- 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
- Best airline-friendly cat carrier overall: Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier
- Best expandable airline-friendly cat carrier: Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier
- Best airline-friendly hard-shell cat carrier: Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel
- Best airline-friendly wheeled cat carrier: Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier
- Best budget airline-friendly cat carrier: Frisco Travel 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
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
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
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
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: