The 5 best airline-friendly cat carriers in 2021

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  • An airline-friendly cat carrier is a must if you’re traveling with your pet in cabin.
  • The Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier offers an unbeatable combination of quality, durability, pet comfort, and safety features.

If you are traveling by plane, then you’ll need to purchase a pet carrier that meets a particular airline’s regulations, both in terms of size and design. We evaluated cat carriers that are suitable for in-cabin travel based on a number of factors, including durability, size, ventilation, security, and comfort, as well as feedback from experts and our testing results.

While these cat carriers are generally acceptable for use in airplane cabins, check your airline’s requirements before purchasing. Different airlines have different rules and regulations. For instance, United Airlines requires that a soft-sided carrier be no larger than 18-inches long by 11-inches wide by 11-inches high. However, Southwest Airlines allows a slightly larger maximum size of 18.5-inches long, 8.5-inches high, and 13.5-inches wide, while Delta Airlines has varying requirements according to the specific flight that you’re on.

You should also research an airline’s general rules for pets before you book, and be sure to have documentation that the airline might require. Your pet may need a veterinary examination and particular vaccines to fly, and if necessary, schedule an appointment with your vet to ensure your travel plans go smoothly.

Here are the 5 best airline-friendly cat carriers in 2021

The best airline-friendly carrier overall

sleepypod air in cabin pet carrier

The Sleepypod Air offers the durability and comfort your cat needs for frequent travel.

Pros: Compresses to fit under plane seats, durable construction, straps can anchor to a car seat belt, crash-tested

Cons: Heavier than other soft-sided carriers

The Sleepypod Air in-cabin pet carrier offers an ideal blend of a highly durable exterior and a soft, comfortable interior to keep your cat both comfortable and safe during travel. The exterior is made of luggage-grade ballistic nylon for strength, and tear-resistant mesh makes this carrier a long-lasting choice.

The Sleepypod Air’s unique design allows you to expand or compress the carrier’s size. When you’re in the car or the airport, your pet can enjoy increased space. Then, compress the carrier when you board so it meets your airline’s requirements and fits underneath a seat.  

A large opening provides easy entry, and there are zipper pockets on both sides for ample storage. Straps on both sides of the carrier can secure to a car seat belt for increased travel safety. This carrier also passed crash-testing conducted by the Center for Pet Safety

The best expandable airline-friendly carrier

mr peanuts gold expandable cat carrier

The Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier is compact enough to meet most airlines’ size regulations, but also expands to offer your pet extra space.

Pros: Expandable panel for extra room, two entry doors, folds flat for storage, washable interior bed, lightweight

Cons: Hand-wash only, no warranty

To comply with airline regulations, most pet carriers are small and offer limited space. The Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier solves the issue with a side flap that folds out — just unzip and, voila, your pet has extra space to stretch out while staying securely inside the carrier.

Top and front entrances make it easy to load and unload your cat and a privacy flap can help keep cats calm. The luggage sleeve and comfortable shoulder strap are particularly beneficial when you have to carry your pet long distances through the airport.

The carrier is made from durable nylon and includes a sturdy but lightweight plywood base. An interior fleece bed is removable and hand-washable. When not in use, the carrier folds completely flat for easy storage. 

The best hard-shell airline-friendly carrier

frisco hard shell kennel

Affordable and easy to assemble, the Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel offers extra protection.

Pros: Sturdy hard shell, ventilation on all sides, easy assembly

Cons: Only two color options, low weight limit, may be too large for some airlines

The Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel offers your cat the extra protection and spaciousness of a hard-shell carrier in a size that meets most airlines’ regulations. Thanks to the plastic kennel’s durable construction, you don’t have to worry about the occasional bump or nudge to your cat.

There are secure wire mesh doors on both the front and top of the carrier and ventilation openings on all sides. The doors latch securely and the top-mounted handle is strong.

It arrives in two pieces and requires assembly with the included bolts. The carrier is available in a larger 24-inch size, but it’s likely it won’t meet airlines’ regulations.

The best wheeled airline-friendly carrier

katziela rolling carrier

The Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier is easy to pull through the airport and removable wheels ensure it meets size regulations.

Pros: Removable wheels, mesh top can be compressed to fit under a seat, carrying handle and shoulder strap for convenience

Cons: Can tip over if wheels aren’t properly centered, may be too large for some airlines

With the Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier, you can pull the carrier with a telescopic handle, or opt for the handle or shoulder strap. Whichever way you choose to transport your cat, this carrier makes traveling with pets easier.

Six wheels give the carrier extra support, but they’re also easily removable to keep the carrier within the size limit of most airlines.  You can also squish down the top of the carrier to make it fit under a plane seat.

A mesh top and windows give your cat plenty of ventilation. Pockets can hold small supplies, a name tag attached to the handle allows for easy identification, and zippers can be locked to prevent your cat from opening the side flap and escaping. Just make sure you can unlock it, in case of an emergency.

The best budget airline-friendly carrier

frisco travel pet carrier

Affordable and appropriately sized, the Frisco Travel Carrier is a practical option for the occasional trip.

Pros: Front- and top-loading, secure luggage strap, washable interior bed, folds flat for storage, one-year warranty

Cons: Less ventilation, shoulder strap is uncomfortable for shorter individuals

For an affordable option, the Frisco Travel Carrier offers a combination of comfort, durability, and features to make traveling with a pet easier for cats up to 16 pounds.

The durable nylon bag includes doors at top and front and includes privacy flaps. Along with a shoulder strap, there is a luggage sleeve and convenient carrying handles. The removable interior mat provides your cat a soft place to rest.

The downsides: This bag’s ventilation is more limited than that of our top picks. We also found that the shoulder stap lacks padding and can be uncomfortable to carry.

What we’re looking forward to

We’re testing additional airline-friendly carriers for an update to this guide, including the following:

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Flights are the cheapest they’ve ever been as airlines slash costs and try to coax back travelers

airport time
  • Airfare is lower than ever as carriers try to draw customers back in.
  • The average domestic ticket price is $245, the lowest on record.
  • Airlines are using available cheap planes and laid off flight crews to offer low prices.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Airlines are using cut-rate ticket prices to appeal to customers ready to travel again after a year of the pandemic.

The latest average domestic fair reported by the Department of Transportation is $244.79, the lowest on record according to DOT. That price is down 30% compared to last year at the same time, Bloomberg reported.

Carriers around the world cut $1 billion in daily expenses last year as demand for travel plummeted, Bloomberg reported. Those savings are giving the airlines the freedom to slash fares and entice customers back.

Experts are predicting a return to normal as early as summer 2021, and vaccination rates continue to rise. Airlines are offering cheap rates and flexible booking policies to get people in seats as soon as possible.

All three big US airlines, United, Delta, and American, along with other smaller ones have stopped charging change and cancellation fees on many flights, excluding the lowest basic economy fares. Insider previously outlined which airlines are the best bets to book in 2021 here.

Major airlines are also continuing to add new destinations as they seek to capitalize on the downturn and come out stronger. Low-cost carrier Southwest announced it will add Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Bellingham, Washington; and Eugene, Oregon this summer. These newest destinations were in addition to the Florida and Montana destinations and the 19 new routes Southwest announced in December, including service between Houston and Chicago, Houston and Dallas, and others.

Domestic budget airline Allegiant Air similarly took on a major expansion, announcing 21 new routes and three new destinations beginning in March. Small carriers like Allegiant are expected to recover from the effects of the last year faster than larger airlines that rely on domestic and international trips, Tom Pallini reported.

Airlines can save on costs even further with the availability of thousands of employees laid off in the last year looking for work, and the chance to buy unwanted planes from cancelled orders at discount prices. Traveler numbers, however, remain about 50% of last year’s levels, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

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Airline stocks climb on economic recovery optimism as Senate approves landmark stimulus package

Boeing 737 Max

  • Shares of airline companies rose on Monday amid surging optimism around the ongoing economic recovery following the Senate’s recent approval of the stimulus plan.
  • United Airlines, Southwest, American Airlines, and Delta shares all climbed.
  • Airlines were among those that suffered most when large swaths of the global economy shut down at the start of the pandemic.
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Shares of airline companies rose Monday as the Senate’s recent approval of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion simulus bill led to a surge in economic optimism.

Here are the intraday highs for four major airline stocks:

The Senate on Sunday approved an economic aid package, set to be among the largest in American history. It now heads back to the House for final approval.

Many analysts say an increase in personal income for many Americans will stimulate the economy, unleashing pent-up desire to travel, consume, and spend. On top of this is a ramped-up vaccine rollout by the United States. President Biden has announced that there would be enough vaccines to innoculate Americans by the end of May this year.

Airline companies were among the industries that suffered the most when large swaths of the global economy shut down at the start of the pandemic, halting most of domestic and international travel. They are frequently one of the biggest beneficiaries of the so-called reopening trade.

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