Our In-depth Airline Approved Dog Crates review

Do you often take your beloved four-legged friend on airplanes? When taking a dog on an airline, there are a lot of things for the owner to keep in mind, with the container being one of the most crucial elements. Due to the fact that the pooch is probably going to spend a lot of time within it, there a couple of factors one needs to keep in mind while purchasing such a container. For purchasing a different kind of cages read our buying guide.

Unlike the crates for car travel, these containers need to be airline-approved. Only the IATA-compliant dog crates can be carried into the cabin – containers with this certification are guaranteed to keep your pet safe and comfortable during the flight.

dog puts his head on the car window

For that matter, we have decided to analyze the best airline approved pet carriers for cargo and in-cabin. We’ll take a closer look at the advantages and flaws of the market’s most popular models and try to determine their value for the money. Read on!

Product ImageMain FeaturePrice Range

Best Overall

Petmate Sky
Petmate Sky Kennel product image mobile

Extra strong steel wire
Secure door latches
Easy to operate


Ultra Vari
Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel product image mobile

One-handed latch operation
Access door opens from either side


Image of IRIS Deluxe mobile

Meets most airline requirements
Metal side vents promote healthy air flow



Product image Suncast PCS2417 mobile

Water and food tray included
Easy-access storage compartments

End Table

Sleepypod Air In-Cabin
Sleepypod Air In Cabin product image on white background mobile

Mobile pet bed
Top and ends open for easy access to the pet

End Table

Petsfit Expandable image mobile

Extra space provided for long rides
Breathable mesh

End Table

Wheel 4-In-1
Snoozer Wheel image on white background mobile

Keeps your pet from feeling trapped or enclosed
Convertible into lugged or a backpack

End Table


Bergan Airplane Crate mobile

Soft removable fleece bed
Maximum accessibility and ventilation

Top 8 IATA Approved Dog Crates

For Cargo

Petmate Sky

Having a simple but functional design, and abiding by all IATA airline requirements, the Petmate Sky Kennel is among the most popular model of this type on the market. It offers ample space, good ventilation, and excellent safety due to its vault-style locking mechanism. Let’s check it out!

As we said, one of the best things about the Petmate Sky product is that it offers ample space for your pooch. It will allow him to lie down, stand up, and turn around without hassle, no matter which of the six different sizes you decide to go for.

Around 25% of this kennel has been manufactured from sturdy recycled materials, featuring pre-drilled zip tie holes whose purpose is to keep the crate door tightly shut. The door is made out of metal and is quite robust, so you won’t have to worry about the pooch pulling it inwards by force.

Furthermore, the presence of air holes and “live animal” stickers turn this model into an IATA pet carrier are also protruding handles on the sides of the Sky Kennel – Petmate did this in order to follow the rim spacing requirements of the most of the world’s popular airlines. Another thing worth mentioning is the presence of two attachable water and food dishes – they can be clipped to the door and can be accessed without having to open the door.

Another prominent feature of this popular airline dog crate is its additional safety lock. While most products of this type come with two pins that go into the bottom and the top of the cage, the Sky product sports a vault-style locking system. In simple terms, there are four pins that go into all four sides of the enclosure – it’s something that stops even the most determined escape artists from achieving their goal.


  • Abides by all IATA requirements
  • Vault-style locking mechanism
  • Spacious interior


  • Nuts and bolts have plastic covers

Dog owners who are also frequent travelers should definitely consider the Petmate Sky for purchase – it is safe, spacious, comfortable, IATA-compliant, and will surely provide your pet with a cozy flight.

Petmate Ultra Vari

To be IATA-compliant, this particular cage requires some manual adjustment. However, its solid materials and large size still make it a pretty good choice, especially for the owners of larger breeds. As it is one of the most popular kennels of this type on the market, we have decided to take a closer look at it – here are its features:

First things first – the Petmate Ultra Vari is not IATA-compliant, but it can be. The model doesn’t have ventilation on all four sides (it has no rear vents), and therefore doesn’t meet the requirements imposed by IATA.

However, if you drill the holes on the back of the cage on your own, the model will meet airline flight requirements – it’s just that most people usually don’t want to mess with these kinds of things.

Made out of polypropylene plastic, the Ultra Vari product is exceptionally sturdy and tough, and can easily withstand all sorts of wear and tear coming from rowdier canines. Made out of 25% recycled materials, the kennel is also eco-friendly and a great choice for the environmentally conscious dog owners. Putting it together can be done by literally anyone – the assembly requires no special tools and can be performed in a short amount of time.

The model’s door, on the other hand, is steel-plated and looks extremely sturdy. The fact that there are no soldered corners means that your pooch won’t hurt himself if he tries to chew his way out, which deserves special praise. The crate’s wire side windows are as equally durable, and also provide good airflow and sufficient ventilation.

As we said, the only major downside of this enclosure is the lack of the vent holes on its backside. This can be an issue for airline travel, but you can easily take care of it by drilling some holes on your own.


  • Sturdy and tough construction
  • Exceptionally easy assembly
  • Secure-locking door


  • No rear vent holes (easily fixable)

The only downside of the Ultra Vari model requires just a simple fix. Once it is performed, this cage becomes an excellent option for all dog owners that frequently take their dogs on airplanes.

IRIS Deluxe 

Next up is IRIS Deluxe, which is an affordable model that can be purchased in two colors (red and navy) and three different sizes (medium, small, and extra small).

This product was designed to meet all the demands and requirements a dog might have during a long flight – let’s check out its characteristics:

The fact that IRIS Deluxe can be bought in several different colors and sizes allows a degree of user customization, as well as the fact that it can house a lot of different breeds. However, the manufacturer says that it’s best for Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, and Chihuahuas – the owners of smaller breeds will make the most out of IRIS Deluxe.

This product has been manufactured from sturdy plastic, although it has a couple of downsides when it comes to construction quality. First, the wire metal door isn’t as tough as on some other airline-approved kennels we’ve reviewed, making the dog crate for flying unsuitable for the owners of pups with chewing tendencies. Second, the plastic around the ventilation holes is relatively thin, which makes it quite vulnerable to wear and tear.

Fortunately, the IRIS Deluxe substitutes these flaws with a couple of excellent features. Using and transporting this air-travel crate is exceptionally easy due to its one-handed latch operation, and the model also allows the buyer to use a door padlock as an extra safety measure. We should also mention that this model comes with small water and food dishes attached to its door, which is always a big plus in our book.

As required by the majority of airlines, the IRIS Deluxe comes with several bolts and nuts that secure its top and bottom sections. This combination of safety, sturdiness, and comfort will allow your pooch to lie, stand, and turn around without any difficulties and while being totally safe.


  • Great for smaller breeds
  • One-handed latch operation
  • Comes in different sizes & colors


  • Not for aggressive canines

If you’re an owner of a small, calm dog and frequently take him with you on airplanes, the IRIS Deluxe just might be the thing you were looking for. We recommend it!

Suncast PCS2417

Dog enclosures manufactured by Suncast often sport a very good value for the money. Is that the case with their PCS2417 model, too? Created especially for air travel, this kennel has a couple of features that allow it to meet the requirements of most airlines. It is also very durable, particularly when we consider its price category.

The resin & wire construction of this travel crate is quite strong and sturdy, which promises durability and longevity. We certainly didn’t expect such good construction quality at this price – the Suncast PCS2417 easily withstands all kinds of wear and tear and that deserves special praise. Ideal for both air and car travel, it accommodates canines that are up to 17.5″ tall.

However, this is where we come to the only major downside of PCS2417. The version we have reviewed is the only size available, which is quite odd once we consider the fact that most other manufacturers often offer a couple of different dimensions to choose from. Moreover, the beige & blue color combination is the only one available, although that’s not as important.

The sides of this cage are vented, which means that you won’t have to worry about the amount of air circulation within the interior. Furthermore, the PCS2417 has water and food trays attached to its door, so it’s quite easy to keep the pooch fed during the long journeys. Another impressive feature is the inclusion of “letters” in the package – they allow the owner to put the dog’s name on the kennel and make it more personalized.

Even though the assembly could be somewhat difficult for the beginners, putting this model together can be done quite quickly. Once it’s assembled, the Suncast PCS2417 is more than capable of providing your four-legged friend with comfort and security during long flights.


  • Solid construction quality
  • Comes with food & water trays
  • Included “letters” allow personalization


  • Only one size available

As far as we’re concerned, purchasing this air-travel dog kennel is a wise investment. It’s an affordable, secure, and a well-constructed model that definitely deserves more attention.

Soft-Sided for In-Cabin

Sleepypod Air In-Cabin

Separating the good soft-sided airline approved dog carriers from the flimsy ones can be particularly challenging. These cages aren’t as sturdy as their plastic-made cousins, but they’re often much more comfortable and easier to store away. Sleepypod’s Air In-Cabin model seems to be one of the most popular enclosures of this kind – is it worth the money?

First of all, we should mention that this soft-sided crate meets all airline and TSA requirements.

Due to its compact size, you can fit it into almost every place without harming your companions – its design will let you place it under your airplane seat. Once the plane has taken off, the model can be expanded, which allows greater freedom for your four-legged friend.

This soft-sided kennel has a mesh panel on its top and on the sides, and its purpose is to provide the interior with optimum ventilation. This won’t only make the trip far more comfortable for the pooch, but will also allow the owner to keep an eye on his pet. The provided mesh panel is very large – it covers the model’s entire top and side parts.

One of the best things about Sleepypod Air is that it comes with straps on both of its sides. This allows the owner to secure the crate to a seat when traveling by car, making the model suitable for automobile use, too. It also features numerous carrying options, such as the top carrying handle or the removable shoulder straps.

Other things worth mentioning are the removable bedding (machine-washable) and the large zipper pockets for the necessities such as water bottles and treats. When it comes to drawbacks, we have to say that the Sleepypod Air In-Cabin is slightly expensive for what it is. It’s pricier than some of the plastic-made crates we’ve reviewed, although its price is justified by its quality mesh construction and the excellent safety features.


  • Manufactured from durable luggage-grade nylon
  • Exceptionally comfortable interior
  • Removable & washable bedding mattress


  • Relatively expensive

When it comes to soft-sided airline kennels, the Sleepypod Air In-Cabin is the clear winner – it’s one of the best mesh-made cages that money can buy today.

Petsfit Expandable

Owners and their pets have their preferences. Some owners like soft-sided dog carriers for the plane for additional comfort, while others like hard-sided crates due to their sturdiness.

Petsfit Expandable tries to provide us with the best of both worlds – it’s an extremely comfortable kennel that can still provide your pooch with maximum security. Let’s check it out!

One of the most unique things about this innovative dog crate for air travel is that it features a “porch”. One of its sides can be unzipped and become a mesh-made enclosure that provides your furry companion with some extra space. It’s one of the nicest features of this airline pet carrier and something that deserves special praise.

As we already said, the Petsfit Expandable belongs to the category of soft-sided crates, but it features a strong wire frame that allows maximum support and safety. The model’s top opening is especially convenient for smaller breeds – you can simply lower down your small dog into the kennel, causing less stress for both yourself and the pup.

This model also includes a soft mat, which is machine-washable and very easy to keep clean. There is also a side pocket for the pet’s shot records, water bottles, and treats, as well as the detachable shoulder straps that allows easier transportation. The kennel can, of course, be folded completely flat so that you can easily store it away under the bed or in the closet.

Other things worth mentioning are three sizeable mesh windows that provide good airflow, the fact that the handles and the strap have been manufactured from heavy-duty nylon, and that the carrier is available in three different sizes (small, medium, large). When it comes to downsides, our only complaint about Petsfit Expandable is that it has plastic zippers – the dogs with chewing tendencies are bound to ruin them.


  • Expandable & foldable design
  • Strong wire frame
  • Easily washable soft mat


  • Plastic zippers

While waiting for the flight or having a layover, this unique airline carrier will allow you to open its side and provide your four-legged friend with more room. This feature alone makes Petsfit Expandable worth the money, although its sturdiness and ease of cleaning also deserve words of praise.

Snoozer Wheel

As the name suggests, this IATA compliant pet crate is a rolling-bag styled crate and an ideal choice for those who don’t really want to lug it over the shoulder. Fortunately, that’s not the only good thing about this model – let’s check out the other ones:

Coming in three different sizes (Large, Medium, Small) and two color combination (Red/Black, Khaki/Navy), the Snoozer Wheel is one of the most stylish products of this type on the market. It’s a well-designed model that’s guaranteed to attract the attention of everyone around you – its designers certainly know how to their job.

Besides the eye-catching design, one of the first things to notice about this carrier is its mesh panels. There are three of them, positioned on each side of the cage and providing the pooch with great visibility of his surroundings (great for canines that have to know what’s going around them at all times).

These large mesh windows also provide the interior with good ventilation, as they allow sufficient airflow that will prevent your pup from experiencing a heat stroke during the long summer flights.

The model comes with a set of quality wheels and a telescopic handle – these allow easy maneuvering and quick transportation of your furry friend from one place to another. However, pushing this enclosure on its wheels is just one option – you can also wear it as a backpack, lay it flat, or let it stand on its own with the dog inside. This kind of versatility of flexibility is always a big plus in our book.

Unfortunately, the model also has a couple of downsides. For airline use, the owner has to remove the crate’s padded bottom so that it can fit under the seat. Moreover, the design of its wheels makes it very easy for mud and dirt to get stuck in them.


  • Attractive design
  • Sizeable mesh windows
  • Versatile – can be used in several different ways


  • The padded bottom has to be removed for airline use

We can easily see why so many customers give praise to Snoozer Wheel. While not perfect, it’s one of the best carriers of this type out there – buying it can’t really turn out as a mistake.


Although this product may not be the newest model on the market, its functionality and style still make it worthy of a more in-depth look. It’s one of the best choices for the dog owners who are always on the go, as it has a practical, modern design, and comes at a truly reasonable price.

One of the first things to notice about the Bergan carrier is its dual color design. This kennel can be bought in several different color combinations, some of which are spinach green, rose wine, all-black, and many others.

No matter which one of them you choose, you’ll end up with one of the sleekest-looking carriers on the market – owners who care about style will certainly appreciate this.

Capable of housing dogs with up to 22 pounds of weight, the Bergan crate comes with a full-zip opening on one end and half-zip opening on the other. Just like most of the other currently available soft-sided models, this one also sports mesh panels.

They cover a sizeable portion of the carrier and ensure maximum breathability. They will also provide your pooch with a greater visibility of his surroundings.

However, one of the best things about Bergan is that it comes with a washable fleece travel bed, as well as the rigid insert panel. These won’t only make every flight a lot more comfortable, but will also keep the crate in shape during the journey. Washing them is as easy as it gets, and that’s always a huge plus in our book.

One important thing to mention about this product is that it comes with a shoulder strap, which is padded for comfort and completely adjustable. Furthermore, the materials out of which the carrier was manufactured contain no phthalates or lead. The only downside is the quality of the mesh material – it’s not the best one out there and an aggressive pooch could easily tear up the windows.


  • Beautiful design
  • Maximum breathability and visibility
  • Washable fleece travel bed


  • Flimsy mesh material on the windows

In case you own a small and calm dog, definitely consider this carrier for purchase – it will provide your pup with a well-cushioned ride that he’s bound to enjoy.

What is an IATA Approved Pet Carrier?

dog is looking sadly

Airline-approved cages are manufactured to stay stable while the plane is taking off and landing. They are also built to offer easy visibility for the stewardesses, maximum ventilation for the dog, and so on. If you have ever taken your pooch with you on an airplane, you probably know how stressful the whole thing can be – you just can’t stop thinking if your pooch if feeling scared or anxious.

When it comes to IATA requirements, some airlines are more lenient than the others, and some are very strict. For that matter, it is of crucial importance to always check with your airline if it’s ok to bring your dog and his crate or if they have some additional requirements. An important thing to remember here is that international flights are typically far more restrictive than the domestic ones.

How does one know if a particular kennel is IATA-compliant or not? Take a look at our list of rules and specifications that a manufacturer needs to follow if they want their pet carrier to be airline-approved:


One of IATA’s basic requirements is for the kennel to be tall enough so that the pup’s ears aren’t touching its top while he’s standing.

There’s a thumb rule for this – the model needs to have the same length as the pooch plus half the length of their legs. This gives the canine some space in front of him and behind him so that he can lie down and turn around without any difficulties. The pooch shouldn’t feel cramped, especially when it comes to really long flights.


When it comes to pet air travel, ventilation is undoubtedly one of the top concerns. Most people have never been in the airplane’s cargo area and don’t know how it can be to stay there for a long time, alone and in the dark. Because of this, an IATA dog crate needs to have ventilation holes on all of its sides, so that the pooch can breathe freely and stay calm and relaxed.

Most of the domestic flights, on the other hand, require only two sides of the carrier to have ventilation holes. However, you should always go for a crate with holes on four sides nevertheless – these models offer optimal airflow and are guaranteed to provide your pooch with sufficient ventilation.

Metal Bolts and Nuts

One really important thing when it comes to IATA-approved kennels is that the bolts and nuts cannot be made out of plastic – they need to be manufactured from metal. This decision is a pretty obvious one, as it is quite easy to see the difference in durability between the plastic and metal bolts. Metal promises stability and strength, providing your four-legged friend with safety when it comes to strong turbulences. However, some IATA-compliant kennels have metal bolts that are covered with plastic caps, and these are allowed by most of the world’s airlines.

When it comes to doors, almost all airlines demand that they should be single metal pieces – no flimsy plastic folds are allowed. A metal door is sturdy and robust, preventing the pup from pulling it in by force and collapsing it. An additional benefit of metal doors is that they often sport a grid-like construction, which, as you can already guess, provides better ventilation.

Water and Food Bowls

Just like humans, canines also get thirsty and hungry during their journeys. Because of this, an airline-approved dog enclosure needs to feature two separate water and food dishes. In an ideal kind of situation, these dishes will be made of stainless steel.

Recommended to Read: Top Rated Dog Water Bowls For Sloppy Drinkers

They need to be attached to the kennel’s door so that the representative of a particular airline can access them without the need to open the door first. In that way, your furry companion will be fed properly but won’t come into the risk of getting outside the kennel during the flight.

Feeding Instructions

Dog owners have to put down the feeding instructions of their canines on the cage, along with the correct food. While feeding your pooch, an airline handler needs to be aware of your pup’s intolerances, allergies, feeding habits, and similar things. When taking your pooch on an airplane, we advise you to bring dry dog food – less moisture means less peeing and therefore less trouble.

If your pooch has any specific problems that he’s prone to when flying, don’t forget to check with your veterinarian – he’ll probably prescribe some light medication that will undoubtedly make the journey a bit easier for him.

Pet Documents

Another requirement is to include all of the dog’s vital information at the top of the enclosure. This includes the pup’s name, the owner’s contact number and address, final destination, and all similar info. These documents ensure fast recovery in case the owner is unable to retrieve his pet.

Crate Lining

The IATA guidelines require a dog airline kennel to have a lining with absorbent papers and cushions. These don’t only provide comfort and serve as pee pads, but can also save the pup from injuries when it comes to potential accidents.

Features to Avoid

Just like these kennels need to feature some special traits, there are a couple of things that should be avoided, too. Here’s a list of them:

Soft Crates

Even though the soft-sided models are ideal for automobiles, they’re not as good when it comes to air travel. IATA is not fond of unstable materials such as mesh – softer fabrics bring a greater risk to your canine companion. However, as you can see in our reviews, there are a lot of mesh-made carriers approved by IATA – it’s just that the amount of safety they offer can’t be compared with the one offered by plastic models.

Top-Opening doors

A crate that’s IATA-compliant should never have a top-opening door – such a kennel will be refused by most of the world’s airline companies. The reason behind this is that a top-opening door is very risky as it allows a rowdy pooch to find his way out and get hurt while doing so.


A carrier that’s been approved by IATA can have detachable wheels, but the regular (non-detachable) ones are forbidden. The benefit of wheels that are detachable is that the crate won’t move around unless someone is pushing it. Wheeled kennels in the airplane’s cargo area tend to roll around, and this is guaranteed to make your pooch scared or even sick.

Plastic Doors

As we already mentioned, a travel crate that is to be used on an airplane can’t have a door made out of plastic (or with plastic latches). It needs to be manufactured from metal – only these kinds of doors provide enhanced security and safety for the dog.

Unlike the international ones, the domestic airlines are more relaxed when it comes to IATA guidelines. However, we still advise abiding by all official guidelines if you want your furry companion to face no problems and enjoy the flight.

Cabin Pet Carrier Features

black dog is thinking which air crate is the best for him

When it comes to these types of kennels, there are several features a traveling dog owner should always look for. In this article, we’ll look at the most important characteristics of a quality airline-approved pet enclosure. They are:

Velcro or Zipper

Some models come with zippers, while some feature Velcro closings. Even though the Velcro closings provide a very fast access, they are also quite prone to being opened by boisterous canines. Similarly, the zippers offer more security but can become a nuisance in some situations. Choose the variant that’s suitable to your dog’s and your own needs.


Some air-travel carriers come with wheels that allow easy maneuverability, while others function just like your regular pet purse carriers or dog backpack carriers, having shoulder straps and handles. Owners with weak shoulders should definitely opt for a quality crate with wheels. However, as we already mentioned, these wheels need to be detachable – non-detachable ones are forbidden by IATA since they can make the crate roll around during the flight.


Just like on many other products, pockets are always convenient to have on your pet’s carrier. They don’t only allow storage of treats, water bottles, and toys, but also give you a place to store your pet’s documentation (such as shot records etc.) Some models feature more pockets than others.


As we already mentioned, good ventilation is one of the primary concerns when it comes to these types of kennels. An owner needs to make sure that his pet’s carrier has plenty of ventilation – mesh-made windows lead to good airflow and also provide the pooch with good visibility of his surroundings.

With these considerations in mind, you should be able to purchase a model that will be accepted by most airline companies and also provide your pup with a safe and comfortable flight.

Pet Airline Travel Tips

puppy is looking at the airplane on the sky

To make your flights easier, we’ve written a list of tips that will help you have pleasant airplane journeys together with your four-legged companion.

Research Your Airline

Make sure to get in contact with the representatives of your airline and find out if you’re meeting their rules when it comes to traveling with pets. Different airline companies have different customs, which makes finding out about the rules of your particular airline very important.

Also, don’t forget to call one or two days before the flight and confirm that you’ll bring your dog along.

Fly Direct

Booking direct flights and avoiding stopovers is something you should do whenever it’s possible. Owners usually don’t want to keep their furry friends in the plane’s cargo area any longer than it’s necessary, and we believe that you have the same opinion.

Don’t Give Drugs

Avoid giving your pooch drugs before the flight. Various substances present in drugs can mess with the dog’s cardiovascular system, and therefore alter how his body adjusts to flying at high altitudes. Moreover, drugs can also make your pup lose the balance and injure himself. Consider using only those drugs that your veterinarian considers okay to use before flying.

Flying with Brachycephalic Dogs

Snub-nosed or brachycephalic canines have various respiratory issues, meaning that air-travel can be exceptionally dangerous to them. Some airline companies don’t even allow such dogs in their airplanes.

Seasons and Time of Day

When traveling with your pooch, don’t forget to keep the seasons in mind. During the summer, make sure to fly late in the evening or early in the morning, in order to avoid high temperatures. During the winter months, on the other hand, try to books flights that take place mid-day.

Pre-Flight Preparation

To make sure your four-legged friend will enjoy the flight, make sure to get him used to be inside the crate. Putting the pooch into his kennel and driving him around with a car is a great way to simulate the flying experience. It will help the dog adapt to the movement and sensations and prepare him for the flight.

Last Minute To-Dos

Feed the pooch four or five hours before flying and take him for a walk – it’s the only way to make sure he won’t relieve himself when he’s inside the crate. Don’t feed the dog right before the journey, but also don’t hold back on the water – it’s very important for the pooch to stay hydrated during the flight.


Airplane dog crates come with several distinguishing features and in various sizes. Like with almost all other pet-related accessories, purchasing an airline approved dog kennel requires understanding what the particular needs of your pooch are.

Even though some varieties of crates are ideal for particular breeds of dogs, the same kennels can be completely unusable for the others.

dog is chilling with glasses on

So, when buying an air-travel carrier for your pup, make sure to understand the dog’s special needs, the crate’s features, and the IATA compliance requirements to strike an ideal kind of deal.

All of the models we have reviewed here are good, solid choices and that means that you’ll only have to tailor some things for your own particular pooch. Purchasing a special kennel for flying is something you’ll be glad you did when taking your pup along on a flight – it will make the whole process a lot less stressful and much more enjoyable.