6 Best Airline Approved Pet Carriers (2021 Reviews): For In-Cabin and Cargo Travel

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Are you looking for the best airplane-friendly pet carrier to travel with your furry friend for work or a domestic vacation?

If so, you’ve landed on the right page!

But before we look into that, it is crucial to note that there are no standard guidelines for what makes a dog carrier allowed onboard.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated that all carriers need to be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you if you are flying with your dog in the cabin.

And each airline has its own carrier size restrictions and strict pet flying rules you have to adhere to, or else your furry companion can’t fly!

So, be sure to check your airline’s pet policy before departure.

That said, below are the 6 top-rated in-cabin and cargo pet carriers approved by most airlines, allowing you to bring your pooch with you on your next flight!

Editor’s Choice Product Dimensions Weight Capacity
Our Top Pick Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier (S) 15" L x 10" W x 8.5" H
(M) 17" L x 11" W x 10.5" H
(L) 19" L x 11.75" W x 11.5" H
(S) Up to 8 lbs.
(M) Up to 16 lbs.
(L) Up to 22 lbs.
Best Expandable PetPeppy Premium Airline Approved Expandable Pet Carrier 18" L x 11" W x 11" H Up to 14 lbs.
Best with Wheels Snoozer Roll Around 4-in-1 Pet Carrier (M) 20" H x 14" W x 11" D
(L) 23" H x 15.5" W x 12.25" D
(M) Up to 15 lbs.
(L) Up to 30 lbs.
Most Comfortable SturdiBag Large Flexible Height Pet Carrier (S) 10" H x 10" W x 18" D
(L) 12" H x 12" W x 18" D
(XL) 16" H x 12" W x 20" D
(S) Up to 10 lbs.
(L) Up to 30 lbs.
(XL) Up to 50 lbs.
Best Air Travel Crate for Large Dogs Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier (XS) 21" L x 16" W x 15" H
(S) 28" L x 20.5" W x 21.5" H
(M) 32" L x 22.5" W x 24" H
(L) 36" L x 25" W x 27" H
(XL) 40" L x 27" W x 30" H
(XXL) 48" L x 32" W x 35" H
(XS) Up to 15 lbs.
(S) 20 - 30 lbs.
(M) 30 - 50 lbs.
(L) 50 - 70 lbs.
(XL) 70 - 90 lbs.
(XXL) 90 - 125 lbs.
Budget Choice PetAmi Premium Airline Approved Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier (S) 17" L x 10.2" W x 11.2" H
(L) 19.5" L x 10.2" W x 12" H
(S) Up to 12 lbs.
(L) 12 - 18 lbs.

1. Our Top Pick - Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier

Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier
Photo Credit : Sherpa

One of the most popular pet carriers on the market, the Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier, is designed to let your pooch travel by plane or car in style and comfort.

It features a patented soft frame that gives you the ability to push it down to fit multiple airlines’ under-seat dimensions, combined with fiberglass support rods and a stability board to hold the carrier in shape and maintain its structure.

It has mesh panels on both sides and a cozy, removable, and machine washable faux lambswool for your dog’s optimal comfort. Plus, it comes with locking safety zippers to keep your canine from pushing it open.

Additionally, it includes a padded handle and an adjustable non-slip shoulder strap for easy carry. If it gets too heavy while carrying your dog on your shoulder, you can secure the carrier to your rolling suitcase and roll them along. We also like that it has a large zippered pocket where you can keep your travel documents and a top and side entry that makes loading and unloading your dog a lot easier.

What more, this soft-sided airline carrier for dogs is part of a guaranteed on-board program, which partners with several major airlines such as American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines to give you and your furkid a hassle-free air travel experience.

Size Dimensions For pets up to Expandable
Small 15" x 10" x 8.5" 8 pounds No
Medium 17" x 11" x 10.5" 16 pounds No
Large 19" x 11.75" x 11.5" 22 pounds No

Features:

What We Like

Pros

What We Dislike
Cons

2. Best Expandable - PetPeppy Premium Airline Approved Expandable Pet Carrier

PetPeppy Premium Airline Approved Expandable Pet Carrier
Photo Credit : PetPeppy

Want to give your four-legged friend extra room to stretch while traveling? Look no further than the PetPeppy Premium Airline Approved Expandable Pet Carrier.

Just like what it looks like in the above, both sides can be unzipped and fold down to give your dog extra space so that they don’t feel trapped. It has a roof ventilation design to allow for good air circulation to keep your pup from overheating, with a removable plush faux fleece bedding to ensure that your dog can travel safely and comfortably throughout the entire journey.

Additionally, there are double zippers on top and both sides for easy access and equipped with self-lock zippers and a leash clip on the inside for added security. Plus, it includes a padded shoulder strap and carrying handle for easy transport.

Not only that, but this TSA-compliant carrier also has extra spacious storage compartments for storing your dog’s essentials, such as leash, food, treats, and toys. Suitable for dogs weighing up to 14 pounds.

Size Dimensions For pets up to Expandable
One Size 18" x 11" x 11" 14 pounds Yes

Features:

What We Like

Pros

What We Dislike
Cons

3. Best with Wheels - Snoozer Roll Around 4-in-1 Pet Carrier

Snoozer Roll Around 4-in-1 Pet Carrier
Photo Credit : Snoozer

Looking for an airline-approved dog carrier with wheels to help take the strain off your shoulder? Check out the Snoozer Roll Around 4-in-1 Pet Carrier.

What sets this airline-friendly dog carrier apart from the rest is that it has rolling wheels, which allows you to roll your pup along in the airport with ease. Plus, you can convert it into a backpack, car seat, or pet bed. Meaning you can bring your dog along regardless of where you go without having to carry them on your shoulder the entire trip.

It has three large mesh panels for ventilation and includes a hook located inside the carrier so that you can clip it to your dog’s harness to keep them safe. It is also made with your comfort in mind, with a multi-stage telescopic handle to let you adjust it to your height.

Size Dimensions For pets up to Expandable
Medium 20" x 14" x 11" 15 pounds No
Large 23" x 15.5" x 12.25" 30 pounds No

Features:

What We Like

Pros

What We Dislike
Cons

4. Most Comfortable - SturdiBag Large Flexible Height Pet Carrier

SturdiBag Large Flexible Height Pet Carrier
Photo Credit : Sturdi

If you want something more comfortable for your dog to rest in on the plane, then you might want to look into the SturdiBag Large Flexible Height Pet Carrier.

It is very durable, made of 600 denier polyester, equipped with four adjustable points padded shoulder strap, and a leather grip handle for your comfort. It also has an award-winning flexible height design, coupled with tension rods that can be compressed to fit underneath airline seats and will pop back up to a comfortable height for your dog.

Additionally, it includes several mesh windows to provide superior breathability with retractable flaps for privacy. There are also cozy, removable, washable, and fastener-secured plush fleece pads on the inside for your canine’s maximum comfort during the flight.

We also like that this soft-sided airline carrier for dogs comes with an interior tether to prevent your pup from escaping, along with an additional safety strap that you can secure to airline seats or car seat belts for extra peace of mind.

Size Dimensions For pets up to Expandable
Small 10" x 10" x 18" 10 pounds No
Large 12" x 12" x 18" 30 pounds No
Extra Large 16" x 12" x 20" 50 pounds No

Features:

What We Like

Pros

What We Dislike
Cons

5. Best Air Travel Crate for Large Dogs - Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier

Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier
Photo Credit : Petmate

You have a large dog and need an airline-approved pet carrier for cargo instead? The Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier has got you covered, designed explicitly to let large dogs travel as checked baggage in an airplane’s cargo hold.

It features a high-strength plastic shell, non-corrodible wing-nuts, and a durable interlocking door for added security, coupled with a 4-way latching system to provide increased protection. Also made with your dog’s comfort in mind, it comes with 360-degree wire ventilation windows to allow for good airflow and includes a clip-on food and water bowl and two ‘Live Animal’ labels that you can attach to the kennel for any flights.

One thing to note, though, this hard-sided pet carrier is not entirely airline-approved, yet it is the only one we have found that meets most dog air travel requirements compared to most kennels or crates on the market. What that also means is that you have to make some modifications to make it an International Air Transport Association (IATA) compliant crate, which you will need at least 15 metal nuts and screws and cable ties to zip tie the door.

Size Dimensions For pets up to Expandable
Extra Small 21" x 16" x 15" 15 pounds No
Small 28" x 20.5" x 21.5" 20 - 30 pounds No
Medium 32" x 22.5" x 24" 30 - 50 pounds No
Large 36" x 25" x 27" 50 - 70 pounds No
Extra Large 40" x 27" x 30" 70 - 90 pounds No
Extra Extra Large 48" x 32" x 35" 90 - 125 pounds No

Features:

What We Like

Pros

What We Dislike
Cons

6. Best for Budget - PetAmi Premium Airline Approved Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier

PetAmi Premium Airline Approved Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier
Photo Credit : PetAmi

If you only need to take short-haul flights with your fido occasionally, then the PetAmi Pet Travel Carrier may be enough to do the job.

It is another airline-compliant dog carrier that can fit under the seat, with a ventilated design to ensure it has adequate airflow and sherpa-lined bedding to keep your pooch comfortable throughout the journey. It is equipped with a safety strap on the inside for securing your dog, plus safety buckle zippers to prevent accidental escapes.

This travel bag for dogs is easy to carry and features a luggage strap that allows you to strap it to your rolling suitcase. It also has dual access points for convenient entry and exit and comes with an ID tag and a collapsible bowl for food or water.

Size Dimensions For pets up to Expandable
Small 17" x 10.2" x 11.2" 12 pounds No
Large 19.5" x 10.2" x 12" 12 - 18 pounds No

Features:

What We Like

Pros

What We Dislike
Cons

Why Use an Airline-Friendly Pet Carrier?

Traveling with Your Dog
Caption : Traveling with Dog

The purpose of an airline-compliant carrier is pretty self-explanatory. With it, you will be able to fly with your pooch interstate or internationally, depending on the airline pet policy. In other words, you can explore many different places with your four-legged friend without having to worry about them staying at home alone. It can also come in handy if you have a service dog who needs to air travel routinely to go to or return from work.

If you are looking for an airline-approved pet carrier to fly with your furkid, the chances are that you are an outdoor enthusiast and may be interested in other ways to travel with your dog. And here are some other canine travel gear you may want to check out, like dog car harnesses, bike trailers, dog strollers, dog slings, and backpack carriers, allowing your pup to stick around with you!

Dog Carrier for Air Travel Buyer’s Guide: What to Look For

When it comes to picking the best airline-approved dog carrier, there are a few things you need to consider, and below are some of them.

1. In-Cabin Carrier (Carry-On) vs. Cargo Carriers (Crate)

Essentially, there are two ways to take your dog on flights.

  • In-cabin carriers.
    One way is to use in-cabin pet carriers designed to carry small dogs only. This type of pet carrier is generally soft-sided, and as its name implies, your four-legged friend will be flying with you in the cabin. Make sure to check the measurement before purchasing as it must be able to fit under the flight seats so that it won’t obstruct access to the aisle.
  • Cargo carriers.
    But if you have a medium or large dog and are thinking of air traveling with them, you will need to check them in the plane’s cargo hold. As you can imagine, there is no way you can fit, say, a Golden Retriever beneath the seat in front of you. That also means a hard-sided air travel crate like the Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier is the only choice you have.

2. Airline-Friendly

And, of course, the one you choose has to be airplane-friendly. What makes a pet carrier airline approved? It depends! As each airline has its own pet travel’s rules and regulations, and never assume that your pup will be allowed on the plane even if they are well-behaved. The reason is that some dog breeds are banned on flights. So, make sure to check with the airline before buying the carrier or your flight ticket.

3. The Right Capacity

It certainly is fun to travel and explore with your dog, but it is also crucial that they can fly comfortably. So, you would want to choose the one that offers enough room for your dog to stand up, lie down, and stretch but not too big to ensure it passes the airline sizing requirements. Want to be on the safe side and flying with the major airlines, such as American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines? Look no further than the Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier as it is in the guaranteed on-board program.

4. Ventilation and Durability

The best airline-approved dog carrier also needs to be very well-ventilated, given that your dog’s movement is restricted. So, opt for the model that has lots of mesh panels. Or else, it will be very tough for your canine to get through the flight without having good airflow. One thing, though, the cheaper carriers typically have a light-duty mesh that your pup can easily rip through. The better model features a resin mesh, which is much more resistant to a dog’s nails and wear and tear.

5. Storage Pockets

You may also want to consider a pet carrier with multiple storage compartments (zipper, velcro, or slit pockets). That way, you can keep your dog’s essentials such as food, treats, medications, and other travel necessities together and make them easily accessible.

6. Wheels, Luggage Straps, & Backpack Straps

It’s also a better idea to pick a model with multiple carrying points, which comes with wheels, luggage straps, and shoulder straps like the Snoozer Roll Around 4-in-1 Pet Carrier, than choosing a traditional over-the-shoulder carrier. The reason is that you will have more options to traverse the airport on the way to the flight, which will also certainly be less fatigue as you don’t have to put all the added strain on your shoulders.

Tips for Air Traveling With Your Dog

Air Traveling with Dog
Caption : Dog Ready to Fly
  • Call the airline to see if your dog is allowed on flights.
    Most airlines don’t let short snout dogs like Bulldog, Boston Terrier, and Shih Tzu fly, as it may be unsafe for them due to them having many breathing problems. It is also crucial to note that some dog breeds are classified as dangerous breeds, hence banned from flying. Again, the pet travel policy varies between airlines. Make sure to call the airline you will be flying with to confirm with them.
  • Choose direct flight.
    Not only transit flights are tiring for you, but also for your dog. Think how painful it will be for them to unnecessarily stay in the cargo for an extra few hours and can’t get the fresh air they need. So, avoid stopovers at all costs!
  • Ensure your dog is at least eight weeks old.
    Many airlines don’t allow puppies who are under eight weeks old to fly. In fact, it may be better off to leave them at home at this vulnerable age.
  • Book your ticket as soon as possible.
    You would want to purchase your ticket as early as you can. The reason is that the number of carry-on pets allowed per flight is usually limited to one or two only for first-class seating and four to five for economy class seating.
  • Are you flying into the United States from overseas?
    If so, make sure to get your dog a rabies vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires dogs to get immunized against rabies, and it has to be completed 30 days before arriving in the US.
  • Prepare your dog for the flight.
    While there are dogs that respond well to traveling on an airplane, some may need some preparations. So, you may want to get your pooch to ride in the car in the same carrier that you will be using to acclimatize them to the motions, sights, and sounds.
  • Don’t sedate your dog unless otherwise advised by your veterinarian.
    Don’t tranquilize your furry friend unless otherwise advised by your vet, as it can potentially lead to respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Instead, you can place a blanket and leave their chew toys in the carrier to help calm them down and make them feel more comfortable or give them plenty of exercises to tire them out so that they can sleep on the plane.
  • Don’t give your dog food just before the flight.
    As a good rule of thumb, feed your four-legged friend at least four hours before departure to allow them to digest the food and avoid causing unnecessary discomfort during the flight.
  • Arrive at the airport earlier than you usually would.
    Remember, now that you are taking your dog with you, meaning you will need to check them in as well, and that takes extra time for the ticket agent to process the documents. Plus, boarding the flight earlier can help your pup acclimatize themselves to their new surroundings.
  • Always check the condition of the carrier.
    The reason is that the airline may deny your dog to board if you have a cracked or broken pet carrier. If you are using an air travel crate, it has to be leak-proof and well-ventilated. The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) also requires that the kennel be tall enough for your canine to stand up, turn around, and lie down in a normal position.
  • Let your dog have a potty break before boarding the aircraft.
    You would also want to bring your dog to the bathroom before boarding, as most airlines will require pets to stay in the travel bag the entire trip. It’s also a good idea to line the carrier with pee pads to prevent potty accidents.

What if You Need to Fly Overseas With Your Dog?

International Vet Certificate
Caption : International Vet Certificate

In addition to the tips above, there are few other things you need to know for flying with your dog overseas.

  • Find out the documentation you need for bringing your dog into the destination country.
    All countries have their own regulations for international pet travel. So, ensure you have the necessary documentation ready.
  • Consult with your veterinarian.
    Talk to your veterinarian to check if your dog is healthy enough to fly and have the health certificate updated, which most countries may require.
  • Get your dog’s travel documentation reviewed.
    Book an appointment with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) and have the documentation endorsed to ensure all have passed the destination country’s entry requirements.
  • Don’t forget about your camera!
    After all that stressful process, how can you not bring your camera to capture the beautiful memories you will create with your furkid? So, make sure to check if you have your camera with you before you head out!

Airline-Compliant Pet Carriers FAQ

Do airlines actually measure the carry-on pet carriers?

The airline we flew with had never measured the carrier but only eyeballed and weighed it when we traveled with our dog in the cabin. In fact, most owners said the same thing. There are very few owners who reported that their airlines are, however, strict with the dimension. The bottom line? Make sure to check if your dog carrier falls within the airline’s pet travel policy!

Is traveling as checked baggage the only option for large dogs?

Unfortunately, yes. Large dogs have to travel in the baggage and cargo areas, as there’s no way they can fit under the flight seat in the cabin, and you would have to use an airline-approved dog crate instead of a carry-on.

What are the TSA, FAA, and IATA? What do they do?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency responsible for the passengers’ security in the United States. They don’t make regulations for traveling with pets but would ask you to take your pup out of the carrier and walk through the metal detector with your dog.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on the other hand, is the governing body for the US’s aviation. The FAA allows airlines to decide whether they will let your dog travel in the cabin, and if they do, the FAA will treat your pet carrier as carry-on baggage, which also means there are a few rules you need to follow.

Lastly, the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) is a trade association of the world’s airlines. And there are pet carrier regulations you need to comply with for traveling with your pup internationally. That is to ensure that all live animals are transported safely and humanely.