The Best Airline Approved Dog Carriers and Crates in 2019

When you’re looking at going on a real trip, it’s tempting to bring your canine companion along.

Like all things with air travel, however, it gets pretty complicated when you’re trying to figure out how to do things. If you’ve been looking into carriers for your dog while you’re jet setting, then perhaps it’s time to dig into our guide.

We tested out the best airline approved dog carriers around and we’ve brought them straight to you. Along with that, we put in the research to clarify exactly what you need to bring your dog along for the ride, so let’s hop right in and see if we can’t help you and Fido make your next trip together.

The Difference Between a Carrier and a Crate

For the purposes of this article we felt it was necessary to make a distinction between carriers and crates.

Carriers are used for carry-on with smaller dogs. They’re generally soft-sided and will allow you to bring your dog with you.

Crates are destined for checked baggage and cargo areas. For medium to large dogs, it’s the only real option, since you can’t exactly cram a Labrador or Greyhound underneath your seat or in the overhead carry-on bins.

There’s advantages to both modes of travel for those dogs which are sized appropriately but in the end it’s largely your dog’s size that’s going to determine what you need.

A Word About “Dangerous Breeds”

For certain dogs there are further restrictions. After a highly publicized incident with a Pit Bull that chewed through the side of a plastic crate and got into some wiring there was a change in the way that dogs could be transported.

The exact regulation is IATA CR-82 and we made sure to find a crate which fit the bill. Some of the others can be modified to pass if you’re willing to put in the work as well but as a general rule it’s become expensive to transport these breeds.

The following breeds are covered underneath the regulation:

  • American Bully
  • Pit Bulls
  • American Staffordshire Terriers
  • Anatolian Shepherd Dog
  • Ca de Bou
  • Cane Corso
  • Caucasian Ovcharka
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro
  • Perro de Presa Canario
  • Presa Canario Tosa
  • Rottweilers

Some airlines and countries also have their own regulations around what they consider to be a dangerous breed.

It’s actually not a new rule, but until recently it wasn’t often that dogs were covered under it, just large and considerably more dangerous animals.

Your best bet if you own a potentially “dangerous” breed of dog is to call the airline ahead of time and make sure that you have an IATA CR82 compliant crate. 

What to Look for in Your Air Travel Carrier or Crate

Since we’re looking at a wide variety of different products, you’ll want to separate the best qualities of crates and carriers from each other when the time comes to pick yours out.

Thankfully there are a lot of things which they have in common when you’re looking into them however.

When you’re trying to select your airline approved dog carrier or crate, make sure that you look at all of the following:

  • Durability-Even a carry-on is going to go through a lot of stress when you’re traveling. Crates have to be sturdy enough to last in the back end of the plane as well, so you’re going to need to make sure that whatever you pick out is durable.
  • Breathable-Both crates and carriers need to be as breathable as possible. This gets a little bit more difficult with crates but for the most part it’s one of the first things which designers keep in mind since they usually don’t feel like the legal issues involved with a suffocated pet are worth cutting corners.
  • Size-Airlines will charge based on size. Carry-ons will, of course, need to be able to work with the restrictions for carry-on bag size while crates should be sized appropriately for the dog. Hopefully any dogs in the back of the plane are already crate trained or you may begin to run into some issues.
  • Airline Friendly-It’s a sad fact that when you’re dealing with anything with a lot of regulations around it… you may not be getting something which passes all of the regulations. With air traffic, things are even more complicated since each airline has their own rules. We’ll try to help you make the best estimation of the byzantine rules which surround air travel in our reviews and FAQ.
  • Pricing-As a general rule, these crates are going to be more expensive than most on the market. Carriers will also need to be “up-to-code” so their expense can seem high for a few pieces of plastic and breathable mesh. And… unfortunately, if you own a dog who falls under the IATA CR-82 classifications you’ll have to spend at least a few hundred dollars.

Apart from those common qualities, you should look for anything extra which might help out.

Crates primarily benefit from easy locking, reinforced construction, and places for the food and water bowls for your pet.

Since the crate isn’t going to be sitting with you the entire time your dog’s convenience and comfort should be the highest priority when you’re selecting one.

Carry-ons should have a few extra pockets to allow you to carry some food and water for the pet as well as any indispensable items which you were planning on bringing with you but don’t fit in your “personal item” bag.

Since your dog will be with you you’ll want to make sure that both of you get convenience from the whole affair.

The 6 Top Dog Carriers of 2019

These dog carriers are specifically designed to allow you to securely carry your dog onboard with you. All of them are great, but each is suited for its own specific situation. Read on and see which fits best for you and your pet.

Best Overall Pet Carrier for Air Travel

Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier

Sherpa produces this excellent airline approved pet carrier. It comes in three sizes to suit small dogs and has a durable, springy frame which allows it to stand tall once it’s been assembled. When sized appropriately this pet carrier is designed to make sure that your pet doesn’t have excess room to move around and cause trouble.

It’s incredibly well ventilated, since the vast majority of the exterior is comprised of a breathable, tough mesh.

It’s a bit light on pockets however. It only comes with a single, small zippered pocket on one side. It’s not a huge drawback, considering that it performs its stated function extremely well.

The best part is that it’s made specifically to conform to under seat dimensions in commercial airliners so you don’t have to worry about being oversized. It also works quite well in the backseat of a car, which we felt was a nice touch overall.

4.8/5
Our Opinion:

For those who are mostly concerned about being able to bring along their pet on the plane we recommend the Sherpa. It lacks some of the convenience of our other favorites but it’s extremely durable and well designed which puts it at the top of our list.

  • Super durable
  • Spring-frame keeps things rigid once assembled
  • Sized perfectly for under seat accommodations
  • Comes in three different sizes
  • Very basic
  • Large model isn’t backed by “Guaranteed on Board”

Runner Up for Best Overall Pet Carrier for Air Travel

SturdiBag Large Flexible Height Pet Carrier

The SturdiBag is one of the most durable soft-sided pet carriers that we took a look at. Overall it’s a fantastic way to bring your pet on your travels although we’re not sure if it will pass on as many airlines as the Sherpa.

It’s also quite a bit harder to assemble but that just meant a few more minutes spent at home getting the rods in rather than being a serious issue.

It comes with a safety strap and an interior tether to keep your dog from moving around too much. Most dogs don’t seem to mind, and hey, it lets them get in on the sardine experience when you’re flying in coach as well as keeping them safe.

It’s extremely light as well.

The main issues that we saw were that we aren’t sure how well the mesh on the sides is going to hold up with a panicked dog and that it sticks out a bit under the seat. While we haven’t heard of anyone hearing complaints from flight staff about the latter part, it’s a possibility on some of the stricter airlines.

Other than that it’s actually a bit sturdier than our favorite when it comes to the sides and the flexible roof allows you to make sure it’s securely under the seat if there’s a size difference.

4.5/5
Our Opinion:

For those who are looking for something a little bit extra, the SturdiBag has quite a few features that our favorite doesn’t. It just lacks the guarantees and has a higher price tag which may turn some consumers off.

  • Excellent construction
  • Privacy flaps on the windows
  • Interior tether and external safety strap
  • Flexible top to get it under seat
  • Mesh on windows seems a bit mediocre
  • Doesn’t fit all the way under all seats

Most Convenient Airline Approved Pet Carrier

Prefer Pets Pet Travel Carrier with Privacy Covers

While it’s not quite as sturdy as our favorites, Prefer Pets has done a bang up job with this excellent pet carrier.

It’s quite sturdy, easy to carry, and has a pocket. At long last… a usable pocket. Well, at least it’s actually big enough to be of some use to the average dog owner rather than the minimal pockets of the Sherap model that ended up being our favorite.

It has mesh sides and all four of them are able to be covered quickly and easily with the privacy blinds that come with it. If your dog starts to get anxious with all the hustle and bustle you can close them up and ease their mind.

It’s also machine washable, which is a nice touch since there’s a pretty high probability of accidents on longer flights.

Oddly enough, it’s also one of the shortest ones around. That’s a good thing as far as we’re concerned, considering the increasingly stringent restrictions which are applied to anything you’re carrying on a plane.

4.5/5
Our Opinion:

If you’re looking for something convenient and small, then you should check out this excellent pet carrier for air travel. It’s not the sturdiest one on our list but it’s a great way to get going and the small size virtually guarantees no problems.

  • Great sizing for carry on
  • Privacy panels on windows
  • Excellent mesh for ventilation
  • Excellently sized pocket
  • A bit expensive for being so basic
  • Seems to lose structure quickly

Best Purse Style Carrier

Argo by Teafco Petagon Airline Approved Pet Carrier

It’s cute, it’s lightweight, and it’s actually surprisingly sturdy with all things considered. The Argo is a perfect purse styled bag for your pet if that’s your thing. It comes in a cute pink color as well, with a surprising amount of padding and some extra safety features that make it stand out.

It’s got five different pockets as well, allowing you to carry whatever you might need while you and your canine are traveling. It’s a great way to go for those who want to be able to carry extra stuff.

Since it’s a purse style carrier it’s also nice that it has room for a strap to be put through. This includes seatbelts in case you’re worried about your little one during a car ride.

While it’s airline-approved for the most part, we found that the majority of people using it also like to bring it around for everyday use. That’s definitely a good thing, since the higher price tag means that it should be able to be used more often than most people fly.

On the negative side of things… well, it’s a bit small and it only comes with the light-pink, purse-styled aesthetic so not everyone is going to be carrying one around.

4.5/5
Our Opinion:

If you’re looking for an airline approved, purse-style dog carrier this is the one for you. It’s an excellent choice, but it has a specific aesthetic and it’s rather expensive at the end of the day.

  • Tons of pockets
  • Very safe construction
  • Quite sturdy
  • Easily carryable and airline approved
  • Very specific aesthetic
  • Rather expensive

Best Backpack Style Pet Carrier

Prefer Pets Hideaway Backpack

It’s a little bit different, but we thought it made a great male-focused counterpart to the Argo. This backpack style pet carrier is an excellent way to get your pet onboard and it’ll leave your hands free to carry the rest of your stuff.
Surprisingly, for something so novel, it’s also a remarkably resilient carrier overall. We can see it lasting for a long time to come for even frequent travelers due to the high-end stitching and composite mesh on the sides.

It also has a great little pocket to carry anything extra which you might find yourself in need of. Overall it adds up to a great experience for both you and your pet.

We didn’t see any issues with it when it came to in-cabin carry either, it’s sized appropriately and sturdy enough to pass even a rigorous inspection.

The price is pretty high, however, and the bag has a tendency to squish down on your poor pooch’s head while it’s being carried as a backpack so it’s best to only do it for short jaunts.

4.9/5
Our Opinion:

If you’re carrying a lot of luggage while you meander through the airport, however, then you’re likely to get a lot of use out of this backpack-style carrier. Just be careful when it’s in backpack mode and you’ll be alright.

  • Super durable
  • Privacy covers
  • Backpack style strap for hands-free carrying
  • Can be carried as a normal pet carrier as well
  • A bit pricey
  • Squishes down on top when carried as a backpack

Best Budget Pet Carrier for Air Travel

AmazonBasics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier

It’s basic, almost ridiculously so, but if you’re on a tight budget then you’ll be able to use this little pet carrier to get on your way without any issues. Upfront we’re not going to recommend it for frequent travelers, however, as during testing it showed that it wasn’t the sturdiest thing around.

It’s actually remarkably similar to the Sherpa, being pretty much a direct downgrade from the big brand with no real differences other than cheaper materials being used in its production.

That’s definitely not a bad thing since the Sherpa is probably the best designed of all of the air travel dog carriers that we looked at. It’s also quite a bit cheaper.

It’s really not ideal for frequent travelers, but if you’re only planning on a flight or three then you’ll be able to use it without any worries.

4.5/5
Our Opinion:

The AmazonBasics version of the airline-approved travel carrier is excellent, but we fell that it’s not as sturdy as our favorites.

  • Excellent price
  • Spring frame
  • Faux-fur lining
  • Mesh siding for ventilation
  • Cheaper build-quality than Sherpa
  • No privacy screens

Top 5 Airline Approved Dog Crates

For riding in checked luggage or cargo there’s a whole different set of requirements than the relatively simple fabric crates used as carry ons. We’ve assembled four of the best and one IATA CR82 compliant crate for you to look over. Remember that if your dog falls under the “dangerous breed” classification then you’ll have to make sure that you can pass IATA CR82.

Best Overall Airline Approved Crate

SportPet Designs Plastic Kennels Rolling Plastic Wire Door Travel Dog Crate

It rolls, it moves, and it’s sure to keep your canine secured in the back of the airplane. This was one of the best overall crates we could find for checked baggage and cargo areas and the wheels are just an added bonus which will make for smoother sailing while you’re headed through the airport.

It comes with clip on food and water dishes for your dog, it assembles easily, and overall it’s pretty much a dream to work with compared to some of the more troublesome options which didn’t make our list.

As long as you’re stickered up, you’ll be good to go. This crate was designed with airline specifications and regulations in mind and it shows in the attention to detail. We can’t think of an airline this would have trouble with, unless your dog falls under the IATA CR82 requirements.

It’s the best of the best in this regard.

The only real downfall here is the price and the fact that the small size doesn’t come with attachments for wheels.

4.5/5
Our Opinion:

If you’re looking to get through the airport hassle-free with a medium or large dog, then this is exactly what you need. It’s sturdy, durable, and passes through airline regulations with astonishing ease.

  • Incredibly sturdy
  • Well ventilated
  • Clip on food and water bowls
  • Larger sizes come with wheels
  • Quite expensive
  • Small version does not come with wheels

Best Travel Crate for Smaller Dogs

Petmate Two Door Top Load Dog Kennel

While there aren’t any larger sizes available, this is a great option for those with smaller dogs who might just be too anxious to handle the crowded cabins of modern airliners.

It’s well-ventilated and open on all sides, allowing your dog to see and breathe quite well while in the confines of the back. It’s also quite sturdy, more than enough for the dogs that will be able to fit in it.

The biggest problem is that the largest version is only 24” long which limits the size of dog which this one can be used with.

It’s also available in four different colors if you’re into that sort of thing. Our favorite part is that it’s top loading, however, which is great if you’ve got a squirmy dog who doesn’t care for the carriers.

Some people seem to have trouble putting it together, however, and like any plastic crate you’ll want to check carefully for burrs anywhere that your animal can stick their nose.

4.5/5
Our Opinion:

For smaller dogs and even cats, however, this smaller crate from Petmate is an excellent option and you might just find it to be one of the best purchases you’ve made for travel time with your pet.

  • Excellent, durable construction
  • Great size for smaller pets
  • Easy to carry
  • Top loading for fussy animals
  • Sometimes come with plastic burrs
  • Hard to assemble

Best Budget Airline Approved Pet Carrier

AmazonBasics Two-Door Top-Load Pet Kennel

If you’re short on money but want to make sure that your dog or cat comes along with you safely then you might want to check out this one. Once again AmazonBasics produces a slightly lower quality version of the big name’s brand, in this case being a replica of the PetMate.

Once again, unfortunately, it only comes in smaller sizes so make sure that your pet can fit. This one is actually even smaller than the PetMate, coming in at 23”.

The ventilation holes are also a bit smaller, which can be a serious negative for some animals. Just be aware if your pet has any lung issues or other needs and clear things up with the vet before you actually use it.

Thankfully, it’s also available at a great price.

Add in the fact that the whole top slips to the side to allow you to put your pet in if they’re fussy and you’ve got a winner for a cheap little plastic crate.

4.5/5
Our Opinion:

It’s not our favorite, but it’s cheap, sturdy, and quite doable at the end of the day. You’re not in bad hands if you choose to go with this option from AmazonBasics.

  • Super sturdy
  • Well-done latch
  • Top can be opened in order to put animal in
  • Comes in two sizes
  • Not suitable for larger dogs
  • Not the best ventilated of the bunch

Best Air Travel Crate for Large Dogs

Petmate Sky Kennel

Petmate makes some of the best on the market and if you’re planning on taking a larger dog skywards then you’ll need to invest in a good crate. This is one of the best that we found, especially for those breeds which don’t require IATA CR82 requirements.

These reinforced crates range in size from quite small to four feet long, so you’ll be able to fit a dog of nearly any size within. They’re virtually indestructible from the interior for most dogs as well, making them a great fit for those who might get a bit worried.

Unfortunately, the largest size of crate seems to cause issues with many airlines but not all so you’ll have to go through with a lot of problems if you’re planning on using it frequently and switching airlines.

On the other hand, it’s extremely sturdy, reinforced, and many people even use it for a crate at home for their dogs. It’s virtually escape proof, giving it some extra use around the home.

4.5/5
Our Opinion:

Traveling with large dogs is always a bit sketchy, but your best bet for those dogs which don’t require IATA CR82 standards might just be the Petmate Sky Kennel. There’s a size for every dog as well if you just want the extra security.

  • Super durable and strong
  • Passes most airline qualifications
  • Wide variety of sizes
  • Cost effective option for larger dogs
  • Not IATA CR82 compliant
  • Largest size has some issues getting through as checked baggage

Best IATA CR82 Compliant Travel Crate

Collapsible, Durable Aluminum Dog Crate from Grain Valley

If your dog falls into the “dangerous breed” designation then you’ll have to do something special. We’ll direct you to look at the price tag first… because this is about as low as you’ll be able to get for an IATA CR82 crate since the vast majority of them are actually custom made.

As a crate… well, it’s practically invincible. It has to be in order to pass through the new requirements put on the owners of certain breeds.

It’s also collapsible, making it easier to store when you reach home or your destination. It’s a little thing for the most part, but it’s a nice touch since it’d be hard to fit in the back of a taxi or regular vehicle once you’ve hit your destination.

Overall the IATA CR82 compliance pretty much requires that the crate be excellently built and this one definitely lives up to the standards you’ll need to pass in order to take your “dangerous” pup along with you.

4.5/5
Our Opinion:

If you’re looking for an IATA CR82 compliant crate then this is one of the few available non-custom options. The price is high… but it may be your only option in many cases.

  • Super durable and strong
  • Compliant with international standards
  • Collapses for easy storage
  • Relatively light due to aluminum construction
  • High priced
  • Not the best ventilated

Airline Approved Pet Carrier FAQ

Q: How do I know if a crate is compliant with my airline?

A: You can check the regulations on their website or call it in beforehand to make sure. The sad fact is that when something is on the borderline, however, it can definitely go either way. There’s really no way to be 100% sure until you hit the gate.

Q: Should I use a carry-on for my small dog?

A: We’ve found that carry-ons tend to be easier to use when it comes to regulations and the other minutiae that surround the air travel process. We know of more people getting away with things being slightly out of line this way than with checked or cargo.

Q: What are my other options for large dogs?

A: Freight companies are often willing to transport animals. If you’re taking a shorter trip then your best bet is, sadly, to look into some kind of animal lodging and leave them behind for the time being. In many cases this still ends up being a logistical nightmare but it’s certainly more doable than airline travel for some animals.

Q: Do all of these crates and carriers meet airline regulations?

A: We did our best to make sure that there weren’t any reports of people missing their flights due to their choice of crate or carrier. We noted any specific exceptions that we found in other reports, since taking all of the ones we tested on an airline would be prohibitive on our budget.

Q: Can I use these carriers or crates with cats?

A: Of course. Cats and dogs are covered under the same regulations with respect to carry-ons and checked luggage.

Q: What about other pets?

A: Nope, you’re out of luck. Any other animals will have to have special arrangements made for their travel depending on the airline.

Q: What should I do if my carrier or crate is turned down?

A: Your best bet is to make sure you have a backup plan before you decide to embark. It’s always good to think ahead and in this case it’s doubly important..

Making Sure You’re Ready for Air Travel With Your Dog

When you’re getting ready to travel with your dog, you need to make sure that you have more than just your airline approved carrier or crate.

All of the following are pretty much essential to making sure that the experience goes smoothly:

  • Water-Water is always essential to have on hand for your pet, no matter how short the flight might be. Make sure to carry an extra bottle, and you may even wish to consider making sure you have a doggy water bottle in your bag.
  • Toys-Bring your pet’s favorite toy so that they can ease their mind if they start to get anxious during the flight.
  • Food and Treats-Both of these are pretty much a no-brainer. How much of either you need to bring will largely depend on exactly how long the flight is but it’s usually a good idea to bring more than you think you’ll need.

In addition to the things you’ll need to bring, do the following to make sure that you have an easy time and that nothing is going to go wrong:

  1. Check with your veterinarian. Some breeds don’t do well flying, other dogs may have health problems which can make flying with them a risk to their health.
  2. Call the airline before the flight. Before you even arrive at the airport you should probably
  3. Get to the airport early. This is important either way, but it can take some extra time to get your pet through the check-in so give yourself an additional fifteen minutes over what you would normally take.
  4. Avoid feeding your dog just before the flight. It’ll make them uncomfortable in the short run, and the inevitable results aren’t going to be pretty.

Getting Your Dog “Flight Ready”

Some dogs will naturally take to their crate or carrier without a problem, but that’s not going to be the case for every animal out there.

When you’re looking to get your dog ready there’s a few additional considerations you should take into account.

Training your dog to like their crate before you go is imperative. They’re going to be in it for awhile, they’re not going to be able to get out. That can make some animals anxious and unhappy, so work them into liking it by feeding them treats whenever they enter of their own accord.

Afterwards it’s usually advisable to take your pet on a few car rides in the crate or carrier to get them used to moving while in it.

Basically the comfortability of the entire affair depends on some small training preparations.

Make sure that you take them before you leave for the flight since an anxious dog can cause some serious problems during transit.

Most dogs will take to it well without too many problems, of course. Our canines are remarkably adaptable creatures.

You’ll know best when your dog is ready.

Get Your Flight On… With Your Pup

Traveling with your dog is a great way to make memories which will last for a lifetime. Rather than leaving things to chance, it’s a good idea to make sure that you have the best airline dog carrier or crate possible.

Don’t go in blind either, make sure your dog is ready and that you’ve got things prepared adequately long before you leave.

The truth is that being able to fly smoothly with your dog is more dependent on your training and preparations than the carrier.

But you’ll still need your airline approved carrier or crate, so pick it up now and start to get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

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