Sky Kennels by Petmate

Lessons learned by following the History of the Sky Kennel by Doskocil (Petmate)

Vintage Wood Dog Cat Airline Crate
Wood Live Animal Shipping Crates

When pets first began to travel on airplanes, the wooden shipping crate was the only option for transporting them—that is until Doskocil (Petmate) introduced the Fiberglass Sky Kennel. Today the Sky Kennel is airlines’ first choice for pets traveling in the cargo/luggage compartment. To date this is the only brand of hard-shell carriers sold by airlines for use on their flights.

Wood Sky Kennel
Vintage Wood SKY Kennel

But why choose Sky Kennel over other products like Vari Kennels?

The current Sky Kennel looks just like the Vari Kennel, both are made by Doskocil (Petmate), and both are made from the exact same plastic injection molds.

So what is the difference between them?

The answer is: There’s very little difference these days. But many years ago, the differences were very apparent. The Original Sky Kennel was made for airline use only and sold exclusively by major airlines. To purchase one, you had to either go to the airline cargo office or pre-order one for pick-up at an airline ticket counter. You couldn’t buy one at a pet store, from a catalog, or for that matter online since this was long before the Internet..

Sky Kennel Old Fashion Original Model
This Original Sky Kennel 1970-1990

The Original Sky Kennel had unique features like:

  • A heavy-duty fiberglass shell (not plastic), which was strong enough to resist bending, warping, or losing its shape;
  • Labels featuring the name of the airline that sold that particular kennel(i.e., Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Northwest Airlines); and
  • A single slot in the door so that airline personnel could pull out the food or water bowl for refilling and place it back in the kennel without opening the door.


As you can tell from the features listed above, the key goal of the Original Sky Kennel was to keep a pet securely contained while traveling—not necessarily for the safety of the pet, but more likely for the safety of other passengers and the plane itself. One of the biggest concerns when pets first started to travel in cargo was that they could get loose during the flight and wreak havoc by chewing wires or delicate mechanical instruments that are housed in the plane’s luggage compartment. Once pets became commonplace on airplanes, rules governing pet containers began to relax—and pet escapes became common occurrences.

Federal Laws passed in May 2005 by DOT (Department of Transportation) required US airlines to report pet-related incidents (e.g., loss, injury, death) and has resulted in a treasure trove of valuable information. For instance, it helped airlines realize that one of its biggest pet-related mistakes was allowing pets to travel in faulty, insecure kennels. After five years of collecting and reviewing the information most major airlines have adopted new in-house rules.

1. Require kennels to be secured with metal hardware (which the Original Sky Kennel had). NOW AVAILABLE on our site

2. Require pet owners to reinforce their pet’s kennel door frames with releasable cable ties. That way, plastic kennels (unlike fiberglass) prone to losing their shape (especially around the door frame) cannot accidentally open during a flight.

Both these rules were adopted between 2009 and 2010 after countless pets escaped in planes’ cargo holds or while being transferred between cargo offices and the plane. Since these new rules took effect, pet escapes have once again become a very rare occurrence.

To find these airline-required items like Hand Releasable Cable Ties and Solid Metal Kennel Securing Hardware visit and learn from the history of the Sky Kennel keep your pet securely contained while traveling so your pet will arrive safe and happy!

sky kennel - vari kennel
The Sky Kennel and Vari Kennel are now identical and come from the same plastic mold (Fiberglass Kennels are no longer made)
Sky Kennel 200, 300, 400, 500
Sky Kennel-Vari Kennel 200, 300, 400, 500 have been re-designed

More Information on Sky Kennel and Vari Kennel

The Series (size) 200 thru 500 Sky Kennel and Vari Kennel have recently been re-designed and features ventilation holes on all 4 sides which is required for pets traveling Internationally. They also have a thicker rim that requires longer bolt attachments to keep the top and bottom together. Another Great feature is the pre-drilled cable tie holes around the door for securing the door and keeping it closed during flight. A quick way to tell the difference between the old style Kennels and new re-designed style Kennels is the rounded corners and door opening. Sky Kennels for Air Travel



sky kennel 700
Sky Kennel 700 has not been re-designed
Sky Kennel 100 (NOT) re-designed
Sky Kennel 100 has not been re-designed

The Series (size) 100 and 700 Sky Kennel and Vari Kennel have not been re-designed. They both still have the square corners and door openings. Only the SKY Kennel comes with ventilation on all 4 sides, but the holes on the back wall are clearly drilled manually after the molding process.

Also note neither the 100 or 700 Sky Kennels – Vari Kennels have pre-drilled cable tie holes around the door and they both have thinner rims that require shorter bolt attachments to keep the top and bottom together.


NEW Grreat Choice Kennels by Petmate

Grreat Choice Airline Kennel
Rightfully named the Grreat Choice is a great choice* for pets traveling on airlines.

  •  They are made by Petmate same maker of the Sky and Vari Kennel.
  • All sizes have pre-drilled cable tie holes around the doors.
  • All sizes have ventilation on all four sides.
  • They are usually a little less expensive than Sky or Vari Kennels



double food water cup

*The only downfall I discovered, is the size XS and Small have tiny doors which makes it impossible to fit (2) individual food water dishes on side by side. But you can still fit a small double dish or you can stagger (2) individual dishes on the door of the size Small but it is a very tight squeeze.


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33 Responsesso far.

    • The differences between the two is the Petco Classic doesn’t have ventilation in the back wall, which is only required for international flights but still a good safety feature when traveling in heat. It also does not have pre-drilled cable tie holes around the door but you can with some effort slip the hand releasable cable ties through the same holes that hold the door in place. Also the Petco Classic has the door rods exposed rather than covered with a plastic housing that keeps the door rod from being accidentally pushed down and open. And the Bolts are longer in the Petsmart brand and there is more of them…. So quite a bit different but still the Petco Classic would be suitable for airlines use. I just prefer the PetSmart since it has more safety features than the Petco Classic and really cost about the same when they are on sale. Thanks for visiting

  1. You state that the sky kennel 700 does not have the cable ties predrilled. But you neglected to mention that the 700 has a 4 way closure which makes the tie unnecessary. It can be seen in the picture and is horizontal.

    • Dear Patricia,
      I tried to email my reply but it appears you used a fake email…AnyWho…The ties are still required by many of the best (safest) airlines…. But thanks for the comment..
      I also see from my stats you did not get a chance to read the US GOV reports on my site might be a good idea before you decide to not drill the holes and just count on the 4 way door locking mechanism. But that’s my opinion…
      If you do get a chance which I suggest you do read the countless reports of pets getting loose on the tarmac and harmed and many times killed and then if you decide to wing it that is your right… But I do not agree and I hope that none of my blog readers decide to follow your advise without knowing all the facts…This info I share about drilling holes cost the customer 0.00 and I make 0.00 so what would be my motive in sharing false advise…
      Good Luck!
      And thanks for visiting

  2. Hey, I want to make a wooden travelling crate for my 2 fully grown german-shepherd dogs. I really like the “Vintage Wood SKY Kennel”. So I will be really happy if some one can send the pictures of it from different views so that I can give it to a carpenter and he can make this.

    Thanks 🙂

  3. Hi – my family will be shipping their German Shepherd from Italy to California this fall 2012 and we’re looking at Giant crate options. Your site has a lot of insightful information – especially regarding replacing the plastic fasteners which by the way is NOT LISTED on the Delta website as a requirement.

    I read your comments about the Grreat Choice carriers from Petsmart however on the Petsmart site they don’t list a Giant option – just up to 40″ height version. Can you help?

    • The only Company that makes a Giant 700 Plastic Kennel is Petmate they have the Vari and Sky Kennel 700 and they are not cheap and cost quite a bit for shipping since they are so huge not heavy but bulky so the shipping is based on dimensions..

      If you can get one locally that is best try some of the smaller pet stores that carry the Vari Kennels and ask them to order from their rep they can add it to the weekly orders. I have done this at a small pet store here in Portland…. Also you can go to the airline cargo offices and ask them if they can sell you one some of them like Continental/United air accept them so I am certain some of the cargo offices have them. They do not advertise but if you show up to ship a pet and the crate is too small they are known to sell the customer one. But depends on what city you are flying out of.

  4. I’m shipping my dogs on Delta this Thursday. I purchased the Grreat Choice Kennels by Petmate
    that you mention above. Do they require any modifications? I can’t tell if the nuts will pass. The bolts are metal and the nuts appear plastic on the outside, but I can’t see down in them to see if they are metal. Is just buying some wing nuts from a hardware store adequate to meet requirements? Thanks!

  5. Does the IATA varikennel 200 for international airline travel have metal bolts/screws/fastenings.And what are the dimensions of the largest gaps in the front and side grills please. I have noticed from the photograph that around the edges of the door the gaps in the grill appear to be larger. As we are transporting a cat with very slender paws, I really need to know the exact dimensions of the largest gaps. Thank you.

  6. Your website is very helpful. Thank you. I have a question. We are moving to Italy and taking out dog and cat. I bought a crate today called the Pet Lodge Double door. It has a door on one end and one on the side. I read I will have to add the pull tie holes but otherwise, do you think it will be ok? Also, I got one. For the cat. It’s not a double door one but it is smaller. He fits fine in it but given that the one airline requires a larger size should I consider returning it and going bigger? Thanks again.

  7. Hi!! Nice page!
    I’m going to go to Spain next week and I have a lab weighting 90 lbs. I decided to buy GRREAT CHOICE KENNEL 500 (Petsmart), it’s a good choice?? I have a doubt about plastic attachments on it; not sure if I need nuts and bolts or if it is enough with the ones that come (plastic). Thanks

  8. I have to ship a 14 lb cat this weekend from boston to san diego on delta airlines. I’m afraid to buy a carrier from petsmart or petco that doesn’t meet the regulations. Delta sells pet carriers for pets traveling in cargo so I think that’s the safest bet for me. Does anyone have any experience purchasing their carriers? I think it’s going to cost me about 65 dollars for a medium size carrier so they aren’t cheap and I’m hoping that they’re of a decent quality. oct 23,21012

    • They only sell Sky Kennels and Vari Kennels which yes are good quality. I have a page on that very subject and I suggest if you are doing it yourself you make a trip to the Cargo station and get an idea where they are and while there look into buying your crate there since they only sell the crates they will accept. But they do sometimes run out so be sure and call to confirm. Thanks for posting on

  9. We found a wooden pet carrier box in the street and I brought it home – I love it – it even has old British Airways and republic airlines, but there is no date on it – who could I ask to value this (not that I am going to sell it – it would just be interesting to know) it could fit a small dog – but I use it for my three guinea pigs !* do you know someone who deals with second hand carriers – like an enthusist or a dealer ?

  10. Hi there,

    Long shot, but: any chance you know how to get replacement parts (specifically the door) for a size L Grreat Choice Kennel? My aussie mix managed to pull the door on her crate in; we were able to band-aid fix it for a while, but she finally bent it so much that it caved in and she got out today. I’m striking out online (and have even found someone claiming in a review that PetSmart won’t sell a replacement door), but found this site in my search and thought I’d ask. I did find that has replacement doors that purport to be compatible with Petmate Classic, Fashion, Deluxe Vari-Kennels and PetMate Sky Kennels, but I’m not sure if it would work for me, or if they are even a legit company. Any ideas? Thanks!

    • Yes I can help… You see many do not realize is the Grreat Choice is actually the old Bargain Hound that PetSmart started to sell. They changed the name by modifying the mold with the name Grreat Choice. The old Bargain Hound name was deleted and removed from the mold about 4 years ago but same exact kennel made by Petmate and You can get a replacement door here… replacement kennel door for Grreat Choice it will be labelled for Bargain Hound but it is the same mold. FYI: the other doors you mentioned will not likely fit your kennel since Grreat Choice has the smallest door of any kennel something that I consider a downfall to an otherwise Grreat Choice Kennel.

      Good luck to you and Thanks for posting… might help others in same situation.

        • Strange…most of the time I feel the in depth details of plastic molded kennels I have stored in my head is a waste of space. But times like these it comes in handy and I am so glad I could share and hopefully help. Thanks again for posting!!!

  11. Hi,

    Do you know where I can purchase new bolts that fits into the nuts? The measurements of bolts is different than we have in Scandinavia, and I haven’t been able to find replacements here.

    I’m looking bolts for Sky Kennel XL size; 11 pieces.

    Than you for your help.


    • Hi Outi, The issue you may be running into is Metric Vs Imperial. Here in the US where the Sky Kennel is made Imperial threads are the Standard. I am pretty sure were you are located Metric threads are the standard. So it is not so much the size of bolts but rather the threads. We sell kits that contains nuts and bolts but if you are seeking just bolts you will want to ask for Imperial 10-24 Carriage bolts Length will vary so you will want to be sure and measure the length of your existing bolts. You may have to order them from the USA we may be the only country who still has not converted everything to the metric system.

  12. Hello,
    I am so glad I found your website, I recently accepted at job in the UK and will be taking one of my dogs now, she weighs about 70 lbs and the other will hopefully be joining us about 6 months after we arrive., he weighs about 96 lbs. I am so confused about what size kennel to get for my 70 lbs dog. I tried to measure her but that was a complete bust. Can you provide some help? Also I am thinking I should fly british airways but can’t find any info about rates, any ideas? A estimate is ok just want a general idea. BTW my female dog weighs about 70 lbs, a complete mutt, doberman, lab, rottie mix, but more compact and muscler like a pit bull. 🙂 Thanks for any help.

    • Since measuring is not working you might just want to take her to the local Petco or PetSmart and put her in few kennels and be sure she has head room. You will want to be sure she can walk in and turn around naturally and she should be able to look out of the door without leaning down and finally she should have about 2-3″ head clearance so be sure here head or pointed ears do not touch the roof. We do not do any pet shipping so I am unable to get you a quote. You will want to call British Airways directly and they should be able to assist with rates. Thanks for posting.

  13. HELP!!! lol
    I am a us soldier . I am flying my family to korea to join me. I need to order a kennel real quick that is already at the airline standards. i have a 30 pound dog. what can i order that has everything i need already. Thank you in advance!!!

  14. i am looking into ordering the sky crate for my 2 dogs to travel internationally. they re 20 and 70 pounds.will i still have to change out bolts etc? or does the sky crate come fully equipped for travel? i want to order a crate that i do not have to change anything out or buy anything extra.

  15. Hi. I am looking for a replacement door for my classic kennel. The dementions are 36 x 25 x 27. I lookes on your site nit couldn’t find one. I am hoping you will be able to help me out. Thanks

  16. I have been having such a difficult time finding airline approved crates for my dogs, so I just wanted to say thank you so much. Your post on this is incredibly helpful and I was able to order some crates from Petsmart today and for the best price I’ve seen for crates thus far! I’m getting two crates for less than what I would have paid for one elsewhere. Thanks again for all your research on this!

    • I do not think this is true. But they are making some changes as to where they will be distributing them. My guess is they do not want to have them displayed and sold side by side with the New Navigator and Compass. But for airline travel I would never use either of those new Crates. I would insist on A Sky or Vari Kennel, or the other crates they produce under private labels (Petco, Grreat Choice, etc.) that have bolts that hold the top and bottom together, rather than plastic slide together attachments.

  17. Are there replacement clips for the vari 700. 2 of mine are broken. Ones that hold the top to the bottom.

  18. Delta Dash regulations have this sentence under Kennel Construction Requirements ” A spacer bar or rim, protruding at least ¾ in. (1.9 cm) must be provided on all sides with ventilation openings. ” I’m at a loss what that means? Would this just be the rim where the top and bottom connect? Do the new Sky Kennels meet this requirement?

    • Yes this is the rim that sticks out where the bolts go. The purpose is to keep other objects from shifting to close to the kennel during flight and potentially covering up the air holes (ventilation) and the bottoms of these rims normally come with small grips for a 2 man lift. Yes the Sky kennels meets this requirement.