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Which dog carrier is best for air travel?

What dog carrier should I use for an airplane?

Traveling with pets always takes some time and preparation. It’s particularly tricky when you have to contend with taking them on an airplane. Not only can air travel be a little more stressful for dogs than your average car ride, but airlines also have pretty strict rules about how they must be contained and stored during the flight.

Choosing the right dog carrier for airplane travel means understanding general airline requirements while also keeping your dog safe and happy.

Tips for flying with your dog

Airline rules

It’s absolutely essential to prepare ahead of time before flying with your dog. The tricky part is that each airline has its own individual policies when it comes to pet travel. 

Generally, airlines will only allow a pet carrier so long as it fits in the space underneath the seat. So, large dog breeds may not be able to fly with you in the cabin. Additionally, you’ll likely have to buy your pet their own ticket and pay an extra charge to bring them along in the pet carrier. 

Airlines impose certain rules on the size and type of carrier you can use on the flight. For example, United Airlines in-cabin pet policy states that your dog must be able to comfortably stand up and turn around inside the carrier. While you can choose between a hard- or soft-sided crate, it must be approved and conform to the maximum size requirements.

Keeping them calm

Try to pick up some treats in the airport or bring along your dog’s favorite toys to keep them calm and comfortable during the flight. Keep in mind that you’ll have to keep the door of the carrier closed at all times during your plane ride and the carrier must always be kept on the floor under your seat.

What to consider for your airplane dog carrier


The size of the carrier must comply with the rules of the airline you’re flying with and be comfortable for your dog. A good rule of thumb is similar to crate training. The dog should be able to stand up fully and turn around in the carrier. This is the rule most airlines follow anyway, but they often require you to be able to stow the carrier under your seat, too. Always check the pet carrier policy of your airline. 


Make sure you provide some bedding for your dog in the carrier. This way, they can curl up and nap throughout the flight and stay comfortable. Soft-sided carriers are also a great option for providing some extra comfort for your dog. Make sure there’s plenty of mesh on the carrier so your dog has enough air and ventilation. 


On most airlines, you’ll need to keep the door of the carrier closed at all times during the flight. This is for the safety and comfort of your dog and other passengers. Opening a door might lead to a quick escape by your pet and the airline can’t have them running around the cabin.

However, you might want to pass a treat to your dog or be able to see them and check on them before, during and after landing. Look for carriers with pocket-sized openings and mesh panels on the tops and sides for access and visibility.


Lots of dog carriers that are suitable for air travel come with extra side pockets and pouches. This is great for storing the items you’ll need both before your flight and after arrival, such as dog treats, a leash and waste bags. 

Best dog carriers for air travel

KONG 2-In-1 Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag & Travel Mat

This carrier comes with a removable travel pad that’s padded for your dog’s comfort during flight. The mesh top provides plenty of ventilation, while the full sides give your dog a safe and quiet place to relax. 

Sold by Chewy

Kurgo G-Train Airline-Approved Dog Carrier Backpack

Unlike many other dog carriers, this one comes in backpack format so you can keep your hands free while moving through the airport. The zip flap at the top allows your dog to peep their head out until it’s time to board the plane. 

Sold by Amazon and Chewy

Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

Sherpa provides a roomy carrier with mesh sides for ultimate visibility of your pet. The padded double shoulder straps also make it easy and comfortable to carry on your shoulders, and there’s a storage pouch at the back. 

Sold by Amazon, Chewy and Petsmart

EliteField Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

This carrier provides pretty much everything you could need, including a seatbelt strap, pouch storage, mesh sides, comfortable shoulder strap and removable padded travel pad. It even has a strap purpose-built for you to attach the carrier to your luggage. 

Sold by Amazon and Chewy

Pet Magasin Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

A super lightweight option, this carrier folds away when not in use, which makes it easy to store while you’re at home and while you’re away. Panels at each end help the carrier keep its shape, even though it’s soft-sided. 

Sold by Amazon and Chewy

Mr. Peanut's Gold Series Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

This carrier is the perfect combination of style, safety and comfort. It can carry pets up to 15 pounds in weight and features zipper pouches and a sturdy plywood bottom lined with comfortable faux fleece for your dog. 

Sold by Amazon and Chewy

Zampa Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

One of the most interesting features of this mesh-paneled, lightweight carrier is the inside clip. It allows you to attach your dog’s leash to the inside of the carrier to reduce their risk of escape. 

Sold by Amazon and Chewy

EliteField Expandable Soft Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

This version of EliteField carrier has expandable mesh sides. When folded out, they provide a little extra room and ventilation for your pup. The bottom is padded and you can insert a harder support board underneath for extra support if needed. 

Sold by Chewy

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Lauren Farrell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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