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Animal carrier bags are among those items that every dog owner wishes they never have to use but a lot of us eventually need to. Flying with a dog can be an outright nightmare sometimes (for both you and the pet), especially with recent news of many dogs dying on airplanes.

There are many reasons for these incidents, from improper airline management, through staff errors, to dog owner mistakes. To avoid even the slightest possibility of such a tragedy, it’s important to be well-prepared, to fly only with dog breeds that are suited for flight, to choose only the safest airlines, and to use equipment such as airline approved dog carriers that are both allowed and safe for travel.

What are Airline Approved Dog Carriers?

An airline approved dog carrier is any animal carrier bag that is of specific size dimensions and has a certain amount of essential features. Additionally, since every airline has different requirements toward its pet-owning passengers, some pet carriers might be “approved” by some airlines and not approved by others. If you are buying a dog carrier for a specific flight trip and you know which airline you’re going to use, it’s a good idea to buy a carrier that fits the airline's requirements exactly.

On the other hand, if you're looking for a general all-purpose dog carrier that will be suitable for most of your future flights, then consider the requirements of the airline you most frequently use or just get a bag that satisfied the requirements of most airlines. Majority of popular airlines offer detailed guides on how to travel with pets – take a look at the requirements of American Airlines, Alaska Air, or Delta, for example. And you can find similar pages on pretty much any other airline's website.

Buying guide for a pet carrierGenerally speaking, an airline approved dog carrier should be small enough to fit under an airplane seat but be large enough to offer enough comfort and freedom to your dog. Naturally, not all dogs are allowed to fly in airplane cabins. Part of requirements of many airlines is that the dog should be comfortable and calm while flying, thus paying extra attention to your pooch’s comfort is a must for more than one reason.

The crate/carrier you're using should also be well-ventilated because dogs tend to get stressed and anxious during flights, and they experience heavy breathing while flying (particularly during take-off and landing). A built-in leash and an ID tag are other optional features of animal carriers that some airlines might require you to have.

Finally, keep in mind that majority of airlines will count your pet carrier as your carry-on luggage, therefore having enough extra pockets on the carrier bag could a great idea both for your and your dog’s comfort. Below, we'll give you more tips on how to choose the most appropriate airline-approved dog carrier for your situation, and we'll take a look at these five best airline approved dog carrier choices:

When You Need an Airline-Approved Carrier

It should go without saying that the main purpose of an airline approved pet carrier is to use that airline and fly with your pooch in the cabin instead of placing the dog in the cargo hold. Still, such a dog carrier can have multiple other uses too, such as a car dog carrier/crate, as a walking animal carrier, and so on. There's no reason not to use these backpacks/crates/carriers elsewhere, especially if you do not fly that often.

To that end, there are some other features you might consider if you think you'll be using these carriers more than just for flying. Example of that could be a comfortable shoulder strap, sturdy hand straps, a reinforced bottom that won’t drop under your dog’s weight, buckle seat belt straps, a ceiling window to peek through, and other features, some of which we'll talk about when reviewing dog carriers below.

How to Use and Care for These Pet Carriers

Your pup's carrier is designed for airline safety and thus the item is literally vital for your dog’s health. Therefore, maintaining it in good condition is essential.

  • The zippers should always be easy to use and lock;
  • The breathable mesh should be clean of dirt and debris, and have no holes in it;
  • The handles and straps should hold securely;
  • The overall structure of the bag should hold well both while carrying it by hand and placing it on the ground.

Simply put, always check the bag before and after the flight. And if the carrier bag is starting to give, then you’ll need to fix or, better yet, replace it as soon as possible. If even the small issues are ignored, then either your pet won’t be safe when traveling or the two of you might not even be allowed on the plane.

How to Buy a Good Airline Approved Dog Carrier

For a dog carrier to be viewed as “airline approved,” it needs to not only meet the airline’s standards but it also needs to be right for the dog. Part of the requirements of most airlines is that the dog should fit well and feel comfortable in the carrier. Therefore, one of the key factors to consider when buying a pet carrier for airline travel is the size.

How to Buy a Good Airline Approved Dog Carrier

Dogs are supposed to lay down while traveling on an airplane. Nevertheless, a good animal carrier for flight travel should be the length of your dog from nose to the base of the tail. In terms of height, it may not necessarily be tall enough for your pooch to stand upright but it needs to be at least tall enough for your dog to comfortably lay down and it must have several inches of space above the dog's back in order to shift and move easily.

Also, keep in mind that the height of the bag should be such that it can fit under an airplane seat as that’s where the airline will require you to place the carrier. This will be disclosed in exact measurements on most airline websites so you'll know what size to buy.

How to measure your dog for a carrier bag

Once you’ve found a proper carrier bag of the right dimensions, consider the weight requirements. All carriers will have maximum weight limits disclosed because anything above that number will typically cause the bag’s bottom to drop too low and cause discomfort for the dog, or even break. For heavier dogs, you’ll want a carrier bag that has a reinforced bottom.

The next design feature to consider is whether the bag has enough breathable mesh on the sides. Many dogs get very stressed while flying due to pressure changes, which can cause heavy breathing and outright hyperventilating. This is a big reason why using a well-ventilated carrier can literally save your dog’s life.

Last thing to think about are additional features, like I've mentioned above: openings to give your pet water and treats, a good shoulder strap if you’re going to carry the bag this way, a place for a toy, seat belt buckles if you are going to drive with the carrier bag, extra side pockets for your dogs medication, ID and treats, and so on. Remember that the more “additional features” the bag have, some of them can add to the weight of the carrier, thus finding the balance between essential features and light weight would be wise.

The 5 Best Airline Approved Dog Carrier Brands

There are tons of “airline approved” pet carriers on the market but such statement can be just a marketing gimmick – there are no laws stating a company cannot claim their bag to be approved by airlines. Suffice it to say, not all of them will be a good fit for flight travel, not all of them will be accepted, and their quality can also vary greatly.

The below five best airline approved carriers for dogs are of specific size and dimensions that most airlines will accept for travel; they also have the best breathability and flexibility features, and can be securely closed. Aside from that, you’ll need to go beyond this buying guide and make sure that the animal carrier bag that you purchase in the end is of a quality that matches your and your dog’s needs and fits your dog's size.

1. Mr. Peanut's Airline Approved Soft Sided Pet Carrier

Mr. Peanut’s pet carrier is a lightweight yet durable carrier that is compatible with the requirements of a lot of the major airlines such as Delta, Southwest, United, American, Virgin, and others. It has breathable mesh on all sides for proper ventilation (including the top), a padded shoulder strap for easier carrying, several storage compartments for medication or treats, as well as an ID tag. This model is also compatible with standard car seatbelts and is easily foldable to down to 3” for storage.

Mr. Peanut's Airline Approved Soft Sided Pet...
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Mr. Peanut's Airline Approved Soft Sided Pet...
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It's a very sturdy bag that's also waterproof (other than the mesh parts). Its 2.7 lbs is a reasonable weight for such a carrier, and one of its unique features is a removable fleece travel dog bed. This one is likely to meet majority of airlines' requirements and also will last the longest due to materials it's made of. The only downside is that you can't use it with heavier dogs (over 15-20 lbs) because the bottom isn't reinforced.

PROS:

  • With dimensions of 11” height x 10.5” width x 18” length, this carrier is big enough for most small to mid-sized dog and cat breeds.
  • It has breathable mesh on all sides for excellent ventilation.
  • There are clips on the outside of the carrier to keep the zips closed.

CONS:

  • The carrier has no support on its bottom so if your pet is on the heavier side and you need to carry it by hand, it will pull the bottom down.

 

2. PetAmi Premium Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier

The PetAmi Premium pet carrier has dimensions of 11.2” height x 10.2” width x 17” length, which makes it suitable for most small to medium sized dogs, cats, and other pets. It offers good ventilation as it has a breathable mesh on all sides. It also has safety buckle zippers and a safety strap. It can be seatbelt strapped to a car for extra safety while driving too. The carrier also includes an ID tag, side pockets for food or meds, as well as a shoulder strap that’s detachable if you don’t want to use it.

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PetAmi Premium Airline Approved Soft-Sided Pet...
531 Reviews
PetAmi Premium Airline Approved Soft-Sided Pet...
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This is a much cheaper option that the above mentioned bag, and it has many similar features but it doesn't appear as sturdy and feels a little more flimsy (which is why it's less expensive). The design is more simple and less attractive too, but on the bright side, you can get it many different colors. While it's suitable for most small dogs, even though the manufacturer claims it will fit medium dogs – that is unlikely, or too risky.

PROS:

  • This PetAmi carrier has the ideal dimensions to be airline approved while it’s still suitable for smaller to mid-sized dogs.
  • It’s equipped with breathable mesh and zippers on all sides.
  • It has a detachable strap, an ID tag, and side pockets.

CONS:

  • The frame of the carrier isn’t very sturdy and bends too much with larger animals.

 

3. PETS GO2 Pet Carrier for Dogs & Cats

The PETS GO2 carrier sports a clean and simple design that’s up to standard for most major airlines such as Alaska, Allegiant Air, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, United, Virgin America, and others. It has dimensions of 12” height x 12” width x 18” length and the sides can even expand a fair bit when you place the carrier on the floor and under a seat. This gives as much extra room to your pet as possible for extra comfort. The carrier is suitable for any dog or cat up to 20 pounds of weight and it has a shoulder strap, a good bottom pad, and outside pockets.

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PETS GO2 Pet Carrier for Dogs & Cats - Airline...
391 Reviews
PETS GO2 Pet Carrier for Dogs & Cats - Airline...
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This is an option that's somewhere between the first and the second bags. It's a little more sturdy than PetAmi one (doesn't bend as much), but also more expensive and not as attractive as Mr Peanut's bag. It'll easily fit most dogs up to 20 lbs and probably a little bit over, and has a bunch of extra compartments that will be great if you're using this as your only carry-on.

PROS:

  • The PETS GO2 has a breathable mesh on its sides to give your pet the ventilation and visibility it needs.
  • The expandable sides of this carrier give extra room to pets while traveling.
  • The bottom pad is good enough to hold even heavier pets (up to 20 pounds) easily enough.

CONS:

  • The zippers can get stuck rather easily – not a problem while traveling but annoying when you’re opening or closing the carrier.

 

4. Jet Sitter Super Fly Airline Approved Soft Sided Bag

This pet carrier bag is designed to fit small dog or cat breeds only and isn’t suitable for anything larger than 9 pounds. It is approved by all major airlines such as United Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue, American, Delta, Alaska, Frontier, Allegiant, Spirit, however. It also has a lot of extra features such as buckle lock zippers, secure outside pockets for ID, meds, and treats, a scratch-resistant mesh material, an interior leash, and more. It also comes with a 1-year warranty.

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Jet Sitter Super Fly Airline Approved Pet Carrier...
137 Reviews
Jet Sitter Super Fly Airline Approved Pet Carrier...
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It's a very similar bag to the above mentioned PETS GO2, both in its design and even price. The only difference is this one is much smaller but on the bright side, you get an extra fleece travel bed included with it. Overall, it's very comfortable to carry, it collapses and folds neatly so a good option for small pups.

PROS:

  • This carrier bag is up to the standards of most international airlines.
  • The breathable and scratch-resistant mesh on the sides guarantees comfort.
  • There are lots of extra features such as side pockets, interior leash, buckle lock zippers, and more.

CONS:

  • It’s only suitable for very small animals and doesn’t have a sturdy enough bottom to accommodate anything larger than 8-9 pounds.

 

5. EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier

The EliteField pet carrier is another well-sized carrier bag for smaller to mid-sized dog and cat breeds. It has dimensions of 13” height x 10” width x 19” length. It has a removable fleece bed cover, as well as insertable hard bottom support board. There is also a built-in inner leash, buckle seatbelt loops, and a breathable mesh on the top and the sides. This carrier is made out of a waterproof material and comes with a 3–year warranty.

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EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier (3 Year...
438 Reviews
EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier (3 Year...
  • Size: 19"L x 10"W x 13"H....
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  • Two pockets for accessory...
  • 3 Year Warranty from...

As the final brand, it's certainly not least. EliteField is one of the most well-known companies in manufacturing dog crates and carriers, and this one is yet another quality item for a very affordable price compared to all the others above. The design is very simple but it appears sturdy enough, has the most essential features and will fit most small dogs, so if you're looking for the most affordable, cheap airline approved dog carrier bag, this is the one.

PROS:

  • The EliteField pet carrier is up to the standards of most international airlines.
  • With dimensions of 13” height x 10” width x 19” length and an insertable hard bottom support board, this carrier is suitable for most small to mid-sized pets.
  • The breathable mesh and built-in leash offer extra comfort.

CONS:

  • The shoulder strap is somewhat poorly designed and can cause the carrier to tip.

In Conclusion

Flying with a pet can be a nightmare for animals and owners alike, so much so that most dog and cat owners avoid doing it as much as possible. When you do need to travel with a pet, however, having a good and airline approved dog carrier is essential to avoid stressing your pup and to not place them in the cargo hold, or putting them to sleep.

As you see above, there are lots of factors and features of pet travel bags to consider, with weight and size compatibility being the most important ones. But if you do find the pet carrier that exactly fits your pet's needs and fits the requirements of most airlines, travel is likely to be more pleasant for both you and your Fido.

READ NEXT: 8 Most Dog Friendly Airlines

 

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