Which airline dog carrier is best for your dog?
One of the questions I get most often on Instagram is what airline carrier I use when I travel with Weston and Fira. I know a lot of owners of larger dogs are worried about getting their pup through check-in because of the weight restrictions some airlines adhere to. Especially for French Bulldogs because they can hover between 18-25 pounds on average, and French Bulldogs are not allowed in cargo (underneath the plane) due to their flat noses.
Traveling with your dog is such a joy but make sure your pup is ready for it. It can be stressful and anxiety-inducing for your pup and sometimes not worth it. Ask yourself: Is my pet too old or too young to handle the stress of traveling? Is my pet in good health? Is my pet okay in a carrier?
It might also depend on how long your flight is. Is it a nonstop journey, or do you have several layovers? A lot of these factors go into my decision-making when deciding to travel with Weston and Fira. Plus, traveling with two dogs can be extra tricky so you’ll want to be sure you have all the essentials packed with you while your pups stay comfortable.
If you’re looking for the best airline dog carriers, you’ve come to the right place. But first, a few general tips:
Introduce your dog to their new airline carrier.
Be sure to purchase your airline carrier a few weeks before your trip so your dog has time to familiarize himself with his new dog carrier. Your pup will probably be inside this bag for hours at a time, so you want to make sure he’s super happy and comfortable inside it.
I like to air it out inside the house for a few days, so the new plastic smell comes off of it and smells more like you. Put one of your pup’s toys and a few treats inside and let your dog enter it willingly. Lots of treats and praise! You can even start out with short car rides with your dog in their new carrier. This trick really worked for me in the beginning while Weston and Fira got used to it.
Tip: Put one of your used t-shirts inside the bag, so it smells like you. It will create the most safe and comfortable environment for your pup!
Book a pet airline ticket for your dog.
Most airlines are pet-friendly and will allow you to bring one pet in an airline-approved dog carrier. They must fit comfortably inside and be able to stand up and lay down in the bag.
Usually, it is an extra $125 fee one-way to bring a pet in-cabin and no, they don’t get their own seat. 🙂 You must place them in their carrier underneath the seat in front of you and you’re typically not allowed to take them out of their carrier for the duration of the flight.
Before you buy your pet carrier or choose your airline, make sure to check the airline’s pet policy page and get the maximum measurements for pet carriers. I’ve listed the most popular domestic pet-friendly airlines below with their max carrier measurements!
- UNITED – 18 inches length x 11 inches wide x 11 inches height
- AMERICAN AIRLINES – 18″ x 11″ x 11″
- JETBLUE – 17″ x 12.5″ x 8.5″
- SOUTHWEST – 18.5″ x 13.5″ x 8.5″
- DELTA 18” x 11” x 11”
- ALASKA AIRLINES 17″ x 11″ x 9.5″
Some airlines have a weight limit (ie: Jetblue is 20 lbs), including the carrier, so be sure to check your airlines pet policy page and/or call their customer service line before you book. Weston is around 24 lbs and Fira is 14 lbs, so I always need to take into account which airline will work for them. And sometimes if you’re lucky, the airline won’t actually weigh your dog when you check in, BUT I’ve definitely had a few occasions where the flight agent did weigh pups before flying or had some extra questions. Be sure you don’t exceed the limit!
Tip: American Airlines, Delta, Alaska Air and United have no weight restrictions!
Now, which are the best dog airline carriers?
I reviewed 8 of the best dog carriers out there.
I go simple and practical with the trusty Sherpa brand. They are the go-to travel dog carrier and very affordable. Definitely one of the best airline dog carriers out there.
I have the size Medium for Fira and size Large for Weston. Fira is around 14 pounds and Weston fluctuates between 22-24 pounds. The carrier is nothing fancy, but it is well-constructed and gets the job done! It also has a fleece lining inside and zip pockets.
This is another Sherpa carrier I got at Petco recently — I wanted an updated one! Love the camel-colored straps and it’s very sturdy. He’s been pretty comfortable with this airline-approved dog carrier.
Another option I found is an Amazon Basics Airline Pet Carrier. It looks practically the same and has great reviews. From looking at the measurements, it looks like the Amazon carrier is 2 inches smaller in width than the Sherpa. Space is definitely something to keep in mind when flying with your dog.
Prefer wheels for your dog’s airline carrier?
Ta da! Sherpa also makes the same airline-approved dog carrier with wheels. I haven’t used this one yet or even seen it in person but I’ve heard great things about it from friends of mine who travel with their dogs.
This rolling carrier on wheels is one of the largest bags you can find on the market that is still airline approved, so if you have a medium dog on the larger side (hi, French Bulldogs!), try this! 21″ length x 12″ width x 12″ height. From reading the reviews, it looks like if you book a middle seat on Southwest, this carrier will fit perfectly under the seat. The general consensus is “no” to the aisle seat and “sometimes” for the window seat. Middle seat it is!
Just attach the wheels underneath your carrier and you can freely walk around the terminal with ease. This is a lifesaver as carrying the pup(s) on my SHOULDER running through the terminals inevitably late to my gate with my luggage is not exactly pleasant. I literally feel lopsided because one side of my body is just dragged down by their weight. Frenchies are heavy.
When you’re on the plane, just remove the wheels and place the dog carrier underneath the seat in front of you.
Mr Peanuts Expandable Pet Carrier. A nice option for an airline-approved dog carrier that is well-ventilated with mesh sides and top. One side expands so your dog can have room to stretch out and play while you’re waiting at the gate. It’s also fully collapsible, so when you’re not using it, you can store it under your bed or in your closet with minimal space. A great feature for a dog carrier. 18″ L x 10.4″ W x 11″ H
The Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Carrier is a new find that fits the bill. The length of the bag is 22 inches so it’s nice and roomy. If the airline’s under-seat requirements are less than 22 inches, the sides of the dog carrier can also fold up to 18 or 16 inches! Read full review here.
Suppets Mesh Pet Carrier. This airline-approved dog carrier with the quilted design is my new favorite! It’s pretty petite at 15″L x 10″W x 10″H, so it’s perfect for Fira and very lightweight – an important feature when flying with your dog. It also comes in a variety of patterns like the adorable floral design. This one is best for pets under 17 lbs.
SturdiBag Extra Large Pet Carrier. This one is a lot different than the others, as the top is rounded (instead of square). It has a flexible height, so you’re able to “smoosh” down once you’re on your flight with your dog. The measurements are a bit larger than most airlines’ max but from the reviews it seems like it’s able to fit due to its smushy-ness! If you read the Amazon reviews, it’s really great for larger small dogs like French bulldogs, corgis, etc (up to 50 lbs). Weston felt right at home in this little bat cave while we were flying.
Love Thy Beast Tote bags are not airline approved nor a carrier but I always bring mine when I travel because it’s so handy while we’re out and about in a new place. It’s perfect for cab rides, subway, etc. You can easily fold it and tuck it away in your luggage.
What If Your Dog Is Over The Weight Limit?
If your dog is over 20-25 pounds, it can be frustrating to travel with them since most airlines and even hotels have weight restrictions. JetSuiteX is a great option if you’re close any of their departure airports — most are located in large cities like Burbank, Dallas and Miami. It’s semi-private and sometimes not that much more than an economy flight!
All pets are allowed. If your dog fits in a carrier, there is NO charge! If you have a medium-large dog, just give them a call and pay for the space (not sure how much it costs). They will be allowed to lay on the floor directly in front of your seat.
JSX currently services the West Coast and East Coast. On the West Coast, you can fly to-and-from Burbank, San Jose, Oakland, Vegas, Phoenix, Denver and Dallas. On the East Coast, you can fly to-and-from Dallas, New York, Destin FL and Miami.
These jets have 30 seats and are located in hangars where you literally show up 15 minutes before your flight and hop on. No security lines — or lines in general — and you’re at one city to the next in less than an hour and a half, in most cases.
Get $20 off with my referral code: GPMOJX
Don’t forget to check out my post What To Pack When Traveling With Dogs. Safe travels!