Crate selection and preparation for airline travel

Importance of travel crate acclimation

To ensure your pet is accustomed to being in a crate designed for airline travel, which is different from a wire training or sleeping crate, it is extremely important that you obtain the crate as far in advance of travel as possible - at least two or three weeks prior to your pet's travel. To reduce stress during travel, it is crucial that your pet is comfortable and feels secure in its crate. This process is called "crate acclimation," and you should seek guidance from your veterinarian or a trainer, and conduct research online for tips on how to acclimate your pet.

Crate requirements

Pets traveling with PetSafe® must use an approved crate that complies with United Airlines requirements, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations and International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards. The crate requirements are based on these regulations and standards.

Approved crates are available for purchase at many pet supply retailers, as well as directly through our partner Petmate at united.com/petmate.

*Use promo code UAFREESHIP at checkout for free shipping. (Shipping only available in the contiguous U.S.)

It is important to note that while retailers may say a crate is “airline approved,” the crate must meet all the requirements listed below to be accepted for travel with United Airlines’ PetSafe program. Effective June 18, 2018, United will no longer accept crates taller than 30” for PetSafe transport. Compliant crates must be purchased in advance of travel to allow time for proper acclimation; no crates are available for sale or exchange by customers at our facilities.

Crates and carriers used for pets in the passenger cabin are typically not sturdy enough for PetSafe use. If a crate does not meet PetSafe standards at check-in, United will not accept the pet for travel and will require the customer to make alternative arrangements, which may include purchasing a new crate that meets United’s requirements. Effective June 18, 2018, no crates are available for sale or exchange by customers at our facilities.

Crate size

Crate must:

  • Be large enough for your pet to move freely and stand with its head erect, to turn around and to lie down in a normal position
  • Be tall enough to provide enough room for your pet to stand and sit without its head and ear tips touching the top
  • Have an additional three inches of height clearance above the standard listed above when transporting your pet to or from any location outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico
Not all crate sizes will fit on all aircraft. Please see the standard crate type chart below for more details.

Crate construction

Crate must:

  • Be constructed of rigid plastic, wood or metal sturdy enough to resist bending when firm pressure is applied
  • Have a solid roof with no doors or ventilation openings
  • Have only one door made of metal which must close securely, yet allow pets to be accessible in the event of an emergency
  • Have crate hardware that is in good working condition

  • Have a nut and bolt firmly tightened in each hole that connects the top and bottom of the crate. The bolt must be made of metal; the nut may be metal, nylon or plastic as long as the nut is unbreakable and produces a secure connection of the top and bottom of the crate.

Crate must not:

  • Be constructed of plastic that will bend when pressure is applied
  • Have door openings on top or have more than one door
  • Be made entirely of cardboard, welded or wire mesh, wicker or other collapsible materials
  • Have a plastic or fiberglass door
  • Have side plastic latches, unless additional holes have been drilled and metal bolts have been added to secure the crate
  • Have crate wheels, unless they are removed, locked or firmly taped to prevent the crate from rolling while in transit

Examples of acceptable crates

Examples of unacceptable crates

Crate ventilation

Crate must:

  • Have ventilation on three sides for travel within the 50 United States and Puerto Rico
  • Have ventilation on four sides for travel to or from all other locations

Crate limitations

  • No crates over 30” in height, which includes the 700 series (Giant) crate. No crate may contain more than one adult dog or cat
  • A crate may contain two puppies or kittens younger than six months, of comparable size, and weighing less than 20 pounds (9 kg.) each
  • Crate size must allow the puppies or kittens to move about freely
  • No crate may contain both dogs and cats (or puppies and kittens)

Reinforced crates (IATA CR82)

If your dog displays behaviors such as excessive chewing or clawing even after they are acclimated to a travel crate, United requires that you use a reinforced crate that complies with specific international requirements (IATA Container Requirement #82) for increased safety.

Crate must:

  • Be constructed of wood, metal, synthetic materials or weld or wire mesh - materials that cannot be damaged by a pet biting or scratching 
  • Have only one door made of metal, heavy wire mesh or reinforced wood and must have a secure fastening that cannot be opened accidentally 
  • Comply with crate ventilation requirements
  • Have a leak-proof floor that prevents urine and excreta from escaping the crate

Crate must not:

  • Contain plastic in any part of its construction
  • Have ventilation openings wide enough to allow the animal’s nose and paws to protrude outside the crate
Example of an acceptable reinforced crate

NOTE: Some commercially made metal crates may be used as reinforced crates; however, custom modifications are often required to ensure that the openings do not allow an animal's nose or paws to protrude outside. Not all crate sizes will fit on all aircraft. Please see the standard crate type chart on united.com for more details.

Super-sized crates

Effective June 18, 2018, United will no longer accept “giant” crates with a height taller than 30”.

Food and water container requirements

Two dishes or one divided dish must be firmly attached to the inside of the crate and accessible from the outside so the dishes can be filled without opening the door. Dishes must be sturdy, durable, commercially made and specifically designed to attach securely to the crate. Metal bowls are acceptable, provided that the bowl does not slide out of a ring.

Examples of acceptable food / water containers

Examples of unacceptable food / water containers

Additional crate items

Along with the required food and water containers, there are several additional items that pet owners may wish to include in or attach to their pet’s crate. For the safety and comfort of your pet, items allowed and not allowed are specified below.

Items allowed in or attached to crate:

  • Up to 16 ounces of dry food, securely attached to top of crate, to be used for long itineraries, during delays or diverted flights
  • Drip-style water bottles as shown above
  • Blankets, towels, beds or crate pads 3 inches thick or less
  • Only flat-style collars are allowed and as an option may be worn around a pet's neck. Collars, if not being worn by the pet and leashes mush be securely attached to top of crate

Items NOT allowed in or attached to crate:

  • Toys
  • Bottled water, except for drip-style drinking water bottles as shown above
  • Blankets, towels, beds or crate pads thicker than 3 inches
  • Non flat-style collars, including shock collars, chokers, metal or loose fitting types, as well as muzzles
  • Any medication, including over-the-counter or prescription (United does not administer medications)
  • Straw, hay or wood shavings

Standard crate types

The crate types below are accepted on most United aircraft and are available for purchase through our partner Petmate at united.com/petmate

Standard crate types table
Crate type(#) Crate size (in.) Estimated crate weight (lb.) Aircraft type acceptance
100 21 L x 16 W x 15 H 7 All United aircraft*
200 28 L x 20.5 W x 21.5 H 13 All United aircraft*
300 32 L x 22.5 W x 24 H 18 All United aircraft*
400 36 L x 25 W x 27 H 24 All United aircraft*
500 40 L x 27 W x 30 H 32 All United aircraft*
EMBARGOED – UNITED WILL NOT ACCEPT THE FOLLOWING:      
700   51 NO United aircraft

Standard crate types table

  • Crate size (in.)

    21 L x 16 W x 15 H
  • Estimated crate weight (lb.)

    7
  • Aircraft type acceptance

    All United aircraft*

  • Crate size (in.)

    28 L x 20.5 W x 21.5 H
  • Estimated crate weight (lb.)

    13
  • Aircraft type acceptance

    All United aircraft*

  • Crate size (in.)

    32 L x 22.5 W x 24 H
  • Estimated crate weight (lb.)

    18
  • Aircraft type acceptance

    All United aircraft*

  • Crate size (in.)

    36 L x 25 W x 27 H
  • Estimated crate weight (lb.)

    24
  • Aircraft type acceptance

    All United aircraft*

  • Crate size (in.)

    40 L x 27 W x 30 H
  • Estimated crate weight (lb.)

    32
  • Aircraft type acceptance

    All United aircraft*

  • Crate size (in.)

     
  • Estimated crate weight (lb.)

     
  • Aircraft type acceptance

     

  • Crate size (in.)

     
  • Estimated crate weight (lb.)

    51
  • Aircraft type acceptance

    NO United aircraft

* Crate acceptance guidelines noted above apply to United aircraft – maximum height cannot exceed 30" for any crate. Limitations apply for travel on United Express® flights. The #400 series is the largest crate size accepted on United Express aircraft, and not all United Express aircraft are able to accommodate pet crates. Please call United PetSafe at 1-800-575-3335 to verify availability.

How to measure your pet

Crate sizing chart for your dogs and cats

A = Length of animal from nose to root of tail

B = Height from ground to elbow joint

C = Width across shoulders

D = Height of animal in a natural standing position from the top of the head or the ear tip, whichever is higher. Note: your pet’s head or ear tips, whichever is higher, must not touch the top of the crate.

How to determine crate size

For travel within the 50 United States and Puerto Rico:

Length = A + ½ B
Width = C x 2
Height = D

For travel to and from all other destinations and for short-nosed dogs:

Length = A + B
Width = C + 1" (3 cm) x 2
Height = D + 3" (7 cm)

Required labeling

Label the top of your pet's crate with your pet's name as well as the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the customers who will be dropping off and picking up the animal. Federal regulations require that each crate is labeled to safeguard your pet. When you drop off your pet, United will provide the required labels to adhere to the crate. The labels include:

  • The words "LIVE ANIMAL" will be adhered to the top and at least one side of the crate in 1-inch (2.5-cm) letters.
  • Orientation labels that indicate the top of the crate with arrows or "This End Up" markings will be adhered to at least two sides of the crate.

PetSafe acceptance locations will have the required labels available

Certification and feeding instructions

PetSafe is required to attach a certification to the outside of the crate that states the last time the dog or cat was offered food and water. This certification must be signed by the customer and include any special feeding and watering instructions.

IMPORTANT: Do not feed your animal in the two hours prior to departure, as a full stomach can cause discomfort for a traveling pet.

Contact information label

Label with your name, address and phone number at origin and destination cities. It is also a good idea to include your pet's name.

Sample label that you can acquire from United at the time you tender your animal:

CS-345

Meets USDA and IATA requirements:

-