The 9 Best Airline-Approved Pet Carriers of 2023 for In-Cabin and Cargo Hold
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Love Thy Beast is our favorite in-cabin carrier for a chic and comfortable flying experience
Ready, set — paws up! If you're taking your furry friend along for your next adventure (and need to board a flight to reach your destination), you’ll need an airline-approved pet carrier to keep them safe and sound.
While we’d love to say it’s a stress-free endeavor to take a four-legged pal on an airplane, most pet owners will admit it can be difficult and requires some preparation. To ensure you have the best experience possible, check your airline’s specific pet restrictions and requirements — including maximum pet weight, carrier dimensions, and paperwork — to avoid mishaps.
At the time of publishing, to travel with a pet on Delta, United, or American Airlines, your soft-sided pet carrier must be 18 by 11 by 11 inches or smaller. To travel with a pet on JetBlue, your in-flight carrier can't exceed 17 by 12.5 by 8.5 inches, and cargo hold dimensions vary. Some airlines may have smaller requirements for regional flights, so, again, check your specific airline for dimension limitations.
We tested popular pet carriers by taking our pets aboard recent flights, and these are the best nine airline-approved (and pet-approved) carriers PEOPLE Tested.
Love Thy Beast Nylon Pet Travel Carrier
Compact and lightweight
Shoulder straps make it easy to carry
Easy to clean
Only fits pets up to 25 pounds, so not ideal for all pets
Lightweight and durable, this pet carrier has everything you need for a solid travel day with your furry pal. We tested this bag on JetBlue and Delta flights, and it fit underneath the seat easily. Not only is it compact enough for easy storage and travel, but the roomy interior allows pets to sit, stand, lie down, and turn around while they’re inside. One key feature we loved was the mesh paneling that provides shy or anxious pets privacy from fellow travelers and allows your four-legged buddy to see you for reassurance. You can even run your hand over the mesh so they can smell your comforting scent and feel more at ease.
With a convenient and portable design, this pet carrier features supportive shoulder straps for extra security as you get in your steps walking through the airport. Or, if you have a roller carry-on bag, you can utilize the two smaller pockets with two zippers that function as a loop for suitcase handles. (Psst: use these to secure seatbelts in your Uber ride, too!) There's also a large zippered pocket for your phone, wallet, boarding pass, headphones, and your pet’s treats, so you don't necessarily have to have an additional bag or purse on you.
If your dog or cat has an accident during your journey, you’ll appreciate the platform on the bottom of the bag that can easily be removed and cleaned. The only fault we could find with this bag is that it has a 25-pound weight limit, so it won't work for all pets.
Price at time of publish: $159.99
Dimensions: 17 x 8 x 12 inches | Weight Limit: Up to 25 pounds
JetPaws Official Pet Carrier of JetBlue Airlines
Sturdy yet lightweight
4 storage pockets
Section for pet to peek out
Doesn’t have a sleeve to slip on a rolling suitcase
One thing is for sure about this airline bag: You know it’ll fit underneath the seat for JetBlue flights since it’s their official pet carrier. There is plenty to love about this budget-friendly buy: It's sturdy, lightweight, easy to carry, and super functional. We love the four pockets: one for treats, one for your passport, wallet, and phone, one for a tablet or book, and one for snacks. We also appreciated the nylon material that’s super simple to clean in case our furry friend has an accident.
The only downfall is it’s a bit on the shorter side, and it doesn’t have a sleeve to slip onto a roller suitcase. It’s also not exactly chic — so you won’t be turning any heads when you stroll down the terminal. However, if you’re looking for a budget-mindful purchase that you know is approved by JetBlue Airlines, you can’t go wrong with this carrier.
Price at time of publish: $54.99
Dimensions: 16 x 8.5 x 10 inches | Weight: Fits pets up to 20 pounds
Away The Pet Carrier
Sturdy, high-quality materials
Easy to clean
Awkward handle length
On the pricey side
Doesn’t comply with Southwest, Spirit, Frontier, or Allegiant requirements
You may already love your Away luggage, so why not consider giving your best friend a matching carrier? We loved the overall design of the Away carrier — it is sturdy, sleek, modern, and has some bells and whistles worth noting. We found that the bag is made with high-quality, premium materials, and we feel confident that it would hold up over time and keep our dog safe and protected.
Since you know your pet’s comfort is non-negotiable, we appreciate the fuzzy interior for a cozy touch. Like most other carriers, Away also has mesh panels to provide fresh air to your pet. In addition, there are built-in shades on the sides that can be pulled down to give your dog darkness and security while flying to keep them calm and content. It’s also versatile: You can use the handles to carry it as a tote bag or put the carrier straps over your shoulder. However, we did find the handles slightly awkward in length. Instead, it would be easier to carry if there were two handles of differing sizes.
You can think of this Away carrier as the Goldilocks of sizing: not too big, not too small, and can easily fit a small to medium-sized dog. However, one drawback is that it doesn’t always fit underneath every seat. For budget airlines like Southwest, Spirit, Frontier, or Allegiant, this bag's dimensions may not comply with their pet carrier size requirements.
Like our other top picks, the Away carrier has plenty of spacious pockets to store your (and your dog’s) essentials. It’s also easy to spot-clean the outside and toss the removable fleece lining in the washing machine. While it’s on the pricey end, it’s a worthwhile investment for frequent fliers.
Price at time of publish: $225
Dimensions 18.7 x 10.8 x 10.75 inches | Weight: Fits pets up to 18 pounds
Petsfit Expandable Pet Carrier
Dog can move around and reposition themself
Expandable mesh sides
Soft-sided, so it won’t last as long as a plastic kennel
When expanded, it's too wide for under the seat
This expandable carrier won us over, but with a few caveats. First, the good stuff: This bag is very well-made, sturdy, and portable. When waiting to board, you can expand the mesh panels to the left and right, so your pet can stretch out, move around, and get comfortable. We love the concept of allowing your little buddy more space for themselves.
However, when the bag is zipped shut, your pet may not be able to stand up fully. (Though they can likely move around and reposition themselves.) Unfortunately, to fit underneath the seat, you can’t leave the sides expanded. And while the materials feel secure, it’s made of a soft lining and is soft-sided, so we worry it may not last as long as other airline-approved pet carriers, but that all depends on how often you fly — and, ahem, how destructive your dog or cat is when under stress. We also weren't big fans of the handles since they hurt our hands over time, and we would have preferred some extra padding.
In short: For $43, it’s a bargain deal — and if you don’t travel with your pet often, it’s probably a solid option.
Price at time of publish: $42.99
Dimensions: 16 x 10 x 9 inches | Weight: Fits pets up to 13 pounds
Wild One Travel Carrier
Well-made and lightweight
Strap for suitcase handle is very secure
Folds flat when not in use
Too big to fit under seat in Delta
Stylish pet owners don’t want to be seen strolling through the airport with just any ol' carrier. They want one that matches their aesthetic. If that's you, you’ll love our pick for the best carry-on airline pet carrier: the Wild One Travel Carrier. It’s the chicest bag we tested, and its features are convenient and functional. The pockets are placed in easy-to-access areas for pet parents, so you can quickly grab your boarding pass, phone, or a well-deserved treat for your floof.
The mesh panels with pull-down covers provide ventilation and some privacy for your animal. We also liked the supportive straps of this lightweight pet carrier because they were comfortable to wear throughout the airport. It has a compartment to slip onto the handle of your rolling carry-on suitcase, and we felt our pet was securely fastened. Once you’ve touched down at your destination, you can zip the entire bag so it lays flat.
Now for the biggest downfall: To zip the carrier shut, your medium-sized dog must lie down. And while your dog could lift their head, even super-short dogs might be unable to stand up. Generally speaking, this carrier is spacious lengthwise but shorter than other carriers. Unfortunately, we were told by Delta that the carrier is too big to fit under the seat in the Main Cabin or Delta Plus. And if it's too big for Delta's under-the-seat storage, it's likely too big for budget airlines such as Southwest, Spirit, Frontier, or Allegiant.
Price at time of publish: $125
Dimensions: 17.5 x 10 x 11 inches | Weight: Fits pets up to 16 pounds
Related:The 5 Best Carry-On Luggage Pieces of 2023
Petmate Aspen Pet Porter Dog Kennel
Best for Cargo Hold
Can fit kennel pad inside
Easy to wipe down and disassemble
Gate can be put to either side, so it can open from right or left
No storage or pockets
No handles or wheels
All airlines limit the size of dogs who can board a plane, and unless they are certified service dogs, larger breeds are stored underneath the plane in the cargo area where luggage is kept. If you bring your big buddy along for your next adventure and you’re looking for a cargo pet carrier that gets the job done — but isn’t fancy — this is your best bet. The bottom of this crate is a hard surface, but there is enough space for a cozy kennel pad, a few toys, a blanket, and a travel water and food bowl of your choice.
This super sturdy crate is mainly made of plastic, making it easy to clean and break down to store after your trip. We liked how easy it is to open and close the gate with one hand, and the gate could be put on either side, allowing it to open to the left or the right. We also had zero problems getting the kennel through TSA; we just had to go through the scanner to ensure everything inside was safe for travel.
There’s nothing wrong with the design, but it feels a little basic and boring compared to other picks on our list. Also, there are no extra storage pockets or features like handles or wheels.
Price at time of publish: $112.95
Dimensions: 36 x 24.5 x 27 inches | Weight: For pets 25 to 30 pounds
Related:We Tested the 7 Best Pet Cameras of 2023 To Keep Eyes on Your Pets From Afar
Arlo Skye The Pet Carrier
Comfortable and lightweight
Can place over luggage handle
Not tall enough for dog to turn around when closed
Raise your hand if you live in a teeny-tiny place with very little storage for yourself (much less your pet’s accessories). If you’re in the market for an airline-approved pet carrier that doesn’t take up space, you’ll appreciate this elegant-looking carrier's versatility — and fold-ability. It’s made of high-quality materials that are easy to spot-clean when needed. We were especially fans of the comfortable handles when carrying this bag through the airport, and the hidden pocket slips over your roller carry-on luggage if you'd rather wheel Fido along with you.
Inside the carrier is a soft pad, so your floof feels cozy and compact. However, the "compact" feature may be a bit of a downer: We found that a dog has to be lying down to close the top, and they can’t turn around in the carrier when it’s closed. This limits a dog's movement, and some airlines require your animal to be able to turn around in their carrier. Because this lightweight carrier is definitely on the smaller end of the spectrum, there is no extra room for a blanket to keep a dog warm during the flight. However, if you have a small breed pup and value a chic, foldable design, it could be worth the investment.
Price at time of publish: $275
Dimensions: 17.5 x 11 x 10 inches | Weight: Fits pets up to 25 pounds
Related:The 7 Best Toiletry Bags of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Travel Cat The Transpurrter Ultimate Calming Convertible Cat Carrier
Best for Cats
Spacious and sturdy
Strong, escape-proof zippers
Versatile carrying options
Might not fit under some airplane seats, due to length
Backpack straps don’t have padding
This airline-approved pet carrier is the perfect option for proud cat parents who don’t want to leave their feline at home during long trips. With a sturdy yet lightweight design, it’s spacious and long, and it gives your cat plenty of room to move around comfortably. We were fans of the scratch-resistant mesh and escape-proof zippers since felines can be more curious and mischievous than dogs. Inside the carrier is a super-soft, almost luxurious-like felt lining that’s cozy for your cat and removable for easy cleaning. You can pull down a total blackout side panel during the stressful parts of traveling, so your cat can keep calm and ward off anxiety.
As a bonus, there are plenty of ways to carry this cat carrier through security and as you make your way to your gate: You can carry it on your shoulder with a padded strap via the top handle, or you can turn it into a backpack or crossbody bag. However, we found the crossbody style awkward and uncomfortable, and with the backpack option, you lose the (much-needed) padding for your shoulders. On the plus side, there are well-organized storage pockets, so you don’t have to carry an additional bag for your phone and boarding pass. And, you can open the bag from all sides, including the top. If you choose this option, the fourth wall can be completely pulled down, and you can attach your cat to a tethered leash. This gives them more room to stretch out during long layovers.
The only real downfall is the length of this pet carrier, which may not comply with all airline size requirements.
Price at time of publish: $169.99
Dimensions: 19 X 10.5 X 11 inches | Weight: Fits pets up to 30 pounds
Gunner G1 Kennel Intermediate
Comfortable and roomy
Has wheels for travel
Easy to clean
27 pounds when empty
While some families leave their beloved furry friends in safe hands at home when they go on adventures, others can’t imagine hitting the open road (or flying the friendly skies) without their dogs. If you plan to travel frequently with your larger breed dog, this cargo kennel is worth the investment. It’s been tested by the Center For Pet Safety and received a five-star rating — the highest accolade possible. It also comes with a lifetime warranty, so you know your purchase is a safe bet. We flew with two larger canines in this kennel, and it was not only roomy and comfortable for both of them, but we felt that each was safe and secure.
Like other cargo kennels, there is enough room to add a dog bed or pad, your pup’s beloved toys, a blanket, and water or food bowl. We found it relatively easy to assemble, but it’s important to note it’s heavier due to the high-quality, durable materials. In fact, it’s a whopping 27 pounds when it’s empty. While it does have back wheels that make it easy to move, loading and unloading it into your vehicle on the way to the airport may require two people.
It breaks down to a smaller size for storage and, of course, to give it a good washdown after your journey.
Price at time of publish: $900
Dimensions: 33.25 x 21 x 29 x 23 inches | Weight: Fits dogs up to 75 pounds
What to Consider Before Buying an Airline-Approved Pet Carrier
Airline Requirements and Restrictions
When choosing a pet carrier for a plane ride, the first step is to check your airline's specific size requirements. Every airline has slightly different rules, so double-check that your favorite carrier complies with your favorite airline's required dimensions.
Consider if your pet will be coming on board with you or if they will be traveling in cargo hold. Most soft-sided, in-cabin pet carriers are suitable for pets up to 20 pounds, and most airlines only allow pets up to this size in the cabin, says Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM, and chief veterinarian at Petco.
“Regardless of where your pet will be during the flight, their carrier should provide enough room to stand up, sit, lay down and turn around without issues, as well as ventilation from at least three of its sides,” says Miller.
Most airlines consider this and require your pet to be able to turn around in their carrier. In addition to a comfortable size, perhaps add your pet's favorite toy or small blanket in case they get anxious or chilly.
Frequency of Travel
If you only take your pet on a trip every few years, you may not need an expensive pet carrier that's versatile and packed with features; the budget-friendly JetPaws carrier may do the trick. If you frequently travel with your furry friend, investing in a high-quality pet carrier that's comfortable for both you and your pet is worth the extra cash.
How We Tested
We took our pets on flights to determine how these airline-approved pet carriers performed in real-time with real live animals. We tested the ease of putting our animal into the carrier, the comfort and calmness of our pet once inside the carrier, and storage options for essential goodies — like treats or a blanket.
Then, we went through the airport — from check-in and security to boarding— and rated the bag’s wearability, and we also noted if the bag could fit underneath the seat in front of us or if it was easy to check our animal into the cargo area of the flight. After our in-flight experience, we rated each pet carrier on size, quality, comfort, portability, design, ease of cleaning, and value.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if a pet carrier is airline-approved?
The only true way to know if a pet carrier is airline-approved is by buying one straight from the airline itself — like our budget pick from JetBlue. However, airlines generally have size requirements for pet travel carriers so you can choose to purchase your own. Amanda Farah, national training and behavior coordinator at Best Friends Animals Society says to begin your search by checking the allowable overall size, dimensions, materials, and so forth for your specific airline.
Can medium-sized dogs fly in the cabin?
Pet carry-ons are generally limited to around 17.5 by 13 by 8 inches, and they must fit underneath the seat in front of you, according to Kate Karam, pet expert for Chewy. Some budget airlines, like Frontier, Allegiant, or Spirit, may have slightly smaller dimension requirements, so you must check when you book your pet’s ticket. Medium-sized dogs can fly in-cabin, but they usually need to be 20 pounds or less (and that includes the weight of the pet carrier). This number varies depending on the airline, so it’s best to do your homework before takeoff.
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