Every dog owner knows the struggle. It’s already hard enough to leave your furry baby to go to work. How are you supposed to relax on a trip and leave your pets alone and miserable!
The good news is, I can help you with that, saving your effort for the big day. In this article, I’ll review what I consider the best dog carriers for airplanes. We’ll also discuss how to choose the right one. Let’s go!
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Table of Contents
- The Best Dog Carriers for Airplanes
- In a Rush? Here Are Our Top Picks
- Prodigen Airline-Approved Pet Carrier – Best Overall
- Sherpa Travel Deluxe Airline Pet Carrier – Best for Large Dogs
- Sherpa On-Wheels Pet Carrier – Best Rolling Carrier
- Gen7Pets Compact Roller Pet Carrier – Most Versatile
- Mr. Peanut’s Pet Carrier – The Best Backpack Carrier
- Coopeter Luxury Soft-Sided Pet Carrier – The Best Expandable Carrier
- AmazonBasics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier – The Most Affordable
- What to Consider Before Buying an Airline Dog Carrier
- Frequently Asked Questions
- The Verdict
The Best Dog Carriers for Airplanes
In a Rush? Here Are Our Top Picks
Prodigen Airline-Approved Pet Carrier – Best Overall
This carrier from Prodigen has pretty much everything that your dog needs to have a seamless flight.
First things first, this carrier has a sturdy nylon construction that supports dogs weighing up to 14 pounds. Prodigen recommends using it for dogs up to 10″ in height and 14” in length. Bigger dogs can feel a bit strangled.
The nylon fabric is designed to be somewhat waterproof so that it’ll be easier to clean any mess that your dog might leave.
The thing I like the most is the zippered mesh walls found on the top and the 4 sides. This will give your dog an optimal airflow and will also allow for easy petting from any direction.
Inside, your dog will comfortably rest on a fleece bed that covers the whole length of the carrier. It’s also machine-washable for your convenience.
Holding this carrier is also pleasant thanks to the padded, adjustable shoulder strap. If you don’t prefer them, you can use similarly comfortable handles.
The only tradeoff is the possible presence of a pretty strong chemical smell on first use. However, this should vanish with proper ventilation.
- Supports 14-pound dogs
- Zippered mesh windows all-around
- Comes with a comfy fleece bed
- Equipped with shoulder strap and padded handles.
- The chemical smell on first use.
Sherpa Travel Deluxe Airline Pet Carrier – Best for Large Dogs
Most airlines don’t allow dogs bigger than 20 pounds on their aircraft. Some dogs lie within this weight limit, yet they’re too tall or long to fit inside most carriers. If this sounds familiar, this carrier from Sherpa would be your best pet.
The carrier measures 19” in length, 12” in width, and 11.5” in height. From the outside, this carrier features a sturdy nylon construction. Mesh is placed on the front and both sides, leaving the rear solid with a pocket to place anything that your dog needs.
On the inside, your dog won’t feel the length of the flight, thanks to the faux lambskin liner. It’s also machine-washable, allowing you to use it between timely-cramped flights.
To hold this carrier, you have 2 options, the padded hand strap or the non-slip shoulder strap. I wish the shoulder strap was padded, though. It can get quite tiring to carry this large size with this tough strap pinching on your shoulder.
Aside from that, the carrier functions perfectly. Many customers have praised how durable the zippers are, which is a relief to know!
- Comfy faux lambskin liner
- Mesh sides
- Rear pocket
- Sturdy nylon construction
- Durable zippers
- Non-padded shoulder strap
Sherpa On-Wheels Pet Carrier – Best Rolling Carrier
Why carry your dog on the shoulder when you can joyfully drag him around! If you prefer such a style, consider this carrier from Sherpa.
Most of the luggage-styled rolling carriers found on the market have a major problem; they tip when you pull them, which may hurt your dog or at least make him uncomfortable.
This carrier avoids this problem by installing wheels to the regular duffle-style carrier. This will keep your pet on a flat, level surface at all times. Additionally, it features free 360-degree front wheels for steering and recessed back wheels for stability.
Here’s my favorite thing about this carrier. Instead of using a retractable handle that can get stuck, you’ll easily relocate the shoulder strap to be a pull handle.
With 20” in length,12” in width, and 10” in height, this carrier has one of the biggest measurements available in the market.
The inside is padded with a machine-washable faux lambswool that’ll be highly soft on your dog’s skin.
Like all of Sherpa’s products, this carrier comes with a 1-year limited warranty. You can also request a refund if you aren’t satisfied with what the carrier has to offer.
It’s worth noting that some airlines, like United, don’t allow carriers longer than 18”. So make sure to carefully check the regulations before buying.
- Keeps your dog level
- Lined with faux lambswool
- Wide size
- 1-year warranty
- Not allowed on some airlines.
Gen7Pets Compact Roller Pet Carrier – Most Versatile
All-in-one carriers are my personal favorite. They’re super helpful in a lot of scenarios, allowing you to seamlessly carry your lovely pet everywhere.
Take this carrier for example. Gen7Pets has designed this carrier to convert between a rolling carrier, backpack, car seat, and a regular duffle bag.
As you’re rolling your pet around, this carrier will tilt rather than tip, which makes it incredibly unique from other carriers. This is possible through the Smart-Level Platform, a small collapsable extension on the rear end.
Don’t let this intimidate you, though. It’s incredibly easy to use and flip between the modes. If, for example, you have to climb stairs, you can simply collapse the handle, secure the smart-level platform, untuck the rear straps, and voilà! Your carrier is now a backpack.
Moreover, the carrier features two seatbelt straps on its back for your car travels.
Your pet can be placed inside via the top and front doors. There are double mesh windows on both sides for breathability. You’ll also find two large pockets on the sides to store your pet stuff.
The only problem lies in its weight. The empty carrier weighs around 7 pounds, so that leaves about 13-15 pounds for your dog, according to your airline regulations.
- 4-in-1 carrier
- Easy to use
- Doesn’t tip while rolling
- It weighs 7 pounds
Mr. Peanut’s Pet Carrier – The Best Backpack Carrier
If carrying your fluffy dog in your backpack isn’t the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, then I don’t know what is!
Instead of the regular shoulder strap, this carrier from Mr. Peanut completely depends on the back straps for support.
This carrier is designed with mesh on the top, front, and one side. The other side is reserved for a large zippered pocket in which you can keep your dog’s belongings. And just like any regular backpack, you can conveniently place your water bottle in a dedicated pocket.
The top mesh is provided with a roll-up velcro cover to protect your dog from sun or rain. This feature is absolutely simple, yet it can’t be found in the majority of carriers.
The inside of the carrier is padded with fleece on three surfaces: the bottom, the back, and the side. This way, your dog will be comfortable whether the carrier is upright on your back or flat under the airplane seat.
The best thing about this carrier is its weight. It weighs around 3 pounds only! You’ll highly appreciate this after you carry it around effortlessly for a whole day.
On the downside, some customers reported poorly sewed back straps that ripped after a month. Furthermore, since it’s a backpack, it’s pretty smaller than other carriers. It measures 17” in height and 11” in width and length.
- Conveniently carried
- Roll-up cover for the top mesh
- Equipped with a bottle pocket
- Lined with fleece.
- Poor sewing
- Pretty small
Coopeter Luxury Soft-Sided Pet Carrier – The Best Expandable Carrier
Don’t you love it when an airline offers lie-flat seats? They add a whole new level of comfort to the flight. Well, this carrier from Coopeter lets your pet enjoy a similar experience.
When you’re seated on the plane, you can unzip the pockets on both sides of the carrier. Then, simply drag the mesh to pop out the extensions. I really like how these extensions are lined with mesh all-around. This gives an ultimate breathable, engaging experience for your dog.
To make things even comfier, the carrier is lined with a soft fleece. There’s an additional firm board shipped with the carrier in case you want to enhance its support.
On the downside, when the carrier is collapsed, your dog will only have front and top meshes to peek from. Coopeter couldn’t place mesh on the sides because of the zippered extension. However, they could’ve compensated for this with a rear mesh.
If you find this annoying for your dog, you can contact Coopeter and request a full refund, no strings attached.
For convenience, one of the carrier’s sides features a belt that can be fixed to the suitcase handle. Furthermore, you can carry it around via the padded handles or the shoulder straps.
- Full-sized mesh extensions
- Fleece-lined with an optional firm board
- Can be fixed to the suitcase handle
- Full refunds
- Only two mesh walls when folded
AmazonBasics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier – The Most Affordable
If you want a sole carrier with no additional features, this product from AmazonBasics might be the best option for you.
I can’t say how much I like the mesh it features on all of its sides. This will make your pet well-ventilated and actively engaged with the surroundings.
Furthermore, as the mesh is considerably lighter than nylon, this design decreases the carrier weight to 3 pounds only. This means you’d be able to carry pets as big as 18 pounds!
You’re probably thinking that the mesh sides won’t be that durable, but this isn’t the case here. The carrier is encircled with two connecting loop handles that support the mesh and provide balanced carrying at the same time.
Best of all, these loops are sewed to the carrier from the top and bottom, so they’re free over the mesh area. This way, they can double function as seatbelt/luggage straps.
After you place your pet inside, he’ll be pampered with the super-soft fleece lining there. Underneath this pad, you’ll find a firm insert that enhances the stability of the carrier.
The only thing I don’t really like is its width. The largest size of this carrier measures 20” in length, 10” in width, and 11” in height. I wish the width was around 12”-14” to accommodate bigger dogs without squeezing them.
- Mesh on the 4 sides
- Encircling loop handles
- Slightly smaller than other carriers
What to Consider Before Buying an Airline Dog Carrier
I’ve reviewed 7 carriers in the previous section. They’re all great, but you certainly have to pick one. If you can’t decide, here are some points that can help you.
As you might already know, in-cabin pet policies differ between airlines. Some allow it with elaborate limitations, others leave it a bit freer.
Similarly, airlines can be pretty specific about carrier dimensions. Southwest, for example, allows carriers that are 18.5” long, 8.5” high, and 13.5” wide.
For safety purposes, your dog might need to pass a certain age to be accepted on aircraft. The required age usually lies between 8 and 12 weeks.
All airlines charge an additional fee for your in-cabin pet. Price may range around $50 for regional flights and $150 for international ones.
It’s also important to note that some breeds aren’t allowed on airplanes. The most notable example is, understandably, the Pitbulls.
Last but not least, regulations are subject to change by political, economical, or health issues. So make sure to review them again before booking your ticket.
The Required Features
You wouldn’t want to keep your pet stressed in uninhabitable conditions for 3-hour flights, right? So, what features will your dog be grateful to have? Let’s see.
Nearly all dog carriers feature at least 1 mesh window. It’s obviously important for proper airflow, but this isn’t the only benefit.
Mesh windows are extremely crucial to keep your dog busy. That’s why I prefer carriers with all-around mesh windows.
Think about it, would your dog rather stare at one view or have his senses flooded from everywhere?
If your dog gets over-excited or prefers to stay in a den for long times, then at least make sure there’s an upward mesh window. Since you won’t always be able to lift the carrier while flying, this window would be the only way to check on your dog.
In case you don’t already know, dogs can feel claustrophobic. They’ll wine, pant, or even shake when they’re stressed in tight spaces.
If this happens to your dog, consider buying a carrier with expandable areas. This usually comes in two designs.
The first one is a zippered fold that extends for an additional 2”-3” only. The one I prefer the most is the fully expandable design that extends 7”-10” per side. Although it’s better for your dog, some airlines don’t allow such a design.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t recommend flying with a claustrophobic dog unless in cases of extreme need. Even if you’re allowed to bring fully extendable carriers, you never know how bad your dog would react. Better safe than sorry!
You can find a wide variety of carrier styles on the market. Choosing one mainly depends on your taste, but it can also affect your pet.
This is the most common type. It places your pet comfortably and stably. It may not be that comfortable for you, though. This is because you have to carry it on either your shoulder or your hands.
Therefore, if you opt for this style, invest in a carrier with well-padded handles and a shoulder strap. Your body would be so grateful at the end of the day.
As the name implies, this style is carried just like a backpack. It’s obviously a lot easier for you than a duffel bag, but it can be bad news for your pet!
In duffel bags, your dog would have a wide rectangular area to sit and extend his body. In a backpack, chances are your dog would have to stay upright as long as you’re carrying the bag.
While there’s pretty much nothing to do about this, you can at least choose a carrier with all-around padding. This way, when you’re seated on the plane, you can comfort your dog by placing the carrier in a similar way to a duffel bag.
Unlike duffel bags and backpacks, luggage-styled carriers are the truly comfortable option for your poor shoulders. Then again, your dog might disagree.
The problem with this style lies in how the carrier behaves while you pull it. If you buy a regular one, it will tend to tip over, making your pet rest on the corner of the carrier rather than a solid, level surface.
The only carrier I found to avoid this problem is the Gen7Pets Compact Roller Pet Carrier. It has some kind of belt-secured extension toward the base. When you want to roll the bag, opening these extensions would compensate for the tipping that happens as you pull.
Unless you find something with a similar concept, I would advise against this style.
The Duffel with Wheels
This is my personal favorite. It cleverly brings the best of both worlds. This carrier type would give level support for your dog and allow you to effortlessly drag it around. Sherpa’s On-Wheels is one of the carriers designed like this.
Obviously, you can’t place your dog in a carrier that would collapse over him like a blanket! Luckily, nearly all carriers can stand on their own. However, some are better than others.
The perfect carrier should “pop” as it expands. The pop means that your dog carrier won’t collapse easily with the slightest bit of weight, which keeps your pet safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does a dog carrier count as a carry-on?
It depends. Some airlines count a dog carrier as part of the carry-on luggage allowance. Others charge an additional fee. Therefore, it’s better to check the specific regulations of the airline you choose beforehand.
Do airports sell pet carriers?
Yes, you can find pet carriers inside an airport. However, they’re sold by airlines rather than the airports themselves. It’s important to know that not all airlines manufacture pet carriers, let alone sell them.
Southwest produces its own carriers and sells them at the airport ticket counter. However, I wouldn’t recommend procrastinating on this task until you’re at the airport. The carriers may be out of stock on this day, which will definitely ruin the trip.
Can I take my dog out of the carrier on a plane?
That’s a big no. Airlines can be pretty firm about this. Since this might annoy fellow passengers, your dog must remain inside the carrier at all times. You can only check on him through the mesh windows.
Additionally, the carrier can’t be kept on your lap, in the overhead bin, or anywhere but under the seat in front of you.
Can I take my dog out of the carrier in an airport?
That’s another no. You can only remove your pet from the carrier at a designated pet relief area.
What happens if my dog barks on a plane?
First of all, stay calm. Panicking can actually annoy fellow passengers more than barks. Apologize to the nearby passengers and proceed to calm your dog with words, petting, or treats. Do anything but removing the dog from the carrier.
What happens if a pet on a plane has to go to the bathroom?
Sadly, there are no relief areas for dogs on planes. If your dog couldn’t hold it and caused a mess, alert the flight crew promptly. You might be charged a pet cleanup fee.
Personally, I think that the Prodigen Airline-Approved Pet Carrier is the best dog carrier for airplanes. The zippered all-around mesh windows comfort your dog by allowing him to constantly see you.
If your shoulder hurts, drag the Sherpa On-Wheels Pet Carrier around. It uses the shoulder strap as a pull handle, which makes it incredibly convenient.
If you’re an all-in-one enthusiast, try the Gen7Pets Compact Roller Pet Carrier. It serves as a rolling carrier, backpack, car seat, and duffle bag.
Lastly, I wish you a lovely flight and an unforgettable trip with your precious doggy!
My name is Ken and I’m one of the staff writers at Petloverguy.com. I’ve cared for pets most of my life starting with hamsters, turtles, and snakes. Then moving up to parakeets, guinea pigs, and even ducks.
I currently live with two yorkies and a chihuahua mix.