Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Finding that "just right" airline-approved cat carrier

Since we’re moving to Germany with cats, I’ve had to do a lot of research on flying with pets. There’s also a lot of paperwork, vaccinations and specific microchipping rules, but that’s another post.
Some airlines won’t let fly pets in the cargo hold during peak summer and winter months, as the area is not adequately temperature controlled. And most vets strongly discourage the use of tranquilizers (and some airlines forbid it) as the mixture of drugs and changes in air pressure could be fatal for your furry friend.

Depending on the size of the pet, there are two flight options: accompanied cargo and in-cabin (a third option is to ship Fido or Fluffy separately (AKA “unaccompanied”), but I don’t know much about that).

Specific travel requirements may vary, so it’s best to call the airline fist. But here’s what we were told for our Chicago-Munich Lufthansa  flight.

Accompanied Cargo 
Cargo carriers, like the ones we ordered must:
  • Meet IATA regulations.
  • Be hard-shelled and held together with bolts (not plastic flaps).
  • Be tall enough for the animal to stand, with a few inches to spare.
  • Have an attachable water bowl and plenty of bedding for comfort and to help soak up…accidents.
You’re allowed one pet per passenger. But airlines often limit the total number of in-cabin pets to just a few. It seems the best way to book a flight with a pet, whether in cargo or under the seat, is to call the airline directly and mention the number of animals you need to transport and how. This typically costs a bit more than booking online. But you reduce the the risk of being turned away when you get to the airport.

Under-the-seat carriers must:
  • Be no larger than 55cm x 40cm x 20cm.
  • Weigh less than 8 kg (pet and carrier combined).
On a personal note, I’m a little nervous about travelling with my cat Momo in-cabin (Thomas calls him the Red Devil). He’s a loud meower…something Thomas says is karma catching up with me for all the times I complained about crying kids on flights. Plus he’s a skilled carrier destroyer.  But we got a Teafco Argo carrier as a wedding gift from friends last year, and so far he’s only managed to snag the wire mesh. We’ll see how it holds up after the 9-hour flight. Lufthansa also supplies carriers, maybe I should get one as a backup…


  1. Crap. Just got the hard-shelled carriers and realized I ordered them too large. Time for the dreaded world of internet purchase returns. :/

  2. Hope it goes well. The airline I flew on didn't allow my 2 cats in the cabin so I had to put them in cargo which I was really worried about. They were freaked out, but adjusted to their new home in about 45 minutes. Hope your cat does just as well. As a warning, at the Luthansa Animal Lounge in Frankfurt, be prepared to pay for different things. We ended up paying almost 300 euro which we didn't realize we needed to pay. Good luck!

  3. Thanks for the heads up! Were you connecting in Frankfurt when they made you pay?

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  5. Great post! Bringing home a new four-legged friend, whether it’s a pup or an adult, is like bringing home a new baby – you need to be prepared, and you need supplies. So, I was looking for articles on buying airline approved pet carrier and then I came across yours inspiring read. Thanks!