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So, you’re here because you might be planning a trip soon and want to take your pup along with you. Who wouldn’t want their best canine friend to come with them on vacation or visit a loved one?  While it’s easy to plan certain aspects of a trip, traveling by plane with a pet can seem complicated sometimes. But, the travel process can get a lot easier if you’re able to find the best airline-approved pet carriers for dogs. 

Best Airline Approved Pet Carrier – Ultimate Buying Guide

Today, we’re going to tell you what you should look for in a carrier. Later on, we’ll give you everything you need to make the right purchasing decision. After all, a quality carrier means a happy pet in flight, so what are the best airline approved pet carriers for dogs!


A dog inside a bag in an airplane on one of the best airline approved pet carriers for dogs

When it comes to points for consideration, the first thing we’re going to address is the material used for an airline-approved dog carrier. While it may not seem like much, this can make or break the experience for your pet. 

In general, the best dog crate for flying will be made of comfortable but firm material with proper ventilation. You’ll have a few options to choose from regarding the overall quality of carrier material, as those in the lower price range will tend to be less durable.

However, if you’re a frequent traveler with your favorite companion, you might want to make the investment in an airline-approved dog carrier that’s proven to last. 

If we’re getting specific, many of the carriers on our list of favorites include materials like waterproof exteriors, fleece inside bed covers, and mesh parts. 

Make sure you’re picking a carrier with a resistant exterior but a comfy interior for your dog’s comfort!


Two dogs in separate bags in an airport on one of the best airline approved pet carriers for dogs

When it comes to the best airline-approved pet carriers for dogs, something you’ll really want to pay extra attention to is the ventilation. Ventilation is made possible in good carriers by design, so look out for a carrier that emphasizes breathability for your pet. 

If you’re wondering how to select a carrier with this quality, in general, you should look for one that includes mesh netting on the top or sides of the carrier. You’ll want this as mesh netting increases the airflow inside the carrier while still protecting your pet from the elements during travel.

On longer flights especially, your pet can suffer if they don’t feel like they’re getting enough air. It is absolutely essential to give them a carrier in which they won’t get claustrophobic or strapped for airflow. 

Definitely do not overlook this quality in your search for the best airline-approved dog crate.

Heavy-Duty Construction

A dog in a black bag in an airport on one of the best airline approved pet carriers for dogs

Generally, you’ll have two options regarding a cabin-approved pet carrier: heavy-duty or soft-sided. While a soft-sided pet carrier has its benefits in terms of collapsibility and storage, a heavy-duty dog travel crate can make for a more comfortable, secure experience in the air for your pup.

If you have a heavy-duty travel carrier for dogs, it can ensure that they are secure as can be when on the plane with you. Durable and sometimes coming with wheel attachments, these types of carriers can prove to be the best choice. 

However, a heavy-duty dog travel carrier might tend to be more expensive, so if money isn’t as big of a concern, you might be more inclined to go for it. Additionally, since they aren’t collapsible you will be able to better gauge how the carrier measurements adhere to airline requirements.

Comfortable for Your Pet

A dog inside a bag being carried in an airplane on one of the best airline approved pet carriers for dogs

Suppose you’ve traveled with a dog or other kind of pet before. In that case, you probably know that their comfort level is directly proportional to their overall experience and mood throughout the trip. In fact, if comfort isn’t up to par during the actual flight, it can affect the way your pet feels for days after you deplane!

The benefits of getting the best airline-approved pet carrier for dogs that emphasizes comfort are myriad. Mainly, your pet will be calm, collected, and compliant on the flight, something that many pet owners worry about. The thought of disturbing others on a flight is something pet parents definitely fear!

In order to ensure that you all have a seamless travel experience, you’ll want a carrier that has the best interior. While the exterior protects, the interior is all your pet will care about, so make sure it’s adequate and hospitable. 

Locking Zippers

A dog being put inside a bag to prepare on one of the best airline approved pet carriers for dogs

Another fear common amongst travelers with pets is that their pup will somehow escape their carrier. Just imagine, you’re sitting at the gate, a zipper fails, and the next thing you know your pet is running amok! That’s simply not an option if you’re trying to travel in peace. 

So, what can you look for that will ensure that you get a completely escape-proof dog carrier for your flight? That’s right, locking zippers. There are mechanisms that come on certain airline-approved dog carriers that secure zipper ends in place. 

To release the zippers, there will be a button or lever you can touch. So, there won’t be anything too complicated for you, and you can rest assured that your pet is completely and utterly secure in its crate. 

Overall, we’d recommend buying a crate with at least some sort of securing mechanism to avoid accidental openings, or worse, escapes.

Storage Pockets

A dog inside a black bag

Something else you might want to consider something else in your search for that perfect dog travel crate is the option for storage. Some carriers come with some storage pockets already installed, and others come with attachments you can put on for extra carrying space. There’s nothing like a little bit more carry-on area, especially when the airline you’re on has a tight policy.

Storage pockets on the best airline-approved pet carriers for dogs will be big enough to provide value to you, but small or out-of-the-way enough so as not to encroach on your pup’s space. The last thing you want is to compromise your pup’s comfort, as you learned in the last section!

That’s why most storage pockets will be on the outside of the carrier. While they’ll provide you with limited space, it will be enough to store dog accessories, treats, or personal items you couldn’t fit in your carry-on.


A dog inside a blue bag in an airport on one of the best airline approved pet carriers for dogs

Now, this is one of the most important things when it comes to owning a travel pet carrier—cleaning it from time to time. If your pet has used the carrier more than a few times, you might start to notice that it’s getting ratty or producing an odor. This is natural, but you should always be wary and stay on top of the cleaning regimen.

This is why it’s important to consider how washable a carrier will be. Collapsible, soft-sided carriers will require a slightly different cleaning procedure than a heavy-duty one with wheels, for example. 

So, ensure that you purchase an airline-approved dog crate that you can definitely manage in terms of hygiene. If you don’t clean it after every use or at least every few uses, it could become very uncomfortable for your dog to be in. 

Overall, definitely take into account which ones would be easiest for you to keep clean!

Easy to Open and Close

A dog inside a black bag in an airport on one of the best airline approved pet carriers for dogs

This aspect of the best airline-approved dog crate is less essential than some of the others in terms of your pet’s comfort, but it can really save you some aggravation if you buy one that’s easy to open and close. It may seem like a no-brainer for manufacturers of these carriers, but you might run into some problems with the zippers or opening mechanism if you buy from the lower end.

In general, you should look for a high-quality zipper system to avoid experiencing any blockages or tie-ups. A good travel carrier for dogs will not show signs of breakage or wear after the first use. In fact, you should expect your carrier to last years, and if it becomes difficult to open and close, that’s when it’s time to switch to a new one.

Again, although this doesn’t affect your pet’s experience, having to fiddle with the latches, buckles, or zipper systems can really produce some frustration.

Wheels, Handles, and Backpack Straps

A dog inside a black bag in an airport on one of the best airline approved pet carriers for dogs

Here’s another aspect that you should expect from only the best airline-approved pet carriers for dogs: good transportation options! We all know that the plane flight is an important part of the journey, but traveling through the airport beforehand is time-consuming, mobile, and can be tough with a pet.

So, to ensure you can easily transport the pet carrier you choose, you should consider whether it comes with wheels, handles, backpack straps, or other transportation methods to make your life easier. 

If you buy a pet carrier with wheels, it can dramatically improve your life. Having to carry your dog around along with your other suitcases can be tiring, and maybe even require you to stop periodically to regain your strength. For that reason, we’d definitely recommend you go for wheels or a backpack strap option just to make the airport experience go smoothly.

Here’s another Yorkie article you’ll enjoy: Preparing Your Yorkie for a Trip in a Car

Things to Know Before Traveling With Your Pet

A dog with sunglasses in busy street

Traveling with pets has never been easier. With lots of travel destinations and lodging services now accommodating pets you’ve taken along for the ride, it’s no wonder that so many people travel with their little buddies each year. 

In general, traveling with your pet can be a super rewarding experience, but there are definitely some things you should know that could help the process go as smoothly as possible. There are always things to think about before traveling with your pet!

Since we’re talking specifically about the best airline-approved pet carriers for dogs in this post, we’ll focus this section on air travel. Airlines have focused policies about bringing pets on board, and unfortunately, they all differ, which makes things a bit complicated sometimes. So, the first thing you’ll need to know is what the pet travel requirements are of the airline you like to fly with.

In general, you should book your tickets well in advance, or at least the second you know that your pet will be coming along. This can save you some hiccups down the road as well as give you more time to fill out any extra information the airline requires you to provide.

Make sure that you also do some research beforehand on the pet necessities you’ll want to bring on the plane. Of course, you’ll have most of what they’ll need upon landing in your carry-on or checked luggage, but there are definitely some food items, water, waste management supplies, and of course, your trusted pet carrier!

All of the carriers that we’ll recommend to you in the next section are airline approved, which means they meet the guidelines for most, if not all airlines that you might fly with. Of course, you’ll want to double-check before choosing the airline, but you shouldn’t have to worry about running into problems right before boarding.

Here’s another Yorkie article you’ll enjoy: How to Travel with your Yorkshire Terrier

Our 8 Favorite Airline-Approved Picks

Now that you know all you need to concerning traveling with your pup, it’s time to evaluate which is the best dog crate for flying. The right one will be comfortable for your pet and manageable for you.

In this next section, we’re going to list out the 8 best airline-approved pet carriers for dogs on the market right now. Our goal with this list is to help you weigh out your options and ultimately come to a decision.

If you find one you like from this list, your pet will undoubtedly thank you for it. So, check out the ones that made it below!

Elite Field Softsided Pet Carrier

To start off the list, we have the Elite Field Softsided pet carrier for dogs. With this carrier, you’ll be able to accommodate small dogs with ease. It comes in two sizes, medium and large. But, don’t let that fool you! The dimensions of the large carrier are only 19” x 10” x 13”, so large for a portable carrier but not spacious enough to accommodate bigger dogs. 

They warn that almost all returns are due to improper sizing, so make sure you take their advice and measure your pet before you make the purchase!

With this carrier, you get a removable fleece bed cover for easy cleaning. There is also a support board that goes under the bed so that your pet can feel secure and supported while traveling. Speaking of securement, you can actually use its built-in leash for extra caution!

On the outside, this carrier looks great. It’s made of durable, waterproof fabric that will ensure lightweight portability. There’s a side zipper, allowing for easy access to your pet if necessary. To supplement the zipper system, there is also a buckle belt for an escape-proof experience. 

This one comes with a shoulder strap and seatbelt compatibility for the car ride to the airport as well!

EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier

Mr. Peanut Expandable Carrier

Now on the list, we include the Mr. Peanut Expandable pet carrier for dogs. Expandable airline-approved dog crate sizes will vary based on your pup’s measurements, but they offer a lot of versatility in this department. Generally, the brand recommends its products for pets who measure up to 15 pounds in weight, 10 inches in height, and 16 inches in length. 

Remember, your pup should have enough room to rotate, lie down, and stand all the way up! In all, the sizes offered by this airplane dog crate are all completely approved by various airline policies.

In general, airlines prefer that you use a soft-sided air travel dog carrier so that you can easily stow it away in front of your seat. This carrier is just that but consists of durable, waterproof material that will keep your pet secure and protected during flight. 

The entire carrier only weighs about 4 pounds, so with the shoulder strap, you’re sure to have an easier time transporting your pup around the airport. There are storage pouches and a seatbelt attachment, giving your pet extra safety options and more storage space when traveling.

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

Pet Peppy Expandable With Tunnel

The next cabin-approved pet carrier on our master list is the Pet Peppy Expandable dog crate. So, what do they mean by expandable, rather than collapsible? Well, that means that when the carrier is in use, you can open up a little tunnel and side panels to give your pet that much more space!

This carrier was definitely designed with your pet in mind, as its focal points include spacious design, breathability, and comfort. Your pet won’t overheat, as the mesh panels on the sides allow consistent airflow to go in and out throughout the flight. If you need to stow it, you can always close up some of the extra spaces and put it securely under the seat in front of you.

An advanced zipper system is present on three points of this carrier, allowing you to control where your pet can get in and out. They don’t lock, but the system is designed to avoid snags and stay in good condition.

Included with this airline-approved dog carrier, you will get a removable pet bed for the interior, a shoulder strap, and storage compartments. As a bonus, due to its sustainable material, this is known for being one of the best eco-friendly travel carriers for dogs!

Expandable Pet Carrier with Tunnel by Pet Peppy

Pawdle Expandable and Foldable Pet Carrier

The Pawdle Expandable and Foldable pet carrier for travel are one of the best for smaller pets that like a little bit more room. What sets this one apart is that yes, it’s expandable like some others but was also specifically designed to be easily storable when not in use. 

The storage aspect is great, as this carrier can be folded and zipped up flat. That way, when your pup is off the plane and into your lodging space, you don’t have to worry about leaving it out and cluttering up the room. 

Pawdle recommends this product for dogs weighing 12 pounds or less, perfect for pups such as Yorkies or other toy breeds. The carrier’s expanded form allows for great airflow and flexibility, letting your pet get all the fresh air it needs to stay calm and collected during the flight! Overall, this is one of the best comfortable airline-approved pet carriers for dogs due to its emphasis on your pup’s comfort.

As transportation goes, before you get on the plane, you can carry this carrier with the included shoulder strap and handle as transportation goes. You can adjust the strap depending on your preference for the most comfortable carrying experience. 

Pawdle Expandable and Foldable Pet Carrier Domestic Airline Approved

Pawfect Pets Backpack

The next product on this list is unique because it comes in backpack form! The Pawfect Pets Soft-Sided Backpack pet carrier is perfect for those who enjoy a free hand when traveling with their small dog. Shoulder straps work well, but a backpack is perfect to increase your mobility while transporting your furry friend.

This carrier works with a toy or extra-small dogs, and also states cats as eligible users. Again, for the best experience and to avoid returns make sure you’ve measured your pet’s height, length, and weight prior to purchasing.

Since this is a backpack and it would be catastrophic if your pup were to jump out, this one is completely escape-proof. There are locking zippers, made possible by buckles that fasten them in place once secured. That way, you can rest assured knowing that no accidents will happen. 

For your pet’s comfort, this carrier has been designed for breathability, softness, and support. There is extra-thick padding for you as well so that the weight of the backpack doesn’t cause tension where it shouldn’t. Overall, this could be one of the most comfortable carriers for both you and your pet!

Pawfect Pets Pet Carrier Backpack for Cats and Extra Small Dogs

Petyella Expandable Pet Carrier

The next of the best airline-approved pet carriers for dogs in this roundup is the PETYELLA Portable Heated pet carrier. This one is marketed as a cat carrier, but we actually think that it’s one of the best travel carriers for small dog breeds. Generally, smaller dogs will be in the same size range as cats, and you can ensure this by comparing your pup’s measurements to what it says in the specs. 

Purchasing this one could be worth it, as it has a host of features not found on other carriers. For one thing, it comes with a self-heating bed mat, powered by your pup’s own body heat! This may seem obvious, but the bed mat included with this carrier is better at retaining heat than most others, mainly because of its soft, quality material. 

It’s got a beautiful design, compact but elegant. Additionally, it’s very lightweight and comes with a shoulder strap for easy transport. Another unique addon that this carrier comes with is a collapsible bowl, a free bonus for those who are looking to buy pet travel accessories as well! There is also a leash strap on the inside for heightened security.

Speaking of security, like most others on this list, this one comes with a money-back warranty in case there’s anything you are unsatisfied with. 

PETYELLA Portable Indoor Heated Cat House

Sherpa Original Travel Deluxe Pet Carrier

The second-to-last product that we’ve decided to feature on our list is the Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe airline-approved pet carrier for dogs. As its name implies, your pet’s travel experience will be greatly heightened with a carrier of this quality. Overall, this one is one of our top recommendations for value. 

Something unique about this carrier is that it holds a patent for its design. Its wireframe is special, as we all know when it comes to stowing your pet underneath the seat in front of you, sometimes the carrier hits the underside. This carrier is different in that it can collapse down just a few inches to accommodate this, not affecting your pet’s comfort in any way.

This carrier has mesh padding on the sides for ventilation as well as two points of entry. The zippers lock for your pet’s ultimate safety and the interior features a fleece bed cover. 

For you, the carrier comes with a no-slip carrying shoulder strap for your comfort and mobility in the airport. 

Overall, this carrier comes in small, medium, and large sizes. The brand recommends that you buy this if your pet’s measurements do not exceed 16 inches in length, 10 inches in height, and 16 pounds in weight. 

Sherpa Original Deluxe Travel Pet Carrier Airline Approved

WPS Wheeled Pet Carrier

Last but not least, we have the WPS Wheeled Pet Carrier for airplane use. Finding a good carrier with wheels is rare, and this one checks all the boxes for easy transport. After all, there’s a lot of time spent in the airport before you have to worry about the plane ride!

To ensure a seamless travel experience with your small dog, WPS has made this carrier comfortable, high-quality material, and practical. While it’s only available in black, it has a sleek design that you and your pet are sure to feel good using. 

There is a soft interior that includes a bed for your pet to rest comfortably. The carrier also features essential mesh paneling on the sides to avoid your pet overheating or experiencing insufficient airflow. 

Something you’ll enjoy is that there are many mesh storage pockets on the exterior, giving you extra room to put your items or pup accessories without compromising your pet’s comfort. 

Apart from the wheel and pull mechanism, this comes with a shoulder strap and a leash clip inside for extra security. In effect, this has to be the airline-approved dog crate with the easiest transportation. 

WPS Airline Approved Pet Carrier with Wheels

Here’s another Yorkie article you’ll enjoy: Flying with Yorkies

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I determine the right size carrier for my pet?

A dog with sunglasses inside an airport

This question has been asked many a time on the blog by our readers. So, how do you choose the right size travel carrier for your pet? Well, you’ll want to do so by measuring your pet’s body size.

In general, you need to choose a carrier that allows for considerable mobility for your pet. They should at least be able to stand up fully, rotate their bodies, and get into a comfortable position lying down. 

To take measurements, you can use any old tape measure and then compare them to the sizes offered of the product you want. 

Can I still choose my seat if I travel with a pet?

A cute dog inside a bag in an airport

If you’re taking your pet into the main cabin of the plane, you might be wondering whether you’ll still be able to have some jurisdiction over where you sit. The answer to this can depend, but in general, you can still choose where you sit if you are traveling with your pet. 

In order to ensure this, you’ll want to book in advance—we can’t emphasize that enough! If you book early, there’s a much greater chance that you’ll be able to choose an aisle seat, which we personally think is the best way to go in this scenario. 

What are the IATA, TSA, and FAA, and why are they important?

The IATA is the International Air Transport Association, and it’s important because its guidelines are what you see when researching travel with pets. The TSA is the Transportation Security Administration, which you’ll have to pass with your pet to gain access to the gate. 

The FAA is the Federal Aviation Administration, which also creates and oversees the guidelines you’ll have to follow to get your pet onboard the plane. Overall, each of these departments is important since you’ll need to adhere to their pet policies closely. 

Here’s another Yorkie article you’ll enjoy: Traveling with your Yorkie to Europe

Final Thoughts

So, that wraps it up for our list of the best airline-approved pet carriers for dogs in 2021. Again, these are the best ones we’ve found at the moment, but we’ll be sure to update the article with new ones if we get suggestions or find more great ones. 

Overall, you should look for a carrier that includes all the features you consider most important to your pet’s experience traveling, but also your own! If your pet is comfortable in its new carrier, it will mean a better time for them, you, and others traveling with you. 

We answered the most commonly asked questions above, but if you find yourself with any more, let us know in the comment section, and we’d be glad to give you our personal opinion on which one you should go for. 

We hope this article helped you decide, or at least gave you the information you needed to narrow down your search. See you soon!