Airline Pet Carriers: How To Choose The Right One for You?

Airline Pet Carriers

How To Choose the Right Airline Approved Dog Carriers for You and Your Pet...

When you are off to Grandma’s for the holidays, a date with your cross-country steady and a trip to an important agility competition with your doggie, airline pet purse carriers are the answer. Airlines approve dog carriers that can be placed under the seat in front of you, so the choice of a dog purse carrier is critical to your comfort.

Small dog carriers that fit the criteria for commercial airline travel include kennels, Sherpas, hard-sided fashion travel bags and soft-sided purse carriers. The most important feature of any travel pet bag is that your dog fits completely inside and has ample ventilation while in the bag. Your fur companion will be stuck inside the purse for the hours of travel and may become fearful or stressed if the environment is not cozy.

The solution is to upgrade your dog carrier to an airline approved carrier made especially for your pet’s comfort from boarding area waits to flight time to destination arrival. 

Sherpa and Kennel Carriers

The kennel shape bag looks more like traditional dog carrying containers but are way more stylish and have a luxury feel. The features include side zip entry opening with ventilation panels. Others have top opening with ventilation and side windows with roll-up vent panel covers.

BK Atelier designs, Jaraden’s Mon Ami Black and Petote’s Carle Black fit the bill for Sherpa or kennel styles that include luxury interior plushness for your pet and external materials that fit your fashion sense.

Hard Sided Fashion Carry Bags

Pet Purses that have stiff sides give your small traveler the security of roominess that will not cave in on him. However, meeting the size restrictions is even more crucial with this style. Since the hard sides will not give when you put the bag under the seat, the maximum height needs to be lower than 12” to give your dog or cat breathing room from the top. Side vents are critical in a hard-sided carrier.

The Jaraden Shacara Dog Carrier is not only quite fashionable, but also sized to fit comfortably under an airline seat. For Teacup/Toy breeds that are under 10 pounds, the interior is lushly padded and gives your fur traveler roominess within the 10 inch overall height.

By contrast, a hard-sided carrier such as the Jaraden Cambridge would not be allowed because the hard sides will not fit under the airline seat as required.

Soft-Sided Purse Carriers

The soft sides of these popular purse style bags allow you to fold over the sides if needed under a seat lower than 13 inches. The cushioned interior added to a soft exterior made of cloth, leather or canvas gives your doggie the feel of coziness and security.

Purse pet carriers come in designs that remind you of couture looks you may have in your own closet for your handbags. The BK Atelier Nat and Kate dog  carriers have eco-friendly material with perforations, side entry vents and room enough for a square fur blanket to make a cozy nest.

Petote brand Metro and Metro Couture bags come in three sizes, Small, Medium and Large to fit pets from under 4 to under 15 pounds. Interior plush surroundings, exterior designer fabrics and a couture look define these dog carriers that work for men and women.

Another soft-sided hit is the Kwigy-Bo Alex Black. With quilted exterior and padded interior, your dog will love the extreme comfort as he sleeps through the flight. You will love the elegant exterior design and material plus all the pockets to carry treats, a blanket and supplies. There is even room for your basic necessities, like wallet, ticket and passport.

Rolling Pet Carriers

To maneuver both of you from your drop off or parking point to rolling your pet onto the airplane, the carriers that perform like a suitcase make a lot of sense. Because a rolling carrier is designed to fit your pet, the advantages include a large vent opening that doubles as an entry and lookout for your doggie. The pullout handle and wheels make it so much easier to get where you need to be quickly.

The Petote Rolling Rio carriers are a great way to have your fur buddy ride in comfort while you experience less stress. These Rio bags are structured so they can bend down to fit under a seat and can also be used as a backpack and car seat  to give you even more convenience.

Domestic Airlines Pet Travel Information

U.S. Air Pet Carrier Rules:

Small domestic dogs or cats allowed in cabin

Only one pet carrier allowed

Up to 2 pets of same size and weight allowed in one carrier only if both can stand up and turn around inside the carrier together

Pets in cabin must be 8 weeks old or more

Pets remain inside the approved container under the seat in front of you at all times

A pet carrier counts as your carry-on bag allowance; pack with this in mind

Maximum pet carrier size is 19" long x 13" wide x 9" high.

Soft-sided pet carriers may exceed these dimensions slightly because they are collapsible. If you're on a US Airways Express aircraft, the maximum size for pet carriers may be smaller. An agent can check the exact under-seat dimension in the class you're booked to ensure the carrier will fit underneath the seat in front of you.

Note: The space under an aisle seat may be smaller and may not accommodate a pet carrier.

Carriers must be:

Leak-proof and escape-proof

Ventilated on at least 2 sides with no part of pet protruding from vent panels

Roomy enough for pet to stand up, turn around and lie down in comfortable position

Made of metal, wood, polyethylene plastic or composite material of similar strength; soft-sided or cardboard containers made specifically for pet carriage may also be allowed


American Airlines Pet Carrier Rules:

One pet carrier allowed as carry-on bag and pay carry-on pet charge

Minimum pet age is at least 8 weeks old

Pets stays in Kennel under seat in front of you for entire in-cabin time and flight

American Airlines accepts only 7 in-cabin kennels per flight; American Eagle flights can have only 5 kennels per flight, with only one allowed in First Class. CALL RESERVATIONS TO MAKE ARRANGEMENTS IN ADVANCE.

Kennels must be

Roomy enough for pet to stand up, turn around and lie down in comfortable position

Hard-sided kennels can be a maximum of 19 in x 13 in x in.

Soft-sided collapsible kennels such as Fashion Purse Carriers or Sherpa bags can be larger if they're made of water-repellant, padded  or nylon material and have mesh ventilation on 2 or more sides.


Delta Pet Carrier Rules:

Only small pets that can ride in carry-on kennel without touching sides or protruding and able to move around, stand up and lie down in kennel comfortably

Kennel fits under the seat directly in front of you

Maximum kennel dimensions depend upon the aircraft used on your flight. Contact Delta reservations to get the appropriate kennel size information.

Maximum carry-on kennel dimensions are determined by your flight. You must contact Delta Reservations to determine the appropriate kennel size.

Pet must remain inside kennel with door secured at all times, including Delta lounge, boarding areas, during boarding and deplaning and during flight.

Pet must be at least 10 weeks old for both domestic and international travel.

Pet kennel counts as carry-on baggage and pet carry-on fees will apply.

One pet per kennel, except:

 *One female cat/dog may travel with her un-weaned litter if the litter is a minimum of 10 weeks old to 6 months of age.

*There is no limit on the number of animals in the litter.

Two pets of same species may be in kennel IF they are same size and weight, are between 10 weeks and 5 months old and can move around comfortably together in the kennel. They will be charged as one pet.

Soft- or hard-sided kennels must be leak-proof and ventilated on at least two sides. Kennels are not sold at Delta Ticket Counters, but are available at most pet supply stores.


South West Airlines Pet Carrier Rules:

Small vaccinated domestic cats or dogs that are contained in an approved pet kennel are allowed in -cabin to ride under the seat directly in front of you.

NOTE: Animals are not allowed to travel in-cabin on international flights or any itinerary that includes an international flight.

Pets accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity of 6 is reached.

Only one pet carrier per paying customer allowed.

Pets must be checked in at ticket counter, although customers can still secure their boarding pass online, at curbside check-in, the airport kiosk or the ticket counter.

We maintain the right to refuse acceptance of a cat or dog exhibiting aggressive behavior or any other characteristics that appear incompatible with air travel.

Acceptable Pet Carriers:

Approved Southwest Airlines Pet Carrier: 17” long x 10.5” high x 10” wide)

Soft-sided and hard-sided pet carriers provided by customer are acceptable as long as they fit the maximum dimensions of 18.5” long x 8.5” high x 13.5” wide.

Federal Regulation: The pet carrier must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of the Customer and stowed in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.

Pet Carrier Requirements:

Must be leak-proof and well ventilated.

Only one pet carrier per ticketed passenger.

Two pets of the same species (2 cats or 2 dogs) may be in carrier as long as they can both move around with ease within the kennel.

Pet may not protrude from carrier and must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down with ease.

Pets must be enclosed in carrier with entry door closed at all times, including gate area, during boarding and deplaning and for entire flight duration. Failure to follow this requirement may result in denial of transportation of the pet onboard Southwest Airlines.


United Airlines Pet Carrier Rules:

A pet traveling in cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel.

The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.

The maximum dimensions for hard-sided kennels are 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches high. The recommended maximum dimensions for soft-sided kennels are 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high. Soft-sided pet carriers may exceed these dimensions slightly, as they are collapsible and able to conform to under-seat space without blocking the aisle.

With the exception of birds, there may only be one pet per kennel, and the animal must be able to stand up and turn around comfortably. Two birds may travel in the same kennel.

Restrictions based on aircraft, cabin and seat:

In-cabin travel for pets is booked on a space-available basis.

A customer traveling with an in-cabin pet cannot be seated in the bulkhead or an emergency exit row.

One pet per flight is allowed in United Global FirstSM, United First®, United BusinessFirst® and United Business® (select aircraft only).

Pets are not permitted in United Global First, United First, United BusinessFirst or United Business on Boeing 747, 757, 767, 777 or 787 aircraft due to limited storage space under the seat.

A customer traveling with an in-cabin pet in United Economy on Boeing 757-200 aircraft will need to be seated in a window seat due to limited storage space under aisle and middle seats.

Four pets per flight are allowed in United Economy® on all United flights.

The number of in-cabin pets allowed varies by United Express® partner airline. For additional information about the operating carrier’s in-cabin pet policy, contact the United Customer Contact Center.

The rules and criteria for inc-cabin air travel listed above is current as of the publication date of this article (October 13, 2015). Be sure to call your airline before you travel to get the most up-to-date requirements and in many cases, your pet reservation fees.

Unless you are hopping on your private jet, Gulfstream or NetJet, you will need to follow the rules for in cabin dog air travel when you fly with your precious pet on commercial flights.