Updated: Feb 8
Hey it’s Amanda, I am the owner of PurplePup Pet Transportation and a full-time flight nanny.
I travel all across the US using commercial flights to deliver dogs, cats, and rabbits to their owners. Some weeks I make three or four deliveries which means I take lots and lots of flights on all the major US airlines.
The number one concern I hear from pet parents who are wanting to travel with their own pets is WHAT CARRIER SHOULD I USE?
-WHAT IF IT IS TOO BIG TO FIT UNDER THE SEAT?
-WHAT IF MY PET CAN’T STAND UP AND TURN AROUND?
-WHAT IF WE GET DENIED?
Not to worry. I got you, boo.
I have tried all of these pet carriers so you don’t have to waste your money on something that may not be TSA or airline compliant. So to save you all the stress of picking out the right pet carrier for your flight here are the SIX BEST AIRLINE APPROVED PET CARRIERS of 2023.
Each airline has their own domestic pet policies but in general most soft-sided pet carriers need to be within the dimensions of 18"L x 11W"x11H", have ventilation on three sides, the carrier and the pet need to be under 20lbs, and your pet should be able to comfortably stand up and turn around. They emphasize that as long as the soft-sided carrier is flexible and can conform to the under-seat dimensions then it should be no problem. Again, each airline has different rules that may allow more weight or larger dimensions, but if you follow these basic guidelines you will be compliant no matter what airline you fly on.
My Personal Criteria
In addition to these TSA guidelines, I have my own set of criteria when choosing the perfect pet carriers for my flights.
-DOES IT FLEX under the airplane seats? When getting settled you often have to pop the carrier under the mechanics of the seat and pop it back into place. Plus, airlines will allow bags that exceed their dimensions as long as it is soft and flexible and can conform to the under seat dimensions.
-IS IT COMPACT AND LIGHTWEIGHT for easy transport when not in use? Does it fold up nicely? Can I fit it inside of my carryon bag? Plus, every once counts when I am carrying a 16 lb puppy around the airport. I want the bag to be as light as possible without sacrificing on quality.
-WILL IT KEEP IT’S SHAPE and not cave it on itself and the animal while at rest. Yes, I need it to be flexible but not so flexible that it completely deflates when we are at rest.
Let's Dive In!
X-Zone Medium Pet Carrier
Perfect for pets 16lbs and under
Dimensions are 17.5L by 11W x 11H
The sturdy steel frame of this carrier will ensure your cat, dog, or rabbit can relax comfortably without fear that the bag will lose its shape. It has a waterproof polyester fabric and ventilation mesh on three sides. The removeable base insert helps support the weight of your furry friend while also providing a washable pet bed for their comfort. It has one large opening at the end and a topload opening zipper entry. The remaining long end has a convenient deep pocket for treats and your boarding pass or cell phone. It folds down nicely when not in use and weighs just two pounds. It flexes, but not much! Because of the how sturdy this frame is I do not recommend the Large size for airline travel.
Amazon Basics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier
The medium measures 17x10x10 and supports pets 16lbs. The bag is quite sturdy so I recommend up to the medium size to comfortably conform to under seat dimensions of most airlines. It features ventilation on all four sides. Includes a sturdy fleece liner for pet comfort and features handle straps as well as a longer adjustable over the shoulder strap. It is fully collapsible and weighs just over 2lbs making this a great lightweight solution. This is my go-to for kittens and cats.
This stylish dome shaped carrier is perfect for small breed dogs under 16lbs. The neoprene construction offers a stylish take on pet travel. This trendy design also allows a nice rest area for your pup once settled in your hotel or travel destination. Simply unzip one side, unfold the luscious travel matt and let your doggy relax in style. The dimensions are 17x11x10 making it perfectly airline compliant. It is designed to fold nicely when not in use. At 3.75 lbs it is one of the heavier bags available but given the quality of this brand it feels like a fair trade.
Katziela Luxury Pet Carriers
I have used two of their high-quality travel bags. Both the Luxury Rider Pro and the Bone Cruiser Pro have now become standards in my travel bag collection. Their bags are specifically designed with your pet’s comfort and safety in mind. The spacious interior measures 19x13x15! You must be thinking, how can that possibly be airline compliant?! The truth is this bag is cleverly designed to fold under the seats without caving in on your pet once he settled. The nylon mesh ventilation gives maximum airflow, is virtually impossible to bite or scratch through, and is easily cleaned and sanitized after use. Plus, these two models also come with removable wheel bases so you can save your poor arms from lugging your furry friend around the airport all day. Simply remove the wheel base before boarding and you are ready to fly.
Roverlund Airline Compliant Pet Carriers
Both the large and medium sizes are perfect for US domestic travel. It has ventilation on three sides and a removeable insert in the back pocket to allow for easy under-seat manipulation. The lush interior pet bed and safety leash clip make this not only a great plane option but also a suitable dog bed or carseat. The rope handle also detaches for use a leash! Not to mention, the design is unique and stylish and they have a variety of colors to match your personal aesthetic. This bag is great for small breed pets and families who want to invest in a bag that will last for many flights to come.
And finally, my tried-and-true, never lets me down, any puppy, kitty, or rabbit approved; The Sherpa Deluxe. The medium is part of the guaranteed on board program meaning it comes with a promise to fit under the airline seat on all major airlines. I personally use the large and this model is so flexible that it will easily flex to under-seat dimensions while also retaining it’s shape. It folds flat and is just over 2lbs allowing me to travel with several pet carriers in my carryon bag for longer trips. It is easily washed and sanitized in between uses without diminishing the quality of the polyester material or the mesh ventilation. It features openings on three sides and a generous pocket for all your travel goodies. The price-point is unbeatable making this my top pick for any cat, dog , or rabbit needing to travel domestically.
I hope this list of my SIX FAVORITE AIRLINE COMPLIANT PET CARRIERS puts your mind at ease as you consider traveling with your own pet throughout the United States. What other pet carriers are you interested in seeing an honest review about from a professional flight nanny? Let me know in the comments.
If you want the help of a professional flight nanny to travel with your furry family member we would love to offer you a free quote by reaching out to me on PurplePup.net and requesting a quote.
Thanks friends, I will see you in the sky!