10 Best Airline-Approved Pet Carriers 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

an airline-approved dog carrier

Our furry companions are the closest of friends and family and we bring them along wherever we go. These days, companies make it easier than ever to transport our pets, even on airlines. Airline-approved pet carriers will allow you to take your little buddies on vacation, and they may be even more comfortable along the way!

Comfort isn’t the only factor to keep in mind when picking one of these carriers for your furry family member. It needs to be durable enough that your pet’s claws won’t rip it apart, and strong enough to be carried without collapsing around them!

With so many options available, this can seem like a daunting decision. Don’t worry, we’ve simplified the whole process by testing as many of them as we could get our hands on. The following ten reviews will compare our favorites and hopefully, help you decide.

A Comparison of Our Favorites for 2020:

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Mr. Peanut's Expandable Mr. Peanut's Expandable
  • Fits pets up to 15 pounds
  • Waterproof
  • Breathable
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Sherpa Travel Deluxe Sherpa Travel Deluxe
  • Fits pets up to 22 pounds
  • Seatbelt strap
  • Mesh for maximum breathability
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Pet Peppy Expandable Soft-Sided Pet Peppy Expandable Soft-Sided
  • Fits pets up to 14 pounds
  • Rolls on wheels
  • Extendable handle
  • Henkelion Soft-Sided Collapsible Henkelion Soft-Sided Collapsible
  • Fits pets up to 15 pounds
  • Affordable
  • Waterproof
  • EliteField Soft Sided EliteField Soft Sided
  • Built-in leash
  • Seatbelt loops
  • Very lightweight
  • The 10 Best Airline-Approved Pet Carriers – Reviews:

    1. Mr. Peanut’s Airline Approved Pet Carrier – Best Overall

    Mr. Peanuts Expandable

    Stylish for you and comfortable for your pet, Mr. Peanut’s airline approved pet carrier was our favorite out of all the products we tested. It weighs just two pounds, but it can carry pets up to 15 pounds. Keep in mind, these carriers are designed to house pets laying down, so it may seem cramped when they’re standing. Once laying down though, this carrier can be expanded to give them extra room. Even better, the expansion area is made from all mesh to allow even better breathability.

    We all love our pets as a member of the family, and just like everyone else, we want them to remain safe. To that end, this carrier has seatbelt attachments to protect your dog while you’re in the vehicle. The base is made from nice hard plywood that won’t bend and collapse when carried with your furry friend inside. Soft, thick fleece covers the plywood to make sure your little buddy is nice and comfortable for the entire ride. This was one of the more expensive options we tested, but the value is top notch. Altogether, we think it’s the best choice of airline-approved pet carriers available.

    Pros
    • Multiple color variations
    • Fits pets up to 15 pounds
    • Waterproof and breathable
    • Seatbelt attachments
    • Weighs only 2.7 pounds
    Cons
    • One of the more expensive options

    2. Sherpa Airline Approved Pet Carrier – Best Value

    Sherpa

    At just over half the price of our number one pick, we think the Sherpa 55552 pet carrier is the best airline-approved pet carrier for the money. This one is available in three different sizes and the large carrier will accommodate pets up to 22 pounds. This makes it one of the biggest ones we tested and a great choice for those with slightly larger pets. The bottom of the carrier is lined with a soft faux lambskin liner to keep your pet comfy and cozy. Even better, it’s fully washable so you can make sure it’s always clean and smells nice.

    We appreciated the seatbelt straps to allow you to buckle in your buddy while in the vehicle. There’s also plenty of ventilation since the walls of the carrier are all mesh. The locking zippers should be strong enough to keep your pets contained for long travel. Unfortunately, we felt that the zippers were a weak point and the locking function didn’t keep them closed well enough. Larger pets may not have the hardest time getting these zippers open, so you’ll want to keep a close eye when you first put them in.

    Pros
    • Available in three sizes
    • Large fits pets up to 22 pounds
    • Seatbelt strap
    • Mesh for maximum breathability
    • Affordably priced
    Cons
    • Weak zippers

    3. Pet Peppy Airline Approved Pet Carrier – Premium Choice

    Pet Peppy Airline Approved

    Carrying your furry companion through the airport may not be the most comfortable option for you or your pet. To solve the issue, Pet Peppy has released this wheeled pet carrier with an extendable handle for you to pull it like a suitcase. This will be a much less bumpy ride for your pet and much less of a workout for you. This model can hold cats and dogs up to 14 pounds, so it’s best suited for the smaller pets. Once they’re inside, though, the sides expand to give them more room.

    While we liked the convenience of the wheels and telescoping handle, this carrier wasn’t without its flaws. First, it’s very heavy at just over 6 pounds. This isn’t a problem while you’re wheeling it, but occasionally, you’ll have no choice but to pick it up. The extra weight may make this more difficult for you. The Pet Peppy carrier is also one of the most expensive options we tried, so expect to be shelling out some extra cash for the convenience it provides. For us, the tradeoff is worth it, which is why this carrier earns our premium choice recommendation.

    Pros
    • Rolls on wheels
    • Extendable handle
    • Pets up to 14 pounds
    • Expands to give pets more room
    Cons
    • Weighs over 6 pounds
    • One of the more expensive options

    Another type of bag for dog: The top poop bags of the year


    4. Henkelion TSA Airline Approved Carrier

    Henkelion

    Affordable and collapsible, the Henkelion airline-approved pet carrier has a lot of redeeming qualities, but it just misses our top three. It’s able to carry pets up to 15 pounds, which seems to be about the average for this type of pet carrier. This one is crafted from waterproof material except for the mesh side panels that allow for ventilation. Inside, a safety leash clips to your pet’s collar to secure them during transport. This is a safety feature we always appreciate, though we’d also like to see loops for a seatbelt.

    While this carrier is meant to be collapsible for storage, this also left the walls weak enough to collapse when pets are inside. This means it doesn’t stay standing properly and can occasionally even flip over on its side. Despite this flaw, it’s a very solid performing carrier that didn’t have any other glaring weaknesses. For the price, it’s just a little shy of the quality provided by our budget pick, the Sherpa 55552.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Pets up to 15 pounds
    • Waterproof
    • Safety leash inside
    Cons
    • Doesn’t stay standing properly
    • Collapses from soft walls
    • Sometimes flips over

    5. EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier

    EliteField

    This soft-sided pet carrier from EliteField is available in a medium or large size. It has some safety features that we always like to see in a pet carrier, such as the built-in leash inside to secure your pet, or the loops to allow the whole carrier to be secured by a seatbelt. This was also the lightest of all the pet carriers we tested, weighing in at just 1.6 pounds.

    Being the lightest is great for carrying this around, but the drawback is decreased durability. To start, some pets we had stay in the EliteField chewed right through the mesh in no time. We also noticed that carrying your pet in this carrier is much less convenient than other carriers since the bottom is soft and collapses around your pet. This is much less comfortable for your companion, and nobody wants our furry friends to be uncomfortable on purpose. The final flaw of this carrier was the strong chemical odor when we first received it. The smell dissipated after a few days, but we were apprehensive about using it while the smell persisted.

    Pros
    • Very lightweight at just 1.6 pounds
    • Built-in leash
    • Seatbelt loops
    Cons
    • Strong chemical odor
    • Soft bottom collapses when carrying pet
    • Mesh is easy to chew through for pets

    6. X-ZONE PET Airline Approved Travel Carrier

    X-ZONE PET Airline

    Priced right in the middle of the pack, the X-ZONE PET airline-approved soft-sided pet travel carrier has one of the highest weight capacities of any carrier we tested at 20 pounds. At just under 20 inches long, it’s also got some of the most room for your pet, though it still fits under most airline seats. Unfortunately, it’s not expandable, so you’re stuck with the size it is now. We were still excited since it’s pretty sizable to begin with. But when we tried to put a puppy in, we noticed pretty quickly that it was a bit smaller in reality than advertised.

    Despite being one of the strongest on paper, this carrier has a cheap feel to it. It doesn’t seem as durable as many other products we compared it against. No pets escaped during our testing, but you will see the wear from the trips it has taken. Altogether, it’s a good product; we just think several others provide better bang for the buck and will leave you and your furry loved one more comfortable, and ultimately, happier.

    Pros
    • Holds pets up to 20 pounds
    • Fits under the seat of most airlines
    Cons
    • Smaller than listed dimensions
    • Cheap construction
    • Not expandable

    7. PetAmi Airline Approved Pet Travel Carrier

    PetAmi Premium Airline

    If you’re looking for the airline-approved soft-sided pet travel carrier with the largest color selection, then look no further than the PetAmi. Available in both small and large sizes, this carrier is offered in 15 different color variations, more than any competitors we’ve seen. It’s still priced affordably, landing in the middle of the price range.

    We noticed rather quickly that this carrier is shorter than advertised. It only supports pets up to 12 pounds anyway, so it won’t fit anything besides very small pets. It also didn’t seem to want to hold shape, a problem we find to be quite frustrating for the poor animal inside. When the walls collapse, it’s far from comfortable for your pet, and can be scary for some. Several products we tested exhibited this issue, but others included stronger frames to hold shape during travel. We prefer models that hold shape during transport and have weight limits higher than 12 pounds. For these reasons, the PetAmi will only make it to the seventh position on this list, despite all the great color options.

    Pros
    • Available in two sizes
    • Many color variations
    Cons
    • Max weight of 12 pounds
    • Shorter than advertised
    • Doesn’t want to hold shape

    Traveling by car? Check out these soft crates for dogs


    8. Akinerri Airline Approved Pet Carriers

    Akinerri Airline Approved

    Available in a medium or large size, the Akinerri pet carrier is a good combination of price and strength, so we had high hopes for it. The medium can carry 15-pound pets while the large can carry pets up to 18 pounds. Both are priced affordably and available in three colors. The frame keeps it standing which we appreciated, though several hard to miss weaknesses were holding this one back.

    The pad your pet will lie on is very thin with this pet carrier. Compared to competitors, we just didn’t feel that it was anywhere near as comfortable for our pets. It’s also not expandable, which is a feature we prefer to see on every model. The worst problems were with durability. While carrying one of our beloved furballs, the shoulder strap broke and we barely made the catch in time! We also had some trouble with the zippers not holding up after just a few trips with this carrier. In the end, we prefer the longevity of something like Mr. Peanut’s carrier in our first position.

    Pros
    • Large fits pets up to 18 pounds
    • Affordably priced
    • Frame keeps it standing
    Cons
    • Pet pad isn’t very thick or comfy
    • Shoulder straps are very weak
    • Zippers commonly break
    • Not expandable

    9. Zampa Airline Approved Pet Carrier

    Zampa Airline Approved

    Priced at the most affordable end of the spectrum and with five colors to choose from, the Zampa pet carrier is the most budget model we tested. It only holds pets up to 10 pounds which is much less than we hope to see. Due to the low price, it’s also the only carrier that didn’t have a plush pad for your pet to lay on. Instead of nice fleece, the Zampa comes with a thin black pad that’s far less comfortable than what we like to see our pets traveling on. More than just that, the bottom of this carrier collapses while you carry your pet. This is even more uncomfortable for them and we like to see hard bottoms in our pet carriers so it doesn’t collapse while we get them to the airplane. Altogether, we weren’t very impressed with this pet carrier, and suggest spending just a little bit more to get our budget pick, the Sherpa 55552.

    Pros
    • Very cheap price
    • Multiple colors
    Cons
    • Only holds pets up to 10 pounds
    • No plush pad for your pet’s comfort
    • Bottom tends to collapse during carrying

    10. Smiling Paws Airline Approved Pet Carrier

    Smiling Paws Pets

    This pet carrier from Smiling Paws is one of the most expensive we tested. Naturally, we expected it to be one of the nicest ones. One feature we loved was all sides of this carrier expand to give your pet the most room possible. You’re probably not going to take advantage of this feature on a plane. At about three pounds, this is one of the heavier carriers. If you’ve got a long walk to your terminal, you’ll feel that extra weight.

    The worst problem we discovered with the Smiling Paws pet carrier was the Velcro enclosure. One section of the top is closed by Velcro and it’s not strong enough to keep in some pets. This could have been a real problem if it had been discovered mid-flight. Luckily, we found this out in a vehicle, before it was too late. Save yourself the headache and pick one of the more durable models that earned our top recommendations.

    Pros
    • All sides expand
    Cons
    • Very expensive
    • Velcro enclosure isn’t strong enough
    • Pretty heavy at 3 pounds

    Buyer’s Guide

    We’ve covered a lot of information about quite a few different products. Don’t let it overwhelm you, because we will simplify the decision in our buyer’s guide. There are certain features we believe are the most important ones to keep in mind when you’re picking a pet carrier to trust with holding your furry partner. Let’s take a quick look at those features so you have them fresh in your mind.

    How Much Does Your Pet Weigh?

    Many of these carriers were roughly the same size. You should still measure your pet’s overall size to make sure they’ll fit a particular product before purchasing, but what we think is even more important is their weight. Each carrier will be rated to carry pets up to a certain weight. Put your pet on the scale and determine how much they weigh so you know exactly how strong of a pet carrier you need.

    Seatbelt Loops

    Your pet isn’t going to magically show up at the airport. They will travel there with you in a vehicle of some sort. Just like humans, your little pet is susceptible to the inherent dangers of a car ride. So we prefer pet carriers that include seatbelt loops to belt your pet in like you would any other member of your family.

    Carrying a Dog
    Image credit: PxHere

    How Will You Carry It?

    If you’ve ever been assigned the farthest gate in a very large airport, you know just how far of a walk this can be. Your pet may seem light now at just 12 or 15 pounds, but after walking for 15 minutes they may seem much heavier. Some carriers have handles, others have shoulder straps. You can also find them with straps meant to go over the handle of your rolling suitcase. For the ultimate portability, some pet carriers even feature rolling wheels and extendable handles.

    Expandable

    One of our favorite features available on many of the airline-approved pet carriers today is being expandable. Not all of them are, but some are expandable on one, two, sometimes even all four sides. While you may not always be able to use this feature on a plane, the times you can spread it out and give your pet more room, they will thank you for it. Ultimately, we’re always trying to find the most comfortable option for our furry friends, and we think the expandable pet carriers are often that option.

    Divider 3

    Conclusion

    By this point, we hope you have a decent idea of what to look for in a pet carrier. You should also have a good sense of which one will best fit your needs. We covered a lot of information in our reviews, so we’re going to summarize here. We felt that Mr. Peanut’s soft-sided pet carrier was the best choice overall. It was strong enough to carry a 15-pound pet without collapsing, though it only weighs 2.7 pounds. It’s stylish, available in multiple colors, and includes important safety features like seatbelt loops.

    If you’re looking for the best airline-approved pet carrier for the money, look no further than the Sherpa 55552. It’s available in three sizes that can hold pets up to 22 pounds at a very affordable price point. Moreover, it’s breathable and has a seatbelt strap for the safety of your furry friend. Finally, the Pet Peppy carrier was our pick for premium choice. The wheels and extendable handle make it the most convenient carrying option. It also expands to make your pet more comfortable during travel. We are confident in giving all three products our highest recommendations.


    Featured image credit: Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier, Amazon