10 Best Airline Approved Pet Carriers for Dogs and Cats

Updated: 15 January 2017

Our dog & cat (Harley and Lilo) are such an integral part of our family that we can’t imagine not taking them along for holidays or overseas visits to see some of our extended family. I know a couple of my friends have thought it’s a little silly given all the trouble we have to go through but if you love your pets as much as we do, you’d understand why! Finding a reliable airline approved carrier or best cat carrier is so important to ensure your pet can be taken along comfortably and safely. In today’s post, I’ll be sharing some of the most popular options on the market and my personal top recommendations.

Skip straight to my top recommendation? My recommendation for the most durable, sturdy, strong airline pet carrier would be this Sleepypod one.


Why are Airline Approved Pet Carriers so important?

A travel pet bag is not only necessary for the safety and security of your pet. It also ensures that people around are not uncomfortable especially when our pets travel alongside them in the bus, train or airport waiting area.

Aside from the comfort and safety of your pet, you’d want to get a suitable bag simply because all airlines have their own pet policies that you need to abide by.

Before opting for a flight where your pet is going along, it is of utmost importance to check the pet policies so that there are no last minute issues. Various set of rules are applicable for pet travel carriers regarding the size, ventilation and more.

Also Read: Why These Cat Carriers Are So Awesome For Travel!

What are the Types To Choose From?

The types of pet carriers approved for airline travel are:

  • The Sky Kennel or the Vari Kennel: This option is the safest choice to be approved by almost all airlines across the world. It can be taken in the cargo area or as a checked baggage for any air travel. However, even though they are approved, slight modifications and customizations are necessary if the back wall ventilation or the cable tie holes around the door are not there.
  • SleepyPod AIR, Sturdi Bag and Sherpa Bag: These are the best bets for your pet to travel on flights in the passenger area as a carry-on. They are safe and totally approved by different airlines and ensure that your pet and other passengers can all travel comfortably.

10 Best Pet Carriers That Airlines Approve Of:

OxGord Fleece Bed Bag

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This bag from OxGord is top rated and highly reviewed due to the fact that it is compliant with the rules of almost all airlines. There is an unwind and bind feature, it is easy to get to your pet without the fear of them escaping and includes an array of extra features.

It is durable, breathable and compatible with all seats too. The bag is a great choice for pets weighing up to 10 lbs and has a padded shoulder strap for easy portability.  The bag is specifically made with breathable materials that allow for easy ventilation.

Sleepypod Air In-cabin

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Looking for an in-cabin pet carrier that will leave your pet feeling fresh and comforted? If your pet loves to sleep and you want to give it the comfort it needs, this is the right choice.  This is highly rated and widely used due to its ability to compress, along with its compatibility with in-cabin travel. It’s also super comfortable to carry (padded shoulder strap) and is conveniently machine washable.

Putting your pet into it is easy and your pet will have ample space to move around. It has an end opening and top opening options coupled with large zippers.

U-pet Innovative Patent Bubble

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This bag displays a revolutionary semi-spherical window design on its front from where your pet can be accessed. This pet bed can also be used as a car seat and meets most airline standards. It also provides extreme comfort with great ventilation.

This is a patented brand and is designed to offer extreme comfort. There are bubbles inside that your pet can easily rest on and the design is quite innovative. In fact, it is specifically designed to ensure your pet loves every minute of being in it!  The bag is soft, washable and there are top and side entries for pets.

Sherpa 97000 Element Duffle

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This bag looks like an American duffle bag and has a great feature of dual side entry and exit as well as a top entry – all filled with mesh ventilation. It is a lovely combo with soft inner liners and a spacious interior. It can also be used as a luggage bag and has good storage space.  There are mesh panels as well for ventilation and the bag can hold in dogs and cats weighing as much as 20 pounds. There is entry from all sides, including rear and front and the carrier can be spot cleaned only.

Argo by Teafco Petagon

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Meeting all the airline guidelines including strict IATA requirements, this pet carrier is ultra light in weight and has a rear pocket and top loading opening mesh coupled with triple closure security. Feeding mesh openings at the sides and top are available making this one of the best in the market.  There are as many as five checkered zip pockets and it weighs as little as 2 lbs. The double zipper bag makes for easy entry and is perfectly sized to fit below the passenger seat. This bag is a great choice for pets that weigh up to 15 lbs.

Bergan Comfort Soft-Sided

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This one is made for pets who weigh up to 22 pounds and is fully washable inside out. Uniquely designed, it opens half on one side and fully on the other. While the accessibility and ventilation for pets are provided here with mesh closures, there is an exclusive pet-connect side zips to communicate with the pet en-route.

With a soft and heavy metal safe and comfortable interior, this one is surely a great choice when it comes to the comfort and safety of your pet. This bag allows for maximum ventilation for your pet and is perfect to be taken on long journeys with you.

Pawhut Deluxe Pet/Dog Travel Backpack

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If you are looking for something that is a little more than just a carrier bag, you will love this one! This Pawhut Deluxe has Oxford and PVC mesh and comes with telescoping handles and wheels as well. This is a heavy-duty and waterproof design and is loaded with side vents for good ventilation and zipped mesh doors for extra protection.

Wheels and handles provided gives the owner the upper edge in taking them along without much effort. It has a really good capacity as well and works for pets which weigh as much as 20 pounds.

Pet Magasin Soft Sided Dog Bag

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Backed with a 2-year warranty and a full money back guarantee, this soft sided pet bag comes with effective ventilation feature and padding inside which keeps your pet safe and secure. One of the best of its kind, this carrier is made up of water-resistant material and is lightweight too.

There is good padding inside that your pet will love and its sturdy construction will help you carry your pets around easily. It just weighs 2.2 pounds and it holds its shape when zipped up. Definitely an ideal choice if you have a small pet like a puppy or a kitten.

Sherpa Original Deluxe

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This is really big bag and has dimensions of 17″ x 11″ x 10.5″ (medium) – it comes in other sizes too. It’s functional and safe while being approved in all the airlines across the world. The easily compressable structure, great ventilating quality and top and side entries make it a must-have. Even pets with a weight of 16 lbs can be accommodated.  There is a good range of colors to choose from as well. You can also choose a size according to your pet size.  There are locking zippers and top and side entry.

Aspenpet Pet Porter Kennel For Pets

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This is approved and is lightweight, made of wired doors and heavy-duty plastic in the body. It can accommodate pets of huge sizes and comes with a year’s warranty with the best ventilation and standard qualities. Interestingly, the bag is made from a heavy duty plastic and has side air vents. There is a wire door where your pet can go in easily and the squeeze door latch is really secure.  With tie down holes on all four corners, this will be just right for your dog.

How do I choose the right one for air travel?

While thinking of purchasing the perfect approved one for your pet, there are certain things to take notice so that you are on the safer side in terms of airport and airline rules.

    • Locking Zipper Closures: These are small clasps that keep the zipper door closed while the pet is secure inside. Many bags are available with this option.
    • Security Leash with Tether leads: This is a special carrier where a small leash with hook can be easily attached to the pet collar for safety, ensuring that your pet doesn’t take off when the carrier is opened.
    • Slot for luggage straps: These additions ensure that you do not have to buy one with wheels as the normal luggage trolley bags can be attached to the pet carrier and taken along with ease.
    • Seat belt secured loops: This is a welcome addition to the range as the seat belt secure loops ensure that when it is on a car seat, your pet does not get affected by any jolts on the way.

  • Mesh-screen window at the top: Some of the pet bags allow pet owners to take a sneak peek into their dog or cat’s activities while on flight through a mesh top.
  • Dual ended doors: Dual doors on either side ensures that your pet does not need to turn around in limited space to come out.
  • Wheel options: Pet bags with wheels have been in vogue due to the fact that it is easier to take around and travel with as it is more convenient and easier. However, some of the disadvantages of lie in the fact that it sometimes increases the height of the bag which can interfere with airline rules.
  • Extra private flaps: Extra flaps made up of solid material are zipped over mesh or velcro windows to ensure good ventilation. This gives the perfect combo of the outside environment, adding to their comfort.
  • Flexi-heights: These are generally found in the soft pet carriers and are great because the carrier can fit in anywhere in almost all the airlines and takes less space.

Also Read: These Pet Strollers Are Just As Functional As They Are Stylish!

The types of non approved carriers for air travel are:

Beware of pet bags which may be widely advertised as being approved but are actually not. Be sure to read up on the airline’s pet policies before going about searching and purchasing a pet carrier for your dog or cat.

Here are some features that are not allowed on airlines:

  • Double door top loading: This kind has a wire door at the front or a door on the top. This is not allowed in all big air travel companies because most of them demand that the carrier needs a solid roof.
  • Dial latch attachments: This model does not have any bolts or nuts to keep the top and the bottom together instead, has round plastic dials which usually fail to work. Very few accept this kind of carriers.
  • Snap latch attachments: Similar to the dial latch attachment ones, these have plastic latches to keep the carrier closed which hardly work. These type of closures are typically not allowed on airlines too.
  • Plastic bags: These ones have no bolts or nuts and only have small plastic pegs that are inserted into holes which are then, turned to the sides to keep the pegs together. While some do accept these, many don’t unless the plastic pegs are replaced with metal bolts and wing nuts and the door is changed to metal grate instead of plastic.
  • Plastic doors: Any carrier where the doors are made of only plastic are not allowed unless they are customized and the doors are changed to metal grate ones. Here, plastic grips and lock housing are acceptable.
  • Foldable or collapsible: Plastic pet carriers, which can be folded after use, have been banned from all airlines long ago yet they are still being sold with approved guarantees. The only foldable one which is approved is the ICC Aluminum & Zinger Aluminum Dog Crate which is made of solid metal.
  • Plastic Wing Barrel Door Latches: Like plastic pegs which aren’t allowed, these kinds of carriers which open up only after the four latches are opened are also unaccepted by airlines today.
  • Wire Metal Crates: These ones are made of metal grates only. Airlines approve only those with low walls and where the floor is fully leak-proof and solid.

What size do I need for my dog or cat?

The most important thing to note before going about buying a pet carrier for your dog is to understand the size required. A good bag should enable your pet to lie down in comfort, stand up, move about, raise its head and perform all regular activities without feeling restrained. Due to the fact that most air travel companies do not allow such big carriers, you will have to decide on the most optimum size that will keep your pet in comfort.

Smaller breeds like Shih Tzus need extra small ones, Boston Terriers needs small ones, Cocker Spaniels need medium sizes, Bulldogs need a large size, Dalmatian types need an XL size and German Shepherd kinds need XXL sized ones.


While all of the above are easy to find online, make sure you get the one that suits your requirements the most. Decide according to the bag size while keeping in mind the security features of the bag so that your pet does not escape during travel.


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