Airline Pet Carriers: What You Need to Know
Keeping your pet safe and comfortable when flying
You should think carefully when selecting an airline pet carrier. This will provide your pet a safe and comfortable place to be when taken out of its environment. There is nothing more important than your pet's safety and a good quality pet carrier will provide that.
Verify airline pet policies
The first thing to do is to be sure that the airline that serves your route permits pets to travel in the cabin. Airline rules for pets traveling in-cabin vary, however, many airlines will allow small cats, dogs or household birds to travel with an adult passenger in the cabin (except when traveling to the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Hong Kong and several other countries that require pets to enter as cargo). To view the requirements for individual airlines, visit our airline pet policies page.
Generally, your airline will only allow one carrier per passenger, one pet per carrier (unless small puppies) and a maximum of two to three pets per flight.
Know the space you have to work with
Secondly, you will need to be sure that your pet's size and weight is according to airline regulations. Normally, pets up to 18" long (tip of nose to base of tail) and weighing about 11-12 pounds should comply with airline policies, but these do vary with each airline.
Note: you can call the airlines and inquire as to the aircraft that serves your route. They will tell you how much room is under the seat in front of you.
Your pet's carrier must fit under the seat in front of you and must have the following features:
- a waterproof bottom - be sure and also get some good pet pads.
- adequate ventilation - at least 2 sides of your carrier should have mesh ventilation.
- security (zippers, not snaps) - we carry zipper locks to accessorize your bag.
- must enclose your entire pet - your pet's head cannot stick out of the carrier.
Our airline pet carriers are all airline compliant for cats and dogs as long as the carrier is the proper size for your pet. We suggest that you travel with a soft sided carrier as they will compress into smaller spaces than rigid carriers.
You will also want to get a carrier with a strong, padded shoulder strap. Privacy panels are excellent ways to keep your pet calm and not expose them to airport activity. Also, you should protect your carrier with a pet pad. Accidents (especially with cats) can be difficult to wash out.
What about airline carriers on wheels? As convenient as pet carriers with wheels are, pet owners should remember that these carriers are made for smaller pets and they may not be a flexible as regular airline pet carriers. Bergan and Sherpa both make carriers with wheels. Measure your pet carefully if you are thinking of getting one of these carriers.
Measure your pet
You will need to measure your pet from tip of nose to base of tail (A) and from the top of the head to the ground (B) when your pet is standing erect. (tip: use a piece of string, then measure the string) Compare these measurements to the interior measurements of your carrier. Your pet's measurements should be slightly smaller than the carrier measurements. If you need an extra bit of height, the SturdiBag carrier will give you that.
The airlines will require that your pet can stand up and turn around comfortably in the carrier. If you stuff your pet into a carrier, you are not providing for your pet's comfort and stand the risk of being turned away at the gate.
You will need to take your pet out of its carrier at the security checkpoint. For that reason, it is wise to carry a metal-free collar and leash with you. If you feel your pet could escape when removed from the carrier, ask for a room. It will take a bit more time, but better than having your pet escape.
Need More Information?
We have current and accurate information on tips on flying with your pet on an airplane, clearing airport security with your pet, tips on booking an ticket for you and your pet, and microchipping your pet, It is all here and we are adding more articles all the time You may be interested in changes in DOT reporting of airline pet incidents, getting your pet in shape to travel, private airline charters and more. There are also articles on fun things to do with your pet: camping with your pet, traveling in an RV, and other adventures that you and your pet can share. Check out our pet travel information.