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IATA-approved pet carrier buying guide

IATA-approved pet carrier buying guide

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

248 guides

Need fly with your dog or cat? You'll need to invest in a special transport cage approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Any container that does not meet these safety standards will be refused so it's important to do your research! Read on to find the right IATA-approved carrier for your pet.

Important features

  • Material
  • Locking system
  • Size
  • Hinges
  • Cage assembly
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Travelling with a dog or cat

If you need to transport a dog or cat in the cargo hold of a plane, you will have to get your hands on a pet transport carrier that conforms to the conditions set out by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

If you fail to do so, your pet will simply not be allowed to board so save yourself the time and money by reading up on the rules before you travel.

Boarding paperwork

The airline you are travelling with will provide you with a document that must be properly filled in, signed and handed in at the airport on the day of your departure. Dog or cat owners must contact the airline in advance to obtain this form. Some pets are allowed to travel in the cabin but there are strict weight restrictions. Your dog or cat must be able to fit inside a soft pet carrier that will have to be placed under the seat in front of you.

  • The pet carrier structure must be made of solid plastic or fibreglass.
  • If the pet carrier comes with wheels, you must remove them before travelling. If the wheels can be stowed, they should be made inoperable with the use of tape.
  • The door of the pet carrier must have a locking system with two secure fasteners located at the top and bottom of the door (1).
  • The carrier door hinges and locking pins must extend beyond the horizontal extrusions above and below the door opening by at least 1.6 cm (5/8 inches).
  • The two halves of the carrier should be held together by bolts. Any other type of side fastener is strictly forbidden. However, you can use an additional fastening system alongside the bolts (3).
  • Your pet must be able to stand up without having to lower their head and their head must not be able to touch the top of the carrier. They must also be able to lie down and turn comfortably in the carrier.
  • Pet carriers should be equipped with a double pet bowl system to separate food and water. The bowl should be firmly attached and accessible from the outside of the cage.

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Measuring your pet 

  1. Length of your pet from the muzzle to the base of the tail
  2. Height from the ground to the elbow. The length of the carrier must be at least equal to A + 1/2 B (1/2 B = half the length of the leg).
  3. Height of the pet in a natural standing position, from the top of the ears or head.
The width of the pet carrier should measure at least two times the width of your pet across the back.
  • The base of the cage can be covered by a blanket, cover, cardboard, newspaper or any other type of absorbent material. However, loose materials like straw or cat litter are not allowed.
  • The pet must not wear a lead or muzzle. You are not allowed to store anything inside the pet carrier.
  • Your pet must be fit and healthy. They must be free of injuries and must not be under the influence of a tranquiliser.
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There are some restrictions relating to certain breeds of cats and dogs. For example, you are not allowed to fly with the following flat-faced breeds:

  • pugs,
  • bulldogs,
  • boxers,
  • Pekinese
  • Shih Tsus,
  • Persian cats, etc.

Be sure to check any country-specific bans in place before you travel. For example, if travelling to France, you cannot travel with any dog breeds belonging to Category 1 as defined by the French Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Any failure to follow restrictions will result in the refusal of your pet by the airline.

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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 248 guides

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

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