Best Airline-Approved Cat & Dog Carriers for 2019

Best Airline-Approved Cat & Dog Carriers for 2019

  • 25 min read
  • Last Updated: 02/27/2019
  • Author: Jonathan Burton

After looking through every top airline approved dog carrier on the market, we narrowed down the list to 20. Every airline is different, so we included the updated requirements for 5 of the major airlines (American, United, Delta, Southwest & Frontier) and picked carriers that fit within the guidelines of ALL of them. Our personal favorites were for its sheer strength and durability.

Click here to scroll down to see what things we look for
when choosing the best airline approved pet carrier

DZMWEK Soft-Sided Expandable Kennel Crate

7/10

Won’t collapse on pup

Can be strapped to car seat or luggage

Escape-proof - zippers can’t be nudged open by pet

Pet feels less confined

Expandable sides allow more air circulation

Folds flat

Sized for only smallest of pets

Material
Unspecified (appears to be nylon)
mesh
Size
11x11x18 (31x11x18 expanded)
Ventilation
All sides
Capacity
11 lbs.
Openings
2 zipper doors (front
top)
Closures
Self-lock zippers
Interior tether

Extras
Expandable on two sides
washable mat
side pockets
reinforced steel frame
self-locking zippers
1-year guarantee
nylon woven tape hand/shoulder strap
car seat/luggage cart adaptable

IRIS Deluxe Pet Travel Carriers

8/10

Screw closure

Very sturdy

Easy to assemble

Easy to carry

Arrives w/defects on occasion

Material
Heavy duty rigid plastic
Size
XS - 18.11”L x 11.42”W x 11.22”H
SM - 14.70”L x 21.00”W x 14.50”H
MD: 26.40”L x 18.50”W x 20.00”H
LG: 34.25”L x 24.41”W x 32.17”H
Ventilation
Both sides
top/bottom
Capacity
11 lb - 75 lb
Openings
1 (front)
Closures
One-handed latch
Interior tether

Extras
Detachable food/water tray
foldable handles (one on smaller units
two on large size)

Petpeppy Premium Airline-Approved Expandable Pet Carrier

8/10

Won't collapse on pet

Can be fastened on luggage

Folds flat for easy storage

Spacious

Excessive use of zippers

Zippers can be opened by determined pets

Weak shoulder strap

Metal rod can come out of casing

Flimsy sides

Material
Fabric
nylon mesh
Size
18"Lx11"Wx11"H
Ventilation
All sides and top
Capacity
14 lbs
Openings
3 (front
back
top)
Closures
Zipper
Interior tether

Extras
1-year guarantee
wire frame at top
rubber feet on bottom
free collapsible pet bowl
shoulder strap
side pocket
fleece pad
padded double handle

PetAmi Premium Airline-Approved Soft-Sided Pet Carrier

8/10

Can be strapped to car seat or luggage

Escape-proof

Plush comfort for pet

Convenient access to pet

Won't collapse

Conveniently carries dog essentials in pocket

Washable bedding

14 colors

Size is inaccurate - runs extremely small

Material
Polyester
nylon mesh
Size
SM - 17”Lx10.2”Wx11.2”H
LG - 19.5”Lx10.2”Wx12”H
Ventilation
All sides and top
Capacity
Depends on pet measurements
Openings
Both ends
Closures
Safety buckle zippers
Interior tether

Extras
ID name tag
detachable shoulder strap
side zipper opening
safety buckle
seat belt loops
Sherpa lined bedding
collapsible bowl
front mesh pocket

PPOGOO Soft Sided Pet Travel Carrier

6/10

Easy to fold - stores flat

Spacious

Easy to clean

No inside safety tether

Hooks that hold shoulder strap are plastic - breakage is possible

Material
Waterproof fabric w/mesh panels
Size
13.8"Hx10.2"Wx22"L
Ventilation
All sides
top
Capacity
20 lb
Openings
1
Interior tether

Closures
Zipper
Extras
Padded shoulder strap
rigid bottom
soft padded interior
outside mesh pouch

“None” Pet Carrier Backpack

6/10

Easy, hands-free way to carry small pet

Nice accessories

Comfortable to wear

Folds almost flat for storage

Padded back for wearer comfort

Looks like a huge bucket on back

Might be a problem in crowds due to size

Material
600 Denier Eco-friendly polyester Oxford cloth
nylon mesh
polyester lining
Size
13"Lx11"Wx16"H
Ventilation
Front and sides
Capacity
20 lbs
Openings
2 (top and front)
Closures
Zipper
Interior tether

Extras
Adjustable waist and chest straps
padded shoulder straps
top handle
fleece comfort pad
additional pockets for necessities
easy-fold for storage

Best Budget

AmazonBasics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier

8/10

Good ventilation

Washable pet bed

Attaches to car seat and luggage

Frame can be conformed to fit under airline seats

Sizes run very small

Ridged feet can damage car seat

Flimsy fabric; wire can poke through

Material
Waterproof fabric
nylon mesh
Size
XS - 14”Lx9”Wx9”H
Med - 16.5”Lx9.4”Wx9.8”H
Lg - 19.7”Lx10.2”Wx11.2”H
Ventilation
All sides
Capacity
8 - 22 lbs
depending on pet's measurements
Openings
2 (top and front)
Closures
Zipper
Interior tether

Extras
Shoulder strap
removable base insert
fleece comfort pad
spring-wire frame
1-year warranty
ridged "feet" for protection

Best for Small Pets

Mr. Peanut's Soft-Sided, Low-Profile Pet Travel Tote

10/10

Donates a portion of profits and products to various animal welfare organizations

Lightweight

Can be strapped to car seat or luggage

Escape proof

Great customer service

Visible in low light

Durable

Zippered small opening on side to give treats or pet your pup

Occasional zipper issues

Material
Parachute-grade nylon
mesh
Size
18”Lx10.5”Wx11”H
Ventilation
All sides
top
Capacity
15 lbs.
Openings
3 (both ends
top)
Closures
Metal zippers w/buckle clasps
Extras
Bottom panel with metal bead feet
roll-down top cover
2 exterior pouches
seat belt straps
interior leash ring
padded shoulder strap
padded handle
fleece comfort pad
reflective strip
replacement fleece pad available

Petpeppy Premium Airline Approved Expandable Pet Carrier w/Tunnel

9/10

Plenty of room for pet to sprawl

Good air circulation

Doesn't collapse on pet

Folds flat for storage

Attaches to luggage

Excellent customer service

Excessive use of zippers

Zippers can be opened by determined pets

Flimsy sides

Weak shoulder strap

Metal rod can come out of casing

Material
Nylon fabric w/nylon mesh
Size
18"Lx11"Wx11"H
Ventilation
Both ends
top (all sides when fully expanded)
Capacity
14 lbs
Openings
2 (top
front)
Closures
Zippers
Interior tether

Extras
2 expandable sides
telescoping tunnel for more space
wire frame for shape
1-year guarantee
side pocket
collapsible pet bowl
shoulder strap
bottom fleece base
seat belt strap

Petmate Sky Kennel

7/10

Durable

Good air circulation

Pet can see out all sides

Made w/recycled materials

Food/water dish is sufficiently deep

Need to replace plastic bolts w/metal bolts for international travel

Size charts are incorrect

Largest crate seems to be of thinner weight than smaller crates

Shipping can cause damage

Weak handles on smaller crates

Material
Plastic
steel
Size
XS: 21”Lx16”Wx15”H
SM: 28”Lx20.5”Wx21.5”H
MD: 32”Lx22.5”Wx24”H
LG: 36”Lx25”Wx27”H
XL: 40”Lx27”Wx30”H
XXL: 48”Lx32”Wx35”H
Ventilation
All sides
Capacity
Depends on pet's measurements
Openings
1
Interior tether

Closures
4-way vaulted door
Extras
2 "Live Animal" stickers
clip-on bowls and ID stickers

OxGord Paws & Pals Rolling Backpack Travel Tote

7/10

Pup can travel with head out of window (using tether)

Rolls like a luggage carrier

Plenty of storage for treats and toys

Straps need more padding

Dog tilts when bag is in rolling position

Material
600 Denier polyester
Size
14"Lx11"Wx19"H
Ventilation
Front
one side
Capacity
Depends on pet's measurements
Openings
1 (front)
Interior tether

Closures
Zipper
Extras
Telescoping handle
dual wheels
4 zippered side pockets
removable comfort pad with washable exterior

Mr. Peanut's Soft-Sided Backpack Pet Carrier

10/10

Good ventilation

Waterproof

Versatile - backpack, airline carrier, car seat

Collapses to 3" for storage

Carrier and mesh - both durable

Escape proof

Need to figure out how to clip pup to D-ring inside. Not a true tether.

Material
Nylon
nylon mesh
Size
17”Lx10.6”Wx11”H
Ventilation
3 windows
Capacity
10 lbs
Openings
2 (top
front)
Interior Tether

exactly*
Closures
Locking zippers
Extras
Interior leash ring
removable fleece pad
top window roll cover
safety zippered pocket
water bottle pocket
waste bag holders
side pocket
ID tag holder
padded shoulder straps

Best for Large Dogs

Collapsible, Durable Aluminum Dog Crate from Grain Valley

10/10

Easy to collapse

Extremely durable

Escape proof

Rust-resistant

Easy to clean

Good air circulation

Plenty of headroom for pet

Expensive

Material
Aluminum
Size
Med: 30”Lx19”Wx22”H
Lg: 35”Lx25”Wx29”H
XLg: 41”Lx2”Wx29”H
Ventilation
All sides
Capacity
Depends on pet's measurements
Openings
1
Interior Tether

Closures
Stainless steel "Slam Latch"
Extras
Airline rail storage slots
made in USA
spring-loaded handles

Texsens Innovative Traveler Bubble Backpack Pet Carrier

5/10

Comfortable shoulder straps

Eye catching

Pet remains stable inside - no slipping or sliding

Sturdy

Perfect for tiny pets

Can be strapped to seat belts

Difficult to install bubble window (no instructions)

Shipping is poor

Frequently arrives with defects

Foul odor

Runs very small

Material
Synthetic leather
PVC mesh
Size
13.4”Lx10.2”W.16.9”H
Ventilation
3 sides through mesh
holes
Capacity
10-13 lbs
Openings
2 (both sides)
Interior tether

Closures
Zippers
Extras
Machine washable pad
several colors
interchangeable windows (mesh or plastic bubble)
padded shoulder straps

CozyCabin Comfortable Backpack Travel Carrier

5/10

Hands-free transportation

Washable

Escape-proof

Carry dog on front or back

No mesh panels for ventilation - can get hot inside

Side pockets too shallow for water bottle

Needs more bottom support

Bottom needs extra cushion

Uncomfortable straps

Material
Oxford mesh canvas
Size
M: Top width: 7.8”
Bottom width: 12.0”
Height: 13.3”
Neck hole: 7.1” -18.8”
L: Top width: 8.0”
Bottom width: 14.2”
Height: 15.7”
Neck hole: 7.2” - 21.2”
XL: Top width: 8.6”
Bottom width: 14.9”
Height: 17.7”
Neck hole: 7.0” - 22.8”
Ventilation
Limited
Capacity
6-12 lbs
Openings
1
Interior tether
a hook for the collar
Closures
Drawstring around pup’s neck
Extras
2 side pockets
one zippered front pocket
padded straps
waist strap

WPS Airline-Approved Removable-Wheeled Pet Carrier

7/10

Easy to maneuver

Wheels are easy to remove

Straps to car seat or luggage

Handle is difficult to operate

Must remove wheels to fit under airline seat

Tips over if dog shifts weight to side

Material
Unspecified (looks like nylon
claims to be “tear-proof”)
mesh windows
Size
23”Lx11.8”Wx15”H
Handle telescopes to 35”
Ventilation
All sides
Capacity
20 lbs
Openings
2 (front
back)
Interior tether

Closures
Zipper
Extras
2 side pockets
detachable wheel base
long pulling strap
front wheels turn 360°
fleece bed
zippered access pocket
60-day money back guarantee
seatbelt straps
ID tag

FrontPet Rolling Pet Travel Carrier w/Backpack Straps

8/10

Spacious

Versatile

Good air circulation

Plenty of storage

Wheels roll a little rough

Fabric is somewhat flimsy

Insufficient padding

Material
Unspecified (claims to be “durable mesh
fabric
zippers”)
Size
14.5”Lx12”Wx19.5”H
Ventilation
4 windows (front
both sides
top)
Capacity
15 lbs
Openings
1 (front)
Interior tether

Closures
Zipper
Extras
Memory foam fleece inserts on bottom
sides and back
2 zippered side pockets

PetsHome Dog Carrier Purse

9/10

Stylish

Waterproof

Folds flat

Good ventilation

Escape artists can nudge zipper open

No way to attach to luggage or seat belt

Not convenient to carry for long periods due to width

Material
PU leather
wool
fabric
Size
S: 14.96”Lx7.87”Wx10.24”H
M: 17.33”Lx9.25”Wx11.81”H
Ventilation
Sides
front
Capacity
20 lbs max (depends on measurements of dog)
Openings
One (top)
Interior tether

Closures
Zipper
toggle
Extras
2 comfort pads
storage pocket
shoulder strap
optional cover flap on front window

Petmate Remington Ruff Maxx Kennel

3/10

Good air circulation

Smaller sizes are easy to carry

Versatile - good for camping or for home kennel purposes

Plastic wingnuts are provided; however, must buy metal wingnuts separately to satisfy airline requirements

Determined dogs can chew through the plastic

Plastic is flimsy

Handle can break if used while pet is in carrier

Door latch has closure issues

Material
Plastic
Size
XSM: 19”Lx12.6”Wx10”H
SM: 24”.1Lx16.7”Wx14.5H
M: 26.2”lx18.6”Wx16.5”H
Lg: 28”Lx20.5”Wx21.5”H
XL: 36”Lx25”Wx27”H
XXL: 40”Lx27”Wx30”H
Ventilation
All sides
Capacity
Up to 90 lbs
depending on measurements
Openings
1 (front)
Interior tether

Closures
Metal door w/squeeze latch
Extras
Carry handle on smaller sizes

Pawfect Pets Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier

8/10

Elegant appearance

Lightweight

Side opening for pet to stick head out between flights

Easy to load pet in top opening

Escape-proof

Can be strapped to car seat or luggage

Visible in dim light

Fabric flimsy for active dogs

Mesh can be torn by aggressive dogs

Frame bends too easily, sides can collapse on pet

Material
Reinforced polyester
claw-proof mesh
Size
17.5”Lx10”Wx11”H
Ventilation
All sides
top
Capacity
Depends on measurements only
Openings
3 (both ends
top)
Closures
Reinforced zippers with safety buckles
Interior tether

Extras
Money-back guarantee
2 fleece comfort pads
zipper pocket
ID tag
padded shoulder strap
seat belt straps
mesh pouch
padded handle
reflective strips

How to Choose an Airline-Approved Pet Carrier

Choosing a pet carrier that will be approved by your airline is a process that requires careful thought and precision.  You need to think carefully how you want your pet to travel, and you need to measure your pet to get the exact measurements needed.  The rules vary from airline to airline, but each one is very strict and leaves no room for error.  Pet carriers are built with these strict standards in mind, but the buyer is still responsible for making sure their chosen carrier complies with airline regulations.

Keeping your pet safe and comfortable are the two most important criteria for traveling with your pet(s). Happy pet, happy trip.  (Imagine your pup running loose in a panic on a plane inflight. It’s happened.)

Check airline pet policies first

The very first thing you must do is check if your chosen airline allows pets to travel on board.  This is the time to check your airline’s pet policies. Airline rules for traveling with pets varies, but most of the major airlines will allow small dogs and cats to accompany adult passengers in the cabin. (The exceptions are when traveling to the U.K., Australia, Japan, South Africa, Hong Kong and several other countries.  These require pets be transported as cargo, regardless of size.)

If your pet is small, you need to check if they allow pets to travel in the cabin.  If the pet is too large, they will have to travel in the cargo hold in a special carrier designed for this purpose.

Plan to do this well in advance of your trip, as many airlines only allow a certain number of pets on each flight.

Which type of carrier?

Your next step is to choose the type of carrier you want. Do you want a soft-sided carrier?  These are designed for small pets to fit under airplane seats. If your dog is too large (and even one inch past the maximum allowed measurement can be considered “too large”), he/she will have to be placed in a hard-sided crate in the cargo hold.  Here is where measurements are critical.

Perhaps you want a carrier with wheels to make between-flight times easier. Make sure the wheels are detachable, which can greatly influence whether the carrier can fit under the seat. Detached wheels can be stored in the overhead bin.

Many carriers come with shoulder straps, which can make life easier for the pet parent.  Make sure they’re padded for obvious reasons. Even the tiniest pups can get heavy quickly.

Determine the space allowances

This is the time to determine the specifics allowed for your pup’s size and weight. Again, there are slight variances from airline to airline, so check with your specific airline first. The general rule of thumb allows a dog 18” from tip of nose to base of tail, and about 11-12 pounds to accompany his human.  Each airline will give you their specifics.

Keep in mind that the weight allowed includes the weight of the carrier. Therefore, choose a carrier that’s as lightweight as possible so that you have a little weight “to spare.” If you don’t choose a rolling carrier, or one that attaches to luggage, having a lightweight pet carrier will also be easier on you as you’re carrying your darling dog through the terminal.

Also keep in mind that most airlines consider a dog’s erect ears as part of the height limitation.  They won’t allow a pup’s ears to be bent for the flight. If your dog has floppy ears, then measure to the top of its head.

Standard pet carrier requirements

The carrier must fit under the seat in front of you and include the following features:

  • Secure closures (zippers, not snaps). Carriers with lockable zippers are ideal, but zipper locks can be purchased separately.
  • Proper ventilation. At least 2 sides of the carrier should have mesh “windows.”
  • A waterproof bottom. Many carriers include padded inserts for the pup’s comfort, but it would be wise to take a few “potty pads” along, just in case.
  • Full enclosure. Your pet must be fully contained and cannot travel on board with its head sticking out of the carrier.
  • Sufficient interior space. Airlines require that pets be able to stand up and turn around comfortably within their carriers. Squashed pets that can’t move will not pass muster with the ticket or security gate agents
  • Bite- and rip-proof. If you have an aggressive dog, make sure the carrier you choose is immune to his/her aggression. Or bring duct tape just in case.

As a side note, make sure you travel with a metal-free collar and leash. You will be required to remove your dog from the carrier at all security checkpoints, and many pet carriers come with short tethers attached to the inside to keep your pup from bolting when the closure is opened. Chasing a dog through the terminal will not be the highlight of your trip, so be aware of carriers that don’t include a tether as a feature.

Features to consider

Openings

Most (but not all) airline-approved pet carriers feature multiple points of entry. They are often at each end of the carrier. But the best carriers also offer an opening at the top, which is perfect for stressed pups who can’t be encouraged (or pushed) into either of the end openings. The top zipped openings allow the pup to be gently lowered inside with no stress.

Expandability

Some carriers have sides that can be unzipped and expanded outward. This allows your pup more space to stretch out between flights (inflight expansions are forbidden); however, the extra materials often reduce visibility for your pet.

The view outside

Some pets want to see what’s going on at all times. Pet carriers with lots of mesh windows will make these pups happy. On the other hand, some animals are quite shy and would prefer a more snug, enclosed carrier. One option is to put a towel or blanket over the excess windows, if you don’t mind walking around with a towel- or blanket-covered pet carrier.

And if you frequently travel in cold, wet weather, consider using a carrier with fewer windows as well.

Pockets

Consider pockets your best friend on a trip with your pet. Most soft-side carriers feature at least one pocket, often two or more. If you haven’t reached the weight limit with the pet carrier, you can carry treats, medications, leash, etc. in the carrier’s pocket(s). If you’ve reached the weight limit, then be sure to carry these items in your carry-on bag.

The floorboard

To enjoy the trip as much as possible, you must ensure that the pet carrier has a firm, sturdy and washable floorboard. Carriers with weak floorboards will fold up like a hammock with your pet in the middle. Not fun for either of you. If the floorboard is a bit on the weak side, you can bolster it with stiff cardboard, which won’t add much weight.

The floorboard also needs to be washable. Most carriers provide washable comfort pads (some are hand wash only), but you could also provide a soft towel to add a little more absorbency to the floor. It would also add a bit of “home smell” as well, which can be comforting to your pet.

Airline Policies

For a brief guide to some of the major airline policies regarding pet travel, please see the chart below. Note: this is only a guide. All requirements are subject to change at any time. You must check with your airline for specific requirements before you travel with your pet.

Airline Pet carrier size Max number of pet carriers per flight Fees (subject to change and limitations)
American 19″ x 13″ x 9″ American – 7, Amer. Eagle – 5 $125 one way
United 17.5”x12”x7.5” Check w/airline $125 one way
Delta Check underseat dimensions on individual aircraft Main cabin – 4, 1st. Class – 2, Business – 2 $125 one way
Frontier 14”x18”x8” N/A $75 one way
Southwest 18.5”x13.5”x8.5” 6 $95 one way

American Airlines – https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/special-assistance/pets.jsp
Delta – https://www.delta.com/us/en/pet-travel/overview
United – https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/animals.html
Frontier- https://www.bringfido.com/travel/airline_policies/frontier/
Southwest- https://www.southwest.com/pets/

Or visit…

Airline pet policies – https://www.pettravel.com/airline_rules.cfm