Airline Pet Carrier Requirements

We're an affiliate

We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page at no additional cost to you. Thank you if you use our links, we really appreciate it!

Traveling with your furry friend can be an exciting experience but you need to ensure that you have an airline-compliant carrier that will allow you to board a plane with them.

The airline pet carrier requirements are enforced to ensure safety and comfort for you, other passengers, and your companions during the flight.

If you’re planning on traveling with your pet, it’s important to know the airline’s pet carrier requirements.

Not only do these requirements vary by airline, but they also ensure the safety and comfort of both you and your furry friend during your flight.

Come along to find the basics of airline pet carrier requirements, including whether or not airlines check the size of a carrier bag and what the International Air Transport Association (IATA) recommends for its members.

Keep reading to find our key-points breakdown of some popular US airlines and their specific pet carrier requirements.

Do Airlines Check the Size of a Pet Carrier?

Yes, airlines typically have size restrictions for pet carriers alongside the regulations outlined by IATA. The exact size restrictions will vary depending on the commercial airline company you choose.

It’s therefore important to check with the specific carrier you’ll be flying with to determine what their requirements are.

Most commercial airline companies will require that the pet carrier be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you and will also have weight restrictions for the pet, and the number of pets allowed on board.

It’s always a good idea to check with the scheduled carrier well in advance of your departure to ensure that your pet carrier meets their requirements.

If your pet carrier is too large or bulky, it may not fit in the cabin and you might be required to place them in the cargo.

It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with any local laws or regulations regarding the transportation of pets, as these can vary depending on the state you live in.

What Are the IATA Pet Carrier Requirements

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has guidelines for transporting pets by air. These guidelines include requirements for the size and type of pet carrier that can be used. These regulations are designed to ensure the safety and comfort of pets during air travel.

According to IATA, one of the main requirements is that the pet carrier must be sturdy and leak-proof, with adequate ventilation.

Genius Dog 300 x 600 - Animated
Use Code FURSNPAWS for a 10% Discount

It must also be large enough for the pet to stand, turn around, and lie down in a natural position. The carrier bag must also have a secure latch to prevent the furry passenger from escaping.

When it comes to the dimensions of the carrier bag, the IATA has provided detailed guidance on how to calculate the height of the carry-on kennel.

Small dogs and cats may be allowed in the cabin compartment although some airline companies have special heated and well-ventilated baggage areas to house bigger traveling pets.

The dimension requirement will generally vary depending on which aircraft you use for your journey.

It’s important to note that the leading airlines have additional requirements for transporting pets, so it’s always a good idea to check during booking.

We recommend that you read the guidelines on live animals’ regulations on IATA and how to prepare your pet for travel to find all the updated information concerning your specific case.

US Airlines and Their Requirements

There are several major airline companies in the United States with their requirements for transporting pets in the cabin or in the cargo area:

1.     Delta Airline Pet Carrier Requirements

Delta Air Lines allows small dogs, cats, and household birds to be transported in the cabin on most flights within the U.S. and to some international destinations.

The pet must be carried in a pet carrier that fits under the seat in front of the passenger. The carrier must be waterproof and well-aerated, and the pet must be able to stand up and move around comfortably while inside.

The pet carrier should be no larger than 18″ length x 11″ width x 11″ height and must fit under the seat in front of you.

Sherpa airline approved pet carrier

2.     American Airlines Pet Carrier Size Requirements

American Airlines allows small dogs and cats to be transported in the cabin on most flights within the U.S. and to some international destinations.

The pet must be carried in a pet carrier that fits under the passenger’s seat at your front. The carrier must be leak-proof, with good air circulation, and have a secure latch for increased safety.

For a soft-sided pet carrier, the dimension should be no larger than 18″ long x 11″ wide x 11″ high and must fit under the seat in front of you.

A hard-sided kennel should have a maximum dimension of 19 x 13 x 9 inches for mainland flights and 16 x 12 x 8 inches for regional flights.

These dimensions will vary depending on the aircraft type to your destination. We recommend keeping tabs on AA’s website to find out your ticketed aircraft and their specific guidelines on dimensions.

3.     United Airlines Pet Carrier Requirements

For United Airlines, pets must travel in a carrier that fits under the passenger’s seat at your front and the carrier must be either hard-sided or soft-sided. It must be damp-proof, well-ventilated, and with a secure latch to keep your travel companions safe during the flight.

You can only have one pet per carrier, and they must be able to stand up and turn around inside without straining. United has no weight or breed restrictions for transporting pets through its flights.

The dimensions of your hard-sided carrier should be at a maximum of 17.5” Length x 7.5” Height x 12” width and 18” Length x 11” Height x 11” Width for the soft padded carriers.

This airline company allows small dogs, cats, rabbits, and household birds to be transported in the cabin on most flights within the U.S. and to some international destinations. Only cats and dogs can be transported in the cargo area.

4.     Southwest Airline Pet Carrier Requirements

Southwest Airline will only allow one pet carrier per passenger and the carrier should have a maximum of 2 similar small pets.

Southwest has its own branded pet carriers with the dimensions 17″ Length x 10″ Width x 9.5″ Height.

If you come with your own soft/hard-sided bag, it should have a maximum dimension of 18.5″ Length x 13.5″ Width x 9.5″ Height.

Make sure that your pet carrier is leakproof and with good ventilation to keep your furry companions aired during the flight.

Keep in mind that Southwest only allows six pet carriers per aircraft. Make sure to book your flight early because the positions are up for grabs and are awarded on a first come first serve merit.

5.     Lufthansa Airline Pet Carrier Size Requirements

At Lufthansa, you can take your small dog weighing up to 17.6 pounds (8Kgs) with you in the passengers’ cabin.

Your pet should have a minimum age of 12 weeks to be allowed in the carrier within the United States and 15 weeks when flying to and from Germany.

You are only allowed to carry a maximum of 2 pets in an approved carrier meeting their pet travel policies.

You can have 2 different carriers in the cargo compartment but you should only have a maximum of 2 pets in transit.

The dimension requirements for the carrier bag should stand at a maximum of 21.6″ length x 9″ height and 15.7″ width.

A Word of Caution

When traveling with your pet, it is essential to make sure that they are well-behaved and able to follow basic commands, such as “sit,” “stay,” and “come.”

Most airlines have strict policies regarding pets on board, and aggressive or disruptive animals may not be allowed in the passenger cabin.

Pet carrier

Aggressive behaviors such as excessive barking, growling, and even scratching the carrier bag may be disruptive to other passengers on board.

With some airline companies, you may be required to take your pet in the cargo hold at an additional cost or be denied transportation altogether if the case is worse.


It is important to familiarize yourself with the specific airline pet carrier requirements before traveling with your furry friend.

All air companies have their policies and regulations regarding the size, type, and number of pets allowed in the cabin or cargo.

By following the guidelines and ensuring that your pet is comfortable and safe during the journey, you can have a stress-free and enjoyable travel experience with your furry companion.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

Spread the love

No responses yet

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Genius Dog 300 x 600 - Animated
    Use Code FURSNPAWS for a 10% Discount