Airline Approved Pet Carrier: The One Thing You Need When Traveling With Your Pet

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Airline Approved Pet Carrier

You’re planning a big move. You know what you’re going to pack in your bags, where you’re going, what airline you’re flying in… Everything has been meticulously planned out and is just waiting for the moment it’ll be carried out. You’ve got that giddy sensation in the pit of your stomach; those well-known nervous butterflies that we all get prior to executing a big plan, no matter how well thought-out it may be.

You can’t help thinking there’s something missing, though… Your dog Rocky has been with you for years, and it didn’t even occur to you that getting him on the plane might be a bit of a hassle. Now you realize the magnitude of your error, and with the flight just days away, you start to panic. What now? It’s alright. Let’s start with the basics.

Top Airline Approved Carriers

There are, of course, Approved Pet Carriers that are approved not only by the airlines but also by the users (and their pets) alike! Here’s a short list of the top three:

Sherpa Pet Carrier

Sherpa Pet Carriers are designed for small dogs. They are Soft Sided Pet Carriers that can comfortably house a small dog.

Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier
Travel in comfort and style with Sherpa Airline Approved Original Deluxe Pet Carrier. Perfect for traveling by plane or car, for a trip or just to the vet. Patented spring wire frame allows rear of carrier to be pushed down conforming to under-seat requirements. Carrier’s mesh panels offer ventilation, locking zippers for safety. The seat belt security strap doubles as a luggage strap. Top and side entry make it easier to comfortably load pets. Large side zippered pocket holds your important pet travel needs. The no-slip shoulder strap is adjustable with a padded support for comfort.
Rated 4.00/5.00 by Certapet
Buy on Amazon!

Petmate Sky Kennel

The Petmate Sky Kennel is a Solid Carrier that is typically used for larger dogs traveling as cargo, though Petmate makes kennels that fit smaller and medium-sized dogs, as well. It is a solid crate made of heavy-duty, high-impact plastic that, though quite heavy, is also resistant to shock. It has a wire door and windows for added air flow.

Petmate Sky Kennel
The Petmate Sky Kennel stays safe and durable during travel while keeping pets comfortable and stress-free. The heavy-duty plastic shell, non-corrodible wing-nuts, extra strong steel wire, and interlocking door provide long-lasting protection. The 4-way vault door offers extra security, keeping the door locked in place and safe for transport. The ventilation openings surrounding the kennel help keep pets comfortable by providing plenty of fresh air. The kennel also comes with a travel kit full of necessities, such as 2 "Live Animal" stickers, clip-on bowls, and ID stickers. The kennel comes in six sizes from 21" to 48" for all sizes of pets. The larger sizes offer a vaulted door with a horizontal wire for extra security, while smaller sizes have a carrying handle for easier transport. The kennel meets most airline cargo specifications for easy and safe travel, but pet owners should always check with individual airlines. Dual food and water clip on cups.
Rated 4.50/5.00 by Certapet
Buy on Amazon!

Sleepypod Dog Carrier

The Sleepypod Dog Carrier is perfect for that puppy who loves to nap. It is a Pet Carrier that is completely enclosed from any light so that when the entrance is zipped up, the inside is effectively shut off from all light. Your pup will appreciate it if he or she needs their beauty sleep!

Sleepypod Air in-Cabin Pet Carrier
Sleepypod Air is a revolutionary carrier that redefines in-cabin pet travel. Air adapts to the various under-seat storage requirements set by different airlines while providing maximum comfort for your jet set pet. Worrying about buying a carrier that will not fit under a plane seat is a thing of the past. Our patent pending folding system allows pets to travel in the largest space possible while the airplane is in the air, yet still allows for stowage under an airline seat during takeoff and landing. When the captain says you can recline your seat, rotate the Sleepypod Air so it is between your feet and expand the ends so both you and your little friend can stretch out comfortably for the duration of the flight. In-cabin pet travel has never been so comfortable. Straps on both sides allow you to secure the Sleepypod Air in your car. A pass through pocket allows you to secure the Sleepypod Air to the telescoping handle on carry-on luggage.
Rated 3.50/5.00 by Certapet
Buy on Amazon!

Planning to Travel with Your Pet? A Pet Travel Carrier is a Must!

What is an Airline Approved Pet Carrier? It is a mobile unit for your loyal friend to kind of just “chill” while the two of you are traveling. Of course, not ALL mobile units are apt for air travel, so the International Air Travel Association (IATA) came up with a set of rules and requirements which serve as the standard for Airline Approved Pet Carriers internationally. More on that later.

Documents Required

Yup, Rocky must also hop through some bureaucratic hoops to gain permission to board. The documents aren’t hard to get; they’re just an extra couple of steps before you can secure a space for Rocky either in the cabin or in the cargo hold.

  • Rocky may need a pet passport. Yes, a passport. These passports are called Pet Travel Schemes (PETS), and many countries, including the United States and the nations of the European Union, require a passport for your pet.
  • He will have to pay a visit to his vet to make sure his vaccines are up-to-date. If so, he’ll need a certificate proving that he is, in fact, up to date, and if he’s not, he’ll need to update his vaccinations ASAP. More on this later.
  • Some countries request that you provide proof that your furry companion doesn’t carry any other critters on his fleece or inside his stomach. Yes, I do mean ticks, heartworms, and other parasitic vermin.
  • Rocky will need to be fitted with a microchip to travel with you. Your vet can do this for you, and all this can be taken care of in a single visit.
  • There’s a catch (isn’t there always?). If Rocky happens to be a pup of less than four (4) months, he cannot travel. At all. Also, in some countries, Rocky would not be able to travel if he has been vaccinated for rabies less than 21 days (or three weeks) prior to the flight date. In some cases, he must get treated for tapeworm 24-120 hours before boarding!

However! All this is manageable, and you will reap the benefits of all your hard work when you arrive and Rocky hops on your lap with joy!

Pet Carrier: Airline Approved

Owner holding cat in carrier

There are three vital features that you must look for in Pet Carriers that would classify them as being “airline approved.” These features are:

  • Mobility: It is important that the carrier is… Well, easy to carry. That’s why this feature is of vital importance. Some Pet Carriers have wheels, while others serve simply as pet backpacks or puppy purses. Whatever floats your boat!
  • Restriction: This may sound bad, but it’s actually very important. Rocky needs to be safely and snugly restricted in his own personal space. Freedom to waltz around the terminal, or later in the cabin, might be stressful for both the passengers AND Rocky. Nobody wants that.
  • Ventilation: All animals need to breathe. Any creature would feel uncomfortable in a restricted space with no air flow!
  • Pockets: This is a pretty important feature to look for in Pet Carriers. You’re going to want to have Rocky feel like he’s at home as much as possible, so it’s important to pack Rocky’s treats, toys, and other supplies to make the trip as relaxing as possible for both yourself and your furry fluffball.

Each airline has a different set of rules for pet transportation. Next, we will delve into the nitty gritty of each airline.

American Airlines

So you’ve secured tickets with American Airlines (AA). Fortunately, AA has a pretty easy pet policy. Basically, AA allows small pets to travel with you in the cabin if they are over eight (8) weeks of age. Also, the pet’s weight combined with the carrier cannot exceed 20 lbs (9 kg). The pet must remain in the carrier, with the door closed, at all times, and the carrier must be stowed under the seat. If you’re traveling to or from Hawaii, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, or on transatlantic flights, Rocky cannot travel with you on the cabin with AA. Sorry!


Unfortunately, Jetblue is a little bit more restrictive than American Airlines. Only four pets are allowed PER FLIGHT, and this means that if there are already four pets on board, then Rocky is going to have to catch the next flight. The weight limit with Jetblue is the same as AA; 20 pounds or 9 kg.

United Airlines

United Airlines allows various different kinds of pets as an in-cabin companion on most flights in the borders of the United States. Only one pet may be carried with you in addition to your carry-on luggage, so Rocky may have to fight for some leg room.


If you want to have Rocky accompany you in the cabin, Delta Airlines will only accept small pets who fit in an Airline Approved Pet Carrier that must be stored under the seat in front of you. If Rocky’s dimensions are too big, don’t worry! Delta Airlines has a shipping service called “Delta Cargo” with which you can safely ship Rocky to his new home.


Southwest also has a comparatively restrictive pet policy. They only allow small, vaccinated, domesticated pets in the cabin as long as they fit in an adequately sized Airline Approved Pet Carrier under the seat in front of you. If Rocky is a big boy, he won’t be traveling in-cabin with you.

Airline Pet Carrier Pricing

Okay, let’s get down to business. How much each of these costs and which ones are the best. Are the good ones worth investing more money in? Are in-cabin Airline Approved Pet Carriers priced differently than cargo Pet Carriers? Will any Pet Carrier do? Also, what do I need from my pet carrier? Let’s break it down.

What to Look for in a Pet Carrier

Dog in carrier next to suitcase

Aside from the list of very important features mentioned earlier, there are more details that one must tend to if you want Rocky to have a pleasant flight.

  • The size of the Airline Approved Pet Carrier is of vital importance. Rocky needs to be comfortable. For international flights (and most domestic ones, too), it is of utmost importance that Rocky’s Pet Carrier be Rocky’s length + half his leg length,  providing more than enough room for him to stretch out. The Approved Pet Carrier has to be tall enough so that Rocky’s ears do not touch the carrier’s “ceiling” (so to speak) while he stands. Rocky has to be able to turn and lie down comfortably.
  • All Airline Approved Pet Carriers MUST contain metal (NOT PLASTIC) nuts and bolts. The bolts CAN have plastic caps; this is allowed, but the bolts and nuts that are made entirely of plastic aren’t accepted.
  • Many airlines require that the Pet Carrier have a single metal door. Plastic doors are sometimes fitted onto some models, but these aren’t so efficient because a particularly savvy dog could pull the door and collapse the whole structure, and with metal doors this is impossible.
  • Of course, for the crate to qualify as an Airline Approved Pet Carrier, it must contain two separate dishes: one for water, the other for food. Rocky must not go hungry or thirsty. Here’s a tip: because normal, room temperature water is likely to spill and leave Rocky soaked, try freezing the water. This way, the spill will be minimal and Rocky will not get dehydrated!

Types of Carriers

There are several different types of Pet Carriers that Rocky can hang out in during the flight. In this next section, we will explore all of them.

Foldable Carriers

Foldable pet crates come in many different designs, but they are often seen as a latticed mesh of strong wire that is easy to collapse and transport when your pet isn’t inside it.

Soft Sided Pet Carrier Airline Approved

These Airline Approved Pet Carriers are probably among the most popular Pet Carriers used in most flights. Its design is soft yet durable, and they often come with a strap with which you can carry your pet comfortably. It fulfills all the necessary features of an Approved Pet Carrier, and it’s a comfortable space for your pup.

Solid Carriers

Solid pet carriers are good if you want Rocky to relax and get some sleep. They are shock-resistant, sealed off carriers that protect the animal from annoying or antagonizing sounds and movements.

Backpack Carriers

Much like the name suggests, backpack carriers are Pet Carriers that can be strapped to your back and can comfortably house a small dog.

Airline Approved Pet Carrier with Wheels

This Pet Carrier is probably the cutest of all. This type of Pet Carrier has the double advantage of being comfortable for both the owner and the pet. The pet goes inside the Carrier, and the owner rolls the carrier around using the wheels! How cute.

Additional Information to Consider

Remember, if Rocky has never flown before, he may be in for a bumpy, scary, and stressful couple of hours. It’s extremely important that you make sure he does its “necessities” well before the flight, thus avoiding any “accidents” during the flight, because of nerves or a full stomach or bladder. Help your pet have a comfortable flight and consider their necessities as well.

Common Questions

How much will I have to pay for my pet to travel with me?

Should I sedate my nervous pet?

Are cargo holds safe for my pet?

All product and Company names are Trademarks™ or Registered® trademarks of their respective holders.

Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase may earn a commission. Keep in mind that we link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission we receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.