crate. That way, you can be sure you’ll be spending your hard-earned money on something acceptable for your next flight.

Before we wrap up we have a few final pointers you should consider if you’re planning a flight with your dog in tow.

Other Points to Consider for Airline-Approved Dog Crates


Your dog should be able to stand up comfortably as well as lie down with ease. The crate should be in sound condition with no breaks, tears, or cracks. Damaged crates are likely to be rejected, so don’t take the chance. Crates for travel must also be ventilated on at least two sides

Dog Requirements

Snub-nosed dogs are not allowed on most airlines because they tend to have breathing problems and air travel can be dangerous for them.

If your puppy is less than 8 weeks old, he won’t be able to fly. Check with the airline to confirm the minimum age limit if you have a new puppy and you’re planning to fly. 

Any flight is only capable of accommodating a certain number of pets. This is typically just 1 or 2 dogs for business class passengers and perhaps 4 or 5 for cabin seating. To avoid any disappointment, make your booking in plenty of time.

Airline Etiquette

Pets must stay inside their crate for the duration of the flight. You won’t be able to sit in an exit row if you have your pet in tow. You won’t be able to sit in a seat with no under-seat space either. 

A pet cannot travel with an unaccompanied minor and all pets coming into the US must be immunized against rabies. You may or may not be able to carry more than one dog in a crate depending on the airline regulations.


Bottom line, if you’re planning to take your dog with you on a lengthy trip, you need to ensure he is not only comfortable from start to finish but also fully protected against any possible injuries with one of the best airline-approved dog crates.

Before you pop off to book your flight, take a moment to bookmark BarkVA. We’re here to guide pet owners like you through all aspects of buying the best dog equipment and tips and tricks for raising healthy, happy dogs.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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