The Ultimate Guide to Buying an Airline Approved Pet Carrier

When it comes to choosing the best airline approved pet carrier, you must look closely at the type in relation to the pet that you’re taking with you.  Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, ferrets, and rabbits are just a few, and each has a totally different requirement.  As long as they don’t disturb the other passengers, pets are allowed to travel with their owner.

When you travel by plane, it is nice to be able to take your pet along with you.  Thankfully, there are different pet travel carriers, kennels, and crates made to specifically meet airline standards. Pet carriers for airlines that are fully compliant and always provide complete comfort.

If you have a smaller pet, such as a small or toy-sized dog, cat, ferret, etc., you should buy a soft-sided or hard-sided airline pet carrier that you can fit comfortably under your seat.

For medium to large dogs, they will have to be put in the cargo hold.  Nowadays, airlines are starting to take very good care of the animals.  They didn’t used to, but they have strict policies in place that ensure the safety of your pet during a flight.

Traveling with your pet isn’t always easy, especially when you’re going by plane.  Although more airlines are becoming pet-friendly, they still have strict guidelines.  These guidelines make things safer for you and your pet, as well as for the respective airline.

How to Choose the Best Airline Pet Carrier

Do your homework when choosing a good FAA approved pet carrier, for any pet.  We have done a lot of research, and we will help you to select the ideal carrier for you and your pet.

We will show you a few high quality FAA airline approved pet carriers for large breeds of dogs, as well as the different choices for taking your pet on board with you.  We will also give you tips that will help to ensure that you and your pet both have a safe and relaxed flight.

The carrier that you choose has to be able to hold your pet comfortably during the entire flight.  It has to have very good air circulation as well as be secure enough to keep your pet from getting out.  Pets can be very crafty, and you might be surprised at how many pets escape their carriers or crates onboard, just because the owners didn’t know that they could get out.

The carriers and crates listed here have extra security measures so that you won’t have to worry about this happening.  You will also to be able to rest easy knowing that your pet will have the safest, most comfortable ride possible.

Before booking your flight, call the airline you are planning use to make very sure that they allow the specific carrier or kennel.  Each airline has its own policy for pets.

Best Pet Carrier for Flights – Top 5 Picks!

  1. Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier
  2. Aspen Pet Pet Porter Plastic Kennel
  3. Snoozer Wheel Around 4-In-1 Pet Carrier
  4. SturdiBag Pet Carrier
  5. Argo by Teafco Pet Carrier

#1 Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier

You won’t find too many carriers that are not only approved by airlines, but highly recommended by the ASPCA, Humane society, and veterinarians alike.  That fact alone says a lot about the safety of this carrier.

It is made only for small dogs and cats, as well as other small pets weighing under 22 pounds.

Sherpa pet carriers are the only carriers that are guaranteed on board.  That means that they meets all of the specific rules and regulations of the different airlines.

Best Airline Pet Carrier

One of the best and safest in-cabin pet carriers on the market.  It is well ventilated, with strong mesh on 3 sides.  This also allows your pet to be able to see its surroundings, making it more comfortable.

It is quite hard to find an airline approved cat carrier, because most cats are escape artists.  They have an uncanny ability to find their way out of just about anything.

Sherpa kept this in mind when they designed this carrier.  It has a top entrance as well as a front entrance.  The top entrance is good for cats because it is much easier to lower them into a carrier than to try to make them go into one themselves.

Another reason that it is allowed on airlines is that it is leak-proof.  Depending on the length of your flight, your pet may not be able to ‘hold it’ until they get out of the carrier.  The liner is machine washable, and the fabric itself is very easy to clean.

The zippers are made of heavy-duty steel, and they lock closed.  This is one of the main reasons that it is allowed on airplanes.  Unless you aren’t paying attention to your pet while on board, and let them chew or claw their way out, then they simply cannot get out.

The handles and bottom are reinforced, making it very sturdy.  This keeps you comfortable while carrying them, and makes them feel safer because they won’t feel like they can fall through the carrier.  It also has a zippered pocket on one side that is perfect to carry pet medicines, treats, or even small toys.

Out of over 1,500 real customer reviews, it has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.  76% of the customers gave this carrier a 5 out of 5-star rating. The fact that it is currently 36% off right now on Amazon makes it even better!

Check pricing on the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier now!

#2 Aspen Pet Pet Porter Plastic Kennel

These plastic pet kennels are well built and approved for both in-cabin and cargo travel.

The small kennel is made by Aspen Pet.  Many people use this crate for pets like Guinea pigs, ferrets, and rabbits.  They also use it for puppies, kittens or small cats, and tea-cup size dogs.   It is made for pets up to 10 pounds.

The bigger kennels range in size for holding any other size pets, up to 90 pounds.

flight approved dog crates

There are 4 tie-down corners, which makes it even safer for use on airlines, to ensure that there is no chance of it sliding around.  It is made with heavy-duty plastic, but it is also lightweight.

There is an interior perimeter moat, for any accidents during the flight.  It is also very well ventilated, and your pet can see so they won’t be as nervous.

For added security, the front door securely latches with a chrome squeeze door latch.  Amazon customers have said they were surprised at how well the latch works, and how sturdy it is.  If you’ve had a pet kennel before, you know that the latches on the doors aren’t always well made.  You can be sure that your pet will be safe, as no airline would ever approve a kennel that is not capable of keeping a pet securely inside the crate.

This kennel is very easy to put together, with no-rust wing-nuts.  It has side air vents, allowing a lot of ventilation for your pet.

When you combine this with your pet’s favorite bed, they will be able to relax.

It has and average customer satisfaction rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars.  Airlines have no problems allowing these kennels, whether in cabin or in cargo.

Check pricing on the Aspen Pet Pet Porter Plastic Kennel now!

#3 Snoozer Wheel Around 4-In-1 Pet Carrier

When you want an airline approved pet carrier that serves more than just one purpose, the Snoozer Wheel Around 4-In-1 Pet Carrier is perfect for you.  It is not only a carrier, but it converts into a car seat, a backpack, and a pet bed.

It’s not only a great way to travel, but it also serves many purposes after you reach your destination.  It has a multi-stage telescoping handle that allows you to wheel your pet through the airport.

It’s made with microfiber quilted plus fabric that is easy to clean, and it is very well ventilated with mesh windows on 3 sides.  It is also padded inside, for even more comfort for your pet.

petagon pet carrier

There are zippered storage compartments, which makes it nicer because you don’t have to worry about Velcro opening and your things falling out along the way.

As a car seat, is has actually been crash tested at 30 mph.  Not many carriers are crash tested for safety.  It also comes in 3 different sizes.  The small holds weights of up to 7 pounds, the medium carrier holds up to 15 pounds, and the large size holds up to 30 pounds.

Remember to measure the length and height of your pet, because a 15-pound dog of one breed can be longer or taller than another breed.  A large cat will also fit differently.  There should be enough room for them to be able to comfortably stand up and turn around.

Amazon’s customer satisfaction rating for this carrier is 4.2 out of 5 stars.  One piece of advice that was given for airline travel is to take the bottom pad, which velcros onto the carrier.  Customers also like the fact that it has a leash or harness clip to provide extra security. You can buy this carrier from Amazon using the link below at a 33% Discount.

Check pricing on the Snoozer Wheel Around 4-In-1 Pet Carrier now!

#4 SturdiBag Pet Carrier

The SturdiBag Pet Carrier is not marketed to be an airline bag, but it is approved on most airlines.  It easily fits under the seats because of its unique flex-fold design.

Many cat owners use this carrier when travelling, because of the sturdiness of the heavy-duty canvas, and also that has safety clasps for the zippers.  Cats have an uncanny capability of unzipping zippers, and the clasps are made very well to ensure that they cannot get out.

It was made to fit under most airline seats comfortably, but it is suggested that you get either a middle or window seat, as they have more under-seat room than the aisle seat.

airline approved cat carrier

The flex-height design makes this carrier very unique.  It allows you to fit it perfectly under the seat without squeezing your pet into an uncomfortable position, ensuring a comfortable ride.

It has very good ventilation, and a thick soft mat for added comfort.  For added security, it also has an attached safety harness clip.

For your comfort, it has a padded shoulder strap.  It also has a zipper pocket in the back.

This carrier fits small breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, Border Terriers, and Shelties, as well as any size cats.

Amazon customers have given an average customer satisfaction rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.  It is very comfortable for both of you, and is approved on most airlines.  As always, check with your airline before the flight, just as a precaution.

Right now, Amazon is offering a 34% discount, so it represents exceptional value for money.

Check pricing on the SturdiBag now!

#5 Argo by Teafco Pet Carrier

Made for small pets, this IATA approved pet carrier has everything you need for a safe and comfortable flight with your pet.  It is very lightweight, weighing only two pounds.

You won’t have much need for another carry-on bag, as the Argo by Teafco also provides you with 5 external zippered pockets, and a rear pocket with organization.  The zippered closures make it nice because you know that your belongings won’t fall out of the bag.

It has a top loading door as well as a side feeding opening, which is perfect for either giving your pet a treat or just petting them during the flight.  The sides are also very well supported, so you don’t have to worry about them caving in.

flight approved tote bag

It is a good carrier for cats, as well, because cats don’t like to be put into front loading carriers at all.  When you lower them in, they will feel more comfortable and won’t put up such a fuss.

It has good ventilation, with dual layer reinforced mesh windows.  Even pets that like to chew or scratch won’t get through this mesh.  For even more security, there is a safety hook attached to the inside of the bag that attaches to your pet’s harness.

The top opening, or door, closes with a zipper, and you can lock it with a snap.  On top of both of those, it has a Velcro tab as well.

This designer pet carrier is pink, which means that it can also be used as a fashionable tote.

Amazon reviewers gave this carrier a 4.6 star rating, out of a possible 5 stars.  They especially like the fact that is has 3 closures at the top opening as well as the safety clip.  This makes them feel more at ease, especially with cats, that their pet won’t get out of the carrier during the flight.

Amazon is currently selling this carrier for only $79.99, which is a great value for everything that this carrier has to offer.

Check pricing on the Argo by Teafco now!

What Type of Airline Pet Carrier?

When you are traveling via air with your pet, there are different carriers that airlines allow.  For the safety and comfort of not only your pet, but for you and the other passengers as well, choose a carrier that your pet will be comfortable in.

Soft Sided Pet Carrier

Many airlines allow soft sided carriers on a flight for a few different reasons.  First, they can be manipulated to fit under the seat, not squeezing your pet, nor damaging the seat.

They also usually have sewn-in pockets with zipper enclosures to keep everything secured.  Some airlines will not allow carriers with Velcro because the flap can easily come open.

They also have better ventilation, usually on three sides instead of two. The two best options are the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier and the OxGord Soft Sided Pet Carrier. 

Hard Sided Pet Carrier

best Airline Approved Pet CarriersYou and your pet may feel more secure with a hard sided carrier.  These won’t conform to the space under the seat, so you will have to make sure that you call the airline and ask for the proper measurements.

To ensure the most comfort for your pet, the carrier should have a soft mat on the bottom that is attached with Velcro, or one that doesn’t slip around.  There will be a lot of movement on the way to the plane, through the check-in, etc.

They also have to be well ventilated.  The more your pet can see, the more comfortable they will be.  At the #2 spot in our list is the Aspen Pet Pet Porter Plastic Kennel.

This kennel is available in many sizes, making it a good choice for any size pet.

Airline Approved Pet Carrier with Wheels

Wheeled carriers and kennels make things much easier when you are taking your pet on a flight.  You will be walking and waiting in line a lot, and this will take a load off of your shoulders and back. The Snoozer wheel-around carrier is one of the best carriers.

Fundamentals of a Good Airline Approved Pet Carrier

For the safety and comfort of everyone, there are certain things that all airlines require.

First, of course, it must be able to fit under the seat, if you are taking it in-cabin with you.  Keep in mind that it has to go under the seat in front of you.

  • Good Ventilation – the carrier, whether it be soft or plastic, must have good ventilation. The more mesh windows that it has, the better.  When your pet is able to see more of their surroundings, they will be more comfortable.
  • Leak Proof – all pets have accidents. You have to have a leak-proof FAA approved pet carrier.  You might want to look into getting ‘puddle pads’ for the trip, just for extra protection.
  • Zippered Pockets – if your pet carrier has outside pockets, they must be zippered. Velcro can wear out, and this could cause a safety hazard if things fall out of the carrier.

flight approved dog crates

How to Keep Difficult Pets Safe in a Carrier

Although dogs and puppies have their ‘days’, cats and kittens are notoriously loud and irritable.  If you are lucky, your kitty is calm and sedate, but they are few and far between.

You may find that some operators don’t let you bring an in-cabin airline approved cat carrier with you for this reason.  If you do have a frisky kitty, you might want to talk with your vet about how to keep them calm during the flight.  They may suggest a very mild sedative, or they may have other alternative options for you.

Best Pet Carrier Based on Size of the Animal

Unfortunately, quite a few pet owners don’t know what size carrier to get for their pet.  This usually results in a carrier that your pet absolutely hates, and refuses to go into.

Your pet must be able to stand up, turn around, and lay down, not touching the crate in any way.  If they touch when they do any of these things, they are too cramped.  If the carrier is too large, they will not feel secure, because they may bounce around in it.

How to Properly Measure a Pet for a Carrier

Getting your pet to stay still so that you can measure them can be a little hard, to say the least, so you should wait until they are tired or relaxed, as it will make it much easier for you.

Instead of using a measuring tape, which can make a lot of noise and scare your pet, you can use a piece of string.

When your pet is standing on all fours, measure them from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail (not the tip).  You will also need to measure from the top of their head to the ground.

With these measurements in hand, add an inch or two to get the most comfortable fit for your pet.  When checking sizes, make sure that you are looking at the inside dimensions, not the outside.  Sometimes there can be a 2-inch difference between the two.

Specific Airline Rules for a Pet Travel Carrier

To save you some time, here are some of the major airlines’ rules and regulations for taking your pet with you on their airline.

What is the Best Airline Approved Pet Carrier?

The best airline pet carrier for you would be one that your pet is comfortable in, and that you feel is the safest for them.

Before you buy one, make sure that they will have proper room to move around by measuring them first.  If the carrier description only lists the exterior dimensions, take an inch or two off of those measurements.

Our best airline approved pet carrier is accepted by most, if not all airlines.  However, you should always call the airline to make 100% certain that it is accepted.  Either as an on-board carrier, or cargo carrier, and make sure that you understand their policies, as they differ.