Best Airline Approved Pet Carrier (Review & Buying Guide) in 2019

Taking your dog on a plane with you can be a real adventure or a complete disaster. And the factor that decides it? The airline approved pet carrier.

To keep your furry pet safe and sound and yourself relaxed and worry-free during the flight, it’s important to invest in a quality airplane approved pet carrier. Since air travel is quite stressful for canines, you need a reliable pet crate that will not only meet all airline requirements but keep him comfortable during the entirety of the flight. To help you find such a crate, our research team has checked major airlines’ rules, regulations, and recommendations for pet traveling, and read dozens of reviews of dog crates. The result is the list of what we think are the best airline approved dog crates on the market. Check out it out, as well as our buying guide and FAQs section to learn all there is to know about flying with your pet and how to pick the right crate that will not only fit your pup but your own budget too.

airline approved pet carrier
Petmate Two Door Top Load Kennel

Petmate Two Door Top Load Kennel

Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel

Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel

Petmate Sky Kennel

Petmate Sky Kennel

Airline Approved Pet Carrier Buying Guide & FAQ

So there you have it – our Top Picks for the best airline approved pet carrier. We tried to include different features, different prices, and different sizes here, so you can find the product that fits best your and your pet’s needs and preferences. Of course, picking the right airplane approved pet crate is no easy task: the crate has to meet your specific airline’s rules and regulations, it has to be spacious and comfortable for the pet, it has to be sturdy and durable to withstand nervous biters, and it has to fit your budget. No wonder you may feel lost!

But that’s why we’ve prepared this handy little buying guide. Here, you can read all about how to safely fly with your dog, including what to look for when buying airline approved pet crates, how to pick the right size and how to measure your dog. We also answer some of the frequently asked questions about the topic, so make sure you check out that section as well. So, without further ado, let’s get into the buying guide!

What To Look For In An Airline Approved Pet Carrier

While most airlines allow pets to be transported in the baggage area, some do not. For example, Southwest Airlines doesn’t allow dogs and cats to be transported with checked baggage, which means you have to store your pet under the seat in front of you, which further means that only small pets are allowed. However, all airlines have rules and regulations when it comes to pet transportation. Those that allow animals to be transported in the baggage area (such as American Airlines) have very specific guidelines that need to be met, including the travel pet crate. To make sure your pet is safe to travel either with you as a carry-on or alone in the cargo, make sure your pet travel kennel meets your specific airline’s rules and guidelines.

With that out of the way, here are some of the most important things to look for when purchasing a sky kennel:

  • Meets airline guidelines

As mentioned, the number one thing you want to pay attention to when looking to buy a travel crate for your dog, is whether or not it meets most airline requirements. All crates featured on our list meet this criterion, however, you should always check with your airline whether or not your kennel meets their specific guidelines.

  • It’s the right size

Besides meeting your airline requirements, a travel crate also needs to be the right size for your pet. This is of crucial importance not only because your dog should be comfortable during the flight, but because airlines use certain indications to ensure the pet has enough room to turn normally while standing. The animal should also be able to comfortably sit and stand, as well as to lie in a natural position.

For further products like this, check out our review of the best dog crates for travel and home use.

  • It’s sturdy

Some dogs get nervous when flying and may chew on the kennel in an attempt to relieve their stress (or break free!). That’s why it’s important to choose a pet cage that’s sturdy and secure. Of course, the kneel also needs to be lightweight, which leaves us with  – plastic. Most travel crates are made of plastic plus some other material (usually steel bolts, wires, etc.), and that’s exactly what you want to look for. Make sure the plastic is durable and the entire construction is sturdy  – this is especially important if you have a larger dog or you know she gets nervous/excited while flying.

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  • It’s comfortable

Considering your pet will either sit or stand in one cage during the entirety of your flight, it’s crucial to get a comfortable product. This ties into the size of the crate – if it’s the right size, your dog will be able to comfortably lie down, move, turn around and sit. If it’s not… well, let’s just say your poor pet will be very unhappy. Besides the right size, make sure the kennel can fit other things your pet may need during the flight, including a pillow or absorbent bedding, and food and bowls.

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How to Measure for an Airline Approved Pet Carrier

As you can probably tell by now, getting the right size dog crate is of utmost importance. There are two major reasons for this. The first one is the comfort of your pet – if you pick the wrong size, your dog may actually physically suffer during the flight. Usually, pet parents pick a size too small for their dog which can lead to animal discomfort as they’re unable to sleep or relax. For this reason, if you’re unsure about the product’s size chart and how it translates to real life, it’s wise to pick a larger size, just in case. The second, equally important reason you need to choose the right sky kennel size is because most airlines have strict guidelines about the size of pet crates. If the airline considers your kennel too small for your dog, you will be rejected.

But how is one supposed find the right dog crate size? As a general rule of thumb, your dog should have enough space to:

  • Stand and sit erect
  • Turn about while standing
  • Lie in a natural position.

If you need more specific details about measuring your pet for the crate, the IATA offers a detailed list of requirements (starting from page 3) that should help you.

Airline Approved Pet Carrier FAQ

Q:  How can I tell the difference between dog crates, dog kennels, and pet carriers if they’re all called kennels?

A:  Although there are differences between a dog crate, kennel and carrier, when it comes to airplane approved pet carriers, they’re all the same. However, outside of that, pet crates or kennels and pet carriers are different things. Pet crates/kennels could be considered as the Jack of all trades – they can be used for traveling by plane, car, train and around the home if you’re trying to housetrain/kenneltrain your dog. Pet carriers, on the other hand, are used for small breed dogs while traveling by car or foot. There’s also a difference in the materials: kennels or crates are made of plastic or other durable material (especially airplane approved crates), while dog carriers are made of fabric, which can be more comfortable for the animal.

Q:  How should I prepare the pet carrier?

A:  There are several things you should do to prepare your pet’s crate before traveling:

  • Properly assemble the cage: make sure everything is screwed in properly, fastened and if necessary, zipped. Follow the instructions that come with the crate carefully.
  • Attach the stickers: most crates come with everything you need, including the Animal stickers, which you should attach to the outside of the crate. The filled out Declarations sticker should be on top of the crate.
  • Provide the certification: attach a vinyl sleeve of copies of your dog’s veterinary certifications, as well as your contact information with a tape to the top of the crate.
  • Clean the container: the crate needs to be washed with soap and water and disinfected if reused. Absorbent bedding should also be placed inside.
  • Provide food and water: normally, animals do not require additional feeding during 12 hours following dispatch, but water should be provided if the total journey lasts more than 12 hours. In any case, separate food and water troughs must be provided.

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Q:  Where in the aircraft will my pet go?

A:  Small dogs can go in the cabin and will be stowed beneath the seat in front of you. However, some airlines don’t allow pets in the cabin no matter their size, which is why it’s always best to check with your specific airline first, so you can prepare yourself and your pet. Larger pets will be transported as special baggage in a ventilated hold. However you end up transporting your pet, know that airlines generally take very good care of passengers’ pets.

Q:  Can I take my pet in the cabin?

A:  If your pet is deemed to be small enough by your airline’s guidelines, you’ll be able to take it with you, in the cabin. However, some airlines do not allow pets in, no matter their size and breed, in which case they’re transported as special baggage.

Q:  Should I sedate my pet?

A:  IATA recommends not sedating pets, and the American Veterinary Medical Association agrees – unless certain conditions require it or the veterinarian recommends it, that is. This is because commonly used tranquilizing drugs lower the blood pressure of the animal which is also what naturally occurs at high altitudes. This can lead to heart ad respiratory problems.

airplane dog crates

Our Top Pick for the Best Airline Approved Pet Carrier

No matter which airline-approved travel crate you choose from our Top Picks list, we’re sure both you and your pet will be satisfied. But we feel like the Petmate Two Door Top Load Kennel takes the crown. This small-pet kennel is perfect for pet parents who prefer traveling with their dog by their side – in the cabin – and has everything an owner and the pet needs:

  • It’s sturdy and durable
  • It’s properly ventilated and comfortable
  • It’s convenient and easy to assemble
  • It’s budget-friendly.


  1. Traveler’s Pet Corner, IATA
  2. Traveling with pets, American Airlines
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