Best Airline Approved Pet Carriers For In-Cabin Flights

Taking a vacation with your pet is a great way to bond and relax with your best friend, but it’s not always as easy as packing a bag and heading out on the open road. Many pet owners need to take flights with their pets to get to their destination.

While flying with your dog or cat may seem like a harrowing experience, a quality pet carrier can make it much easier for you and your beloved furry friend to get to your destination safely and comfortably.

Today, we’ll take a look at the best airline approved dog or cat carriers on the market today and go over all the important considerations you need to make before you decide on the best carrier for you and your pet.

At a Glance: Our Favorite Airline Approved Pet Carriers

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Buyer’s Guide

Whether your shopping for a carrier that’s approved for use for air travel, or just looking for a great carrier for trips to the vet, or vacations with your dog or cat, there are several features to look for and considerations to make before you decide on the perfect carrier for your needs.

We break down several things to consider below, including material, construction, ventilation, size and more.  If you plan to travely by car with your dog frequently, it’s best to look at crash-tested crates or carriers for your pup.

Material

The first thing to consider is the material that it’s made from. Typically, the exterior is made from nylon fabric, but not all fabrics are created equal. Some of the best carriers provide a waterproof exterior that still maintains its breathability, which provides optimal airflow, while also being resistant to unpleasant pet odors.

While most carriers use similar materials, they aren’t necessarily created equally. Some manufacturers use thick, heavy-duty material and construction methods while others cut corners with thinner light-duty fabrics which are obviously more prone to wear than their heavy-duty counterparts.

If you’re looking for a carrier that will stand up to whatever you can dish out, look into models that are made from heavy-duty materials that are waterproof but also breathable.

Ventilation

Another key concern that ties into the material used to make the carrier is how well ventilated it is. Our favorite picks offer plenty of mesh sections to optimize airflow and also allow your pet to see what’s going on outside the carrier.

Not only is it important that there’s plenty of mesh ventilation panels; it’s also important that they’re made from heavy-duty mesh. Cheaper models usually feature light-duty mesh that resembles mosquito netting. It’s easy to imagine how quickly your pet’s nails can rip through the mesh, rending the carrier useless.

To combat this issue, most manufacturers use a resin mesh, which is much more resistant to rips and tears than flimsier plastic mesh. Not only is this style of mesh more resistant to damage, but it’s also longer-lasting, which will ensure that your carrier will stand the test of time.

Heavy-Duty Construction

Of course, heavy-duty materials and plenty of ventilation are important, but there’s one more piece to the puzzle that will determine how long your carrier lasts, and that’s it’s construction quality.  You should always be thinking about construction as a factor, when buying any product that will contain your pet or keep things locked away from your pup.

Before deciding on the option you think is best, it can be helpful to examine the stitching or fabric welds (or whatever other construction methods the carrier uses.) Not only do you need a carrier that’s well put together, but for soft-sided carriers, the internal frame and the base for the “floor” are also critically important.

Most carriers have a wire frame throughout the top, which helps the frame maintain its shape and prevent sagging. Many carriers also have a hard bottom that provides more stability for your pet and also helps reinforce the shape of the carrier.

These build characteristics are important for the long life of your carrier, but also because they help to keep your pet comfortable and secure within their temporary home.

Comfortable for your Pet

Of course, even the most well-made carrier is useless if your dog or cat isn’t comfortable inside. While some of the more affordable models provide as much comfort for your pet as the duffle bag you take to the gym, some go above and beyond and provide your furry friend with a warm and inviting travel home for them to relax in.

Look for carriers that feature a plush or faux fur lining throughout, especially when it comes to the area where your dog or cat will be laying down. You should also be able to remove the lining to wash it whenever necessary.

Locking Zippers

Critical to the safety and security of your fur baby, locking zippers make it impossible for escape artist pets to open their carriers and escaping without your knowledge.

Most carriers feature two zippers for each opening, but the best options have clips on each zipper that can be attached together, functionally locking your pet inside the carrier so they can’t escape until you decide it’s time to let them out.

Storage Pockets

You may also want to look for a model that provides plenty of opportunities to store your pet’s toys, treats, medication, and other accessories. Sure, you could just as easily place these items into other pieces of luggage, but having onboard storage allows you to keep all of your pet’s stuff together and easily accessible.

Of course, you can also use these storage areas for your stuff, too, which will come in handy on flights where you’ve already checked your luggage and don’t have access to your things while you’re in the air.

Some models feature slit pockets while others have more secure pockets with zippers or Velcro. If you’re going to be storing important or valuable items, it may be best to purchase a carrier that has zippered storage.

Washable

You’ll also want the carrier to be washable to keep it looking its best, and free from any pet odors. Most importantly, a bag that you can wash will keep you protected from any accidents your pet may have while they’re nervous or frightened during travel. That way, you can just toss your carrier into the wash instead of needing to replace it.

Easy to Open and Close

One of the most critical and often overlooked aspects of buying a pet carrier is how easy it is for you to get your dog or cat inside. No doubt, some of you are lucky enough to have a happy-go-lucky pet that loves to travel and is happy to go right in when it’s time to go.

For the rest of us who have pets that consider going into their carrier to be a fate worse than death, it’s critical that your carrier opens wide and is easy to manipulate. That way, even if your pet is trying their hardest to resist entering their carrier, you’ll still be able to get them securely inside their travel home.

Wheels, Handles & Backpack Straps

The last consideration to make before deciding on the best carrier for you and your pet is how you’ll be transporting it. All carriers feature one or more methods for you to carry them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re comfortable, or well-designed.

The top carriers that are endorsed by most major airlines provide multiple carrying points, such as handles and shoulder straps. These handles should be well-padded and ergonomically designed to reduce fatigue as you carry your pet.

Some options even feature wheels so you can easily wheel your pet behind you without having to put added stress on your hands or back. There are even backpack style carriers that you can wear just like a book bag.

If possible, try out the carrier before buying to ensure that it’s easy to carry and provides ample padding, so traveling with your pet is as comfortable as possible.

Things to Know Before Traveling With Your Pet

Before you take off, there are some important tips you should consider to ensure that you and your pet have the best possible flight.

Make sure you do your research on different airlines before selecting a flight. There aren’t any universal regulations for flying with pets, so the maximum permitted size and other requirements can vary widely between different airlines.

Consider lining the carrier with training pads to prevent accidents. Even the most well-trained dogs and cats can have accidents when traveling, as the stress and anxiety of being in a car or on an airplane can be overwhelming.

Before your trip, take your dog for a long walk, or a run in the dog park. That way, they’ll get out as much energy as possible, so they have less energy during your trip.

Speak with your vet before you take off. While some pets deal with car or airline travel quite well, others are petrified. To try and make the trip as pleasant as possible, see if your vet recommends any special relaxation treats or a mild sedative before the flight.

Take time to plan out all food, water, and potty breaks before your trip. These days, airlines have made it easier than ever to travel with your dog or cat. Many terminals feature bathroom stops for your pup along the way.

Board your flight as early as possible. By doing so, you’ll allow yourself plenty of time for your fur baby to acclimate to their new surroundings and get comfortable before you take off. This step can go a long way in ensuring your dog or cat has a safe, anxiety-free, and enjoyable flight.

If your pet is new to traveling, take them for a dry run before your flight to see how they react to traveling in their carrier. That way, you can determine if there are any special considerations you need to make before your pet’s big flight, so there aren’t any last-minute surprises on flight day.

Our 8 Favorite Airline Approved Picks

Choosing a pet carrier isn’t very easy.  The managing editor here at LoveYourDog.com flew from Ohio to Arizona with her American Mastiff when the big oaf was just a puppy.  Picking the right carrier can be very difficult if you aren’t sure how big it should be, on top of balancing comfort for a long flight.

With all that being said, let’s jump right into it, shall we? After extensive research, we’ve developed an exhaustive list of the best airline approved pet carriers that are available for you today. Here’s what we found.


Elite Field Softsided Pet Carrier

EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier (3 Year...
  • Size: 17"L x 9"W x 12"H. Airline approved pet carrier for cats,...
  • Special Features: A removable fleece bed cover with an insertable...
  • Made from durable, lightweight, waterproof material. Easy to...
  • Two pockets for accessory storage. Hand carrying straps and...

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Pet owners who are looking for an all-business pet carrier that combines durability, functionality, and comfort to create a carrier that’s perfect for any travel scenario, including on airplanes. This is one of the more compact carriers on the market, so it should be good to go, even on airlines that have strict pet policies.

Made from durable and breathable fabric, this option also provides several mesh panels for optimal airflow for your dog or cat. The carrier is easily carried with the hand or shoulder straps, which both feature ample padding. The plush fleece bed helps to keep your fur baby comfortable, while the hard bottom beneath helps the carrier retain its shape.

Heavy-duty zippers throughout allow you to unzip the carrier from any side or the top, and there is plenty of storage, with several pockets including one Velcro closure covered pocket. Other intuitive features include adjustable seatbelt straps and a zippered panel that allows you to secure the carrier on top of your luggage.

We love that this carrier has loads of storage and has an integrated seat belt loop system with a luggage panel.  It’s also sturdily built and will last for years to come.


Pet Peppy Expandable With Tunnel

Expandable Pet Carrier with Tunnel by Pet...
  • AIRLINES APPROVED:- Designed to fit under front cabin seat of...
  • SAFE & STABLE:- Unlike other expandable carriers which clearly...
  • EXPANDABLE FROM TWO SIDES:- Pet Peppy's carrier, with it's two...
  • BONUS & STORAGE:- Comes with a random colored PET BOWL, a...

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If your dog or cat loves to seriously veg out, this carrier could be ideal for you, as it’s perhaps the most expandable carrier on the market. Not only do both sides of the carrier zip out to offer more room, but there’s also a tunnel section, providing your dog or cat with plenty of opportunities to relax when you aren’t in flight.

This carrier is made from durable waterproof nylon, with mesh panels throughout and a plush fleece liner throughout the floor of the carrier. When it isn’t expanded, it fits under all airline regulations at 18” long and 11” wide. When the sides and tunnel are expanded, the carrier provides tons of additional space for your pet to relax and lounge in.

Other features include a slip pocket, luggage panel, and a padded shoulder strap for easy carrying. A hard bottom panel and a wire frame running throughout the top of the carrier add stability and durability to this career, and it’s backed by a year warranty.

We love that this carrier has tons of additional room and heavy-duty mesh panels.  It also has a luggage panel which comes in handy.


Petyella Expandable Pet Carrier

PETYELLA Portable Indoor Heated Cat House -...
  • COMES WITH A SELF HEATED MAT. Heats up by itself when your pet...
  • ELEGANT DESIGN & ENHANCED STABILITY from our reinforced steel...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT & NO COLLAPSE. It folds flat for easy storage and is...
  • BONUS ITEMS INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE! Free fleece blanket,...

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Perfect for the most stylish of pets, this option offers a more fashionable look than other carriers, without sacrificing any of the features that dog and cat owners need in a travel carrier.

This carrier has an attractive textured grey exterior with tan piping. The top is made from a resin mesh, which is more durable than the top panels on other options. The sides of the carrier zip out to allow your dog or cat with the most room to lounge, and when the sides are zipped shut, it still provides ample room for cats and most smaller dog breeds.

Other intuitive features include an integrated leash, slit storage pocket, and a luggage panel. This Petyella carrier offers handles, or a padded shoulder strap with a swivel clasp for optimal stability when you’re on the go.

Also included with your carrier are collapsible travel bowl, fleece blanket, and a faux fur floor mat. Best of all, this carrier is still available in the middle of the road price range, making it an ideal choice for stylish pet owners on a budget.

We love that this carrier looks great, has zippered sides and folds flat when not in use.


Sherpa Original Travel Deluxe Pet Carrier

Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline...
  • Sherpa original Deluxe airline approved pet carrier is perfect...
  • Patented spring wire frame allows rear of carrier to be pushed...
  • Padded adjustable, no-slip carrying strap, Seat Belt/luggage...
  • Don’t select carrier based on weight only. Choose carrier based...

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One of the most popular carriers on the market from a trusted brand in the pet industry, this bag is perfect for dog or cat owners looking for a classic carrier that’s available in a range of sizes.

This carrier features a quilted nylon exterior with mesh side and top panels, providing tons of ventilation and maximum visibility for your pet. A wide zipper panel on the top and a side zipper that opens flat makes it easy to get even the most agitated dog or cat into their carrier with less stress.

There’s also a luggage strap and a padded shoulder strap for carrying ease.

A patented wire frame can be compacted down several inches so that even the largest size available can still fit underneath your seat to comply with airline regulations. Locking zippers ensure that your pet is securely inside their carrier at all times. A zippered rear pocket provides plenty of room to store treats and accessories.

We love that this carrier has plenty of ventilation, is easy to get in and out of, and has no durability issues (it’s built to last).


WPS Wheeled Pet Carrier

WPS Airline Approved Removable Wheeled Pet...
  • SUPER-STRONG UPGRADED DESIGN: WPS has taken pet-travel to...
  • OUTSTANDING STRUCTURAL DESIGN: WPS compact pet travel carrier is...
  • ULTIMATE COMFORT FOR YOUR PETS: With WPS’s tsa approved pet...
  • COMPACT SIZE - AIRLINE APPROVED: WPS’s COMPACT soft-sided cat...

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For those looking for a carrier that’s larger and more durable than most of the competition, this carrier from WPS could be a great option. Plus, it has wheels, which can help make traversing the airport on the way to your flight much easier.

This carrier is made from thick and durable nylon with mesh ventilation panels throughout the top and sides. At 19” tall by 22” long and 11” wide, this carrier is more substantial than most on the market, but it still falls within the guidelines for most airlines.

The wheeled base is removable, and there are also carrying handles and a padded shoulder strap with I.D. window to make carrying your pet a breeze, regardless of the method you choose. Small zippered pockets are ideal for storing treats or medication, and an internal leash helps keep your pet securely inside.

Each side of this carrier zippers open wide, making it easy to coax even stubborn pets into their carrier, and an intuitive clip locking mechanism secures the zippers together to keep your dog or cat locked safely inside when you’re in the air.

We love that this carrier has a removable wheeled base, locking zippers and plenty of storage.


Mr. Peanut Expandable Carrier

Mr. Peanut's Expandable Airline Approved Soft...
  • PLEASE NOTE INTERIOR SIZING & PET MEASURING GUIDELINES BEFORE...
  • PLEASE KEEP IN MIND that we show the exterior dimensions as well...
  • AIRLINE REQUIREMENTS - Always keep in mind each airline sets...
  • STRONG & WATERPROOF - Weighing in at only 2.7 lbs, Designed with...

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A well-made carrier that looks great and provides plenty of comfort for your furry friend, this stylish carrier looks more like a modern weekend bag than a pet carrier, and it’s among the more attractive options available.

This carrier features a grey exterior with tan piping and a tan leather strap. A matching I.D. tag on the shoulder strap is also included. The sides of the bag zip down fully making it easy to get your pet inside and the mesh window also zips open.

One side of the bag is expandable to provide your pet with more room to relax. All of the zippers are locking for added security.

This Mr. Peanut carrier isn’t just stylish; it’s built to last, too. This one features a leather bottom with rubber feet, a durable plywood bottom and a plush mattress pad to keep your pet comfortable despite the hard bottom below.

We love this carrier.  It looks great, has leather trim and has plenty fo storage.


Pawdle Expandable and Foldable Pet Carrier

Pawdle Expandable and Foldable Pet Carrier...
  • Expandable Area lets Pets Move Around Comfortably with Increased...
  • Great For Smaller Pets Up To 12 Pounds
  • Handle Allows You to Secure Carrier to Suitcase for Easy Mobility...
  • Innovative Foldable Design Zips Up Flat into Compact Size...

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One of the most affordable carriers on the market that’s also expandable, this lightweight and foldable bag is perfect for anyone looking for a low priced pet carrier for occasional use. Despite its low price, this carrier still offers some features that are usually absent from the budget options.

This carrier has a thick, grey exterior with a heavy-duty mesh top and side panels. One side of the carrier zips open to provide more room for your pet. Slit pockets on the side and back of the carrier provide tons of storage room for keeping treats, medication, and other necessities close by. A heavily padded shoulder strap makes it easy to carry the bag without fatigue.

This carrier is great because it’s affordable, has a large and expandable section and has plenty of storage.


Pawfect Pets Backpack

Pawfect Pets Pet Carrier Backpack for Cats...
  • TOY BREED/XSMALL DOGS AND CATS ONLY, MEASURE YOUR PET PRIOR TO...
  • ESCAPE PROOF- The last thing you want is an escaped pet running...
  • BREATHABLE, QUALITY, SYLYISH MATERIAL- We keep your pet’s...
  • EXTRA-THICK PADDING- Adjustable shoulder straps and extra thick...

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If a backpack-style carrier is more your speed, this stylish bag from Pawfect Pets may be perfect for you. Not only does it look great, but it’s also quite comfortable to carry and provides ample comfort for your furry friend as well.

This bag features a grey fabric exterior with tan leather trim, and side and top ventilation panels, which also provide your pet with a window into the world. The top mesh panel opens up wide so your dog or cat can pop their head out, and an integrated tether helps keep your fur baby secured inside so they can’t jump out.

As for you, the bag provides heavy padding along the lower and upper sections of the bag to make carrying a breeze. The shoulder straps are also heavily padded, and a front buckle secures the straps together for added stability.

When it’s time to load your fur buddy into the carrier, both the top and bottom panels can be zippered fully open, which makes it easy to get any pet inside the carrier.

We love that this is a backpack style carrier with lots of zippered storage, and it’s very easy to get inside which is important during a flight.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I determine the right size carrier for my pet?

A: The best way to decide if the carrier is the right size for your dog or cat is to measure how tall and long your pet is and then compare that against the measurements for the carrier.

Try to buy the largest carrier possible to provide your pet with the most room to move around and relax. If your pet is unable to turn around inside the carrier, that’s usually an indicator that you should look for a larger option.  If you have a giant breed dog, you’ll likely not be able to fly in-cabin with them because they are over a certain weight limitation.  Your best bet here is to find a massive crate that you can put them in, and transport by vehicle.

Q: Can I still choose my seat if I travel with a pet?

A: Depending on the airline you’re flying with, you may still be able to pick your seat before you check-in for your flight. However, those who prefer an aisle seat are likely to be out of luck, since these seats typically feature the least under seat clearance, and most airlines forbid travelers in these seats from bringing a pet.

That said, you should still be able to choose a window or aisle seat. But, be sure to confirm this with your airline before purchasing your tickets.

Q: What are the IATA, TSA, FAA, and why are they important?

A: These are different organizations tasked with drafting safety regulations for passenger air travel. IATA stands for International Air Transportation Association, TSA stands for Transportation Security Administration, and FAA stands for Federal Aviation Administration.

Before flying, you should visit each administration’s website so you can learn about their different regulations so you can ensure that you and your pet are traveling safely. Some of these agencies even offer independent certifications that state that a particular carrier is approved for use on airlines. However, these certifications aren’t required for a carrier to be permitted on an airplane.

Final Thoughts

While each of the carriers we covered above makes a solid choice if you’re looking for a new pet carrier, we believe that one carrier above the rest exemplifies all the carriers that you need in the best airline approved pet carrier.

Our overall favorite is the Mr. Peanut Expandable Carrier. This option provides the perfect blend of comfort, intuitive features, and value, and it’s a great choice for anyone who needs to pick a carrier for their best friend.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a more affordable option that still provides lots of desirable features you and your fur buddy will love, the Elite Field soft-sided carrier may also be a wise choice.

Whether you choose one of these or a different carrier, always be sure to buy a carrier that will keep your pet safe, secure, and comfortable. Have a safe trip!

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