Best Airline Approved Small Dog Carriers

by Stuart | Last Updated:   March 9, 2020

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Many people travel with their dogs rather than boarding them or hiring a dog sitter.  When you are flying instead of driving there are many more regulations and details that a pet parent needs to be aware of. 

If your dog is small enough, they are allowed to ride under your seat in a carrier, but the carrier has to be approved by the airlines, and they’re pretty unforgiving.

Here are our top picks for the best airline approved small dog carriers:

  1. Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Dog Carrier
  2. Dog Peppy Premium Expandable Carrier
  3. Purrpy Premium Dog Carrier
  4. Prodigen Dog Carrier
  5. Jet Sitter Super Fly
  6. Arlo Skye Dog Carriers

Top Pick At A Glance

Sherpa

  • Perfect for travelling in style and comfort by plane or car, for an adventure or just a trip to the vet
  • Approved for use on most airlines and included in Sherpa’s Guaranteed on Board program

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What is it that makes these carriers the top 5?  They have a combination of value, quality, and staying power. They are an investment if you travel frequently with your dog and you will get your money’s worth in just a few flights.

Most airlines have an approved size of up to 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high. Measuring your dog is important when trying to find an appropriate carrier so don’t forget that step.

Dog with sun glasses and airplane tickets in mouth at airport with text on the side stating "best airplane approved small dog carriers"

Best Airline Approved Small Dog Carriers

Alright, let’s take a closer look at each of these dog carriers for small dogs. There’s no “one best carrier for all dogs”, but we hope this list helps you and your doggie get closer to finding the perfect one.

1. Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Dog Carrier

This carrier is probably one of the most recognizable dog carriers on the market.  Anytime I hear or see the word “sherpa” I think of a dog carrier and air travel.

Sherpa

  • Patented spring wire frame allows the rear end of the carrier to be pushed down several inches to conform to under-seat requirements
  • Mesh windows for ventilation, top and side entry with locking zippers for safety, padded adjustable, no-slip carrying strap, seat belt/luggage strap, machine-washable faux lambskin liner
  • Rear pocket for convenient storage of treats, leash, bags, or anything else your furry friend might need on the go
  • Approved for use on most airlines and included in Sherpa’s Guaranteed on Board program.Carrier is intended for safe and comfortable travel; the pet will not have excess room to move around

This carrier isn’t as affordable as the three above, but I would still consider it a middle of the road value and budget-friendly.   

  • This has an adjustable wireframe that allows the carrier to easily fit the under-seat guidelines.  The carrier itself is made to fit under the seats but if there is ever a time that it seems a little snug, then you will be able to adjust the frame of the carrier a much or as little as needed.  Since not all airplanes are the same, this is an important feature to consider when purchasing a carrier. 
  • It comes in two sizes.  The large size fits dogs up to 22 lbs but doesn’t go by weight alone.  You will need to measure your dog as well to make sure they fit the height and lengthwise. The large size would be at the very top of the allowable size and weight for most airlines.  
  • Has a pocket in the back for snacks, leashes, toys, and anything else that may be needed.  When travelling, it is always good if you don’t need an extra bag since your dog carrier counts as a carry-on, so this pocket will come in handy.

2. Dog Peppy Premium Expandable Carrier

If you want a carrier that can be more than a carrier and comes with a collapsible bowl, then this is, well, your carrier!  It has the ability to expand to 3 times its normal size and offers ample area for your dog to move around.

The carrier also allows for much-needed air circulation.  

Pet Peppy

  • Double zippers on top and side allow for easy entrance from both sides
  • The high-quality zippers don’t snag and arent accessible to the pet inside
  • The dual expansion feature makes it a breeze to fold down, unzip one or both sides to create extra room for the pet depending on your furry little one’s size
  • Includes a comfortable washable liner and a leash ring inside to keep your pet secure

The Dog Peppy has functional storage pockets for treats, food, paperwork, toys, and anything else your pup needs while travelling. 

This model is made to fit, fully extended, under the front cabin seat. Most airlines can use this space and if it isn’t occupied by another travelling dog, then you may be able to snag it.  Otherwise, it will fit under your normal seat in its normal form. 

This is a really good value since you can use it as a kennel or “den” at home.  Since it is expandable, it is not just a travel carrier. I love purchasing items that are good for more than one thing, it makes spending the money worth it.

This carrier is preapproved for the following airlines:

  • Alaska
  • Allegiant Air
  • American
  • Delta
  • Frontier
  • Hawaiian
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest
  • Spirit
  • United
  • Virgin America

3. Purrpy Premium Dog Carrier

This carrier is versatile and comes in three different sizes.  The size that is recommended to air travel is the medium-sized carrier because the large carrier is half of an inch too high to fit under the seat. 

Purrpy

  • The Purrpy Carrier has lockable zippers to keep accidental escapes from happening during travel
  • The last thing you or the airline wants is for your pooch to be running free around the cabin
  • This particular carrier also boasts a comfortable and removable mat.  This is a great feature so you can remove it to wash
  • The medium-sized carrier is 16.5 inches long, 10 inches long, and 10 inches high
  • This is also very affordable so it is overall a great value

This carrier also has some great features that will keep your dog safe and comfortable while travelling. 

Important to note that this carrier is really marketed towards cats (hence the name). So if having a cat logo offends you and or your doggie, then you may want to reconsider.


4. Prodigen Dog Carrier

Another airline approved dog carrier that is a great value and has features that are worth the money.  This carrier does get close to the limits of the size allowed, which can be good depending on the kind of small dog you have.  

Prodigen

  • ULTRA-SAFE, EXTRA DURABLE- UPGRADED to REINFORCED Polyester & CLAW-DEFENSE MESH on top & 4 sides ensures your pet has ample VENTILATION and AIRFLOW & it WON’T TEAR like flimsy, cheap carriers while MINI ZIPPER BUCKLES ensure your pet stays tucked safely inside.
  • Mesh windows on top and all 4 sides provide optimal airflow. Some have zippers to quickly reach your pet to comfort, touch, or take in or out.

Some of the top features are:

  • Claw proof mesh.  Does your dog have carrier anxiety?  If he tries to dig his way out, there is some mesh that won’t stand up to that.  This carrier claims that the mesh will last through clawings.  
  • Returnable. This carrier is returnable if you get it and decide it isn’t what you are looking for, or there is an issue.  I really try not to purchase anything that I am not able to send back if it doesn’t work. 
  • Waterproof.  Potty accidents can happen on long flights with dogs even with the most well-trained dogs.  The worst thing would be that a potty accident that leaks through and all over not just your things, but your row mates things.   I would still advise using a puppy pad as added protection.
  • Variety of Colors.  This is just a fun feature that adds a touch of personalization.  I personally do not like having the same thing as someone else and the variety of colours on this dog carrier really makes it a fun choice.

This carrier is preapproved for the following airlines:

  • Southwest
  • American
  • JetBlue
  • Delta
  • Virgin
  • Alaska
  • Frontier
  • Allegiant
  • United
  • & more


5. Jet Sitter Super Fly

This carrier is designed with small dogs in mind. And by small, I mean around 10lbs. maximum. It functions like most carriers when it is upright, but has the convenience of being collapsable for easy storage and travel.

Jet Sitter

  • Dog Cat Carriers fit in cabin under seat on United Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue, American, Delta, Alaska, Frontier, Allegiant, Spirit with 360 degree panoramic windows for ultimate air circulation and visibility
  • Convenient when lowering your pet without breaking your back, and allows an open roof for anxious pets to stretch out for a peek
  • Many upgrades such as Resin Scratch Resistant Mesh, Buckle Lock Zippers, Secure Pocket for Passports, Roomy Stretch Pocket for Pet Toys, Interior Leash, Luxe Steel Hardware, Super Plush Hand Washable Fleece Cover

Another convenient feature of this carrier is the ability to put your doggie in from the top. Have you ever struggled with a reluctant dog that stiffens up and tries to make it impossible to put them in a carrier?

Ever wish you could just drop them in before they knew what was coming? Well simply unzip the opening on the top with the Jet Sitter carrier and do just that!

It also has mesh windows on the top and four sides giving your doggie a 360 degree panoramic view and more than adequate air circulation (very important on airplanes).

This carrier is preapproved for the following airlines:

  • United Airlines
  • Southwest
  • JetBlue
  • American
  • Delta
  • Alaska
  • Frontier
  • Allegiant
  • Spirit

So, if you typically fly with one of these airlines and your dog is no more than 10lbs., you can’t go wrong with this carrier. It also comes with a 1 year factory warranty.


6. Arlo Skye Dog Carriers

This carrier is at the very top of the price range and some pet parents might say it is too expensive.  However, if you travel all of the time with your dog, then this will seem like more of an investment, rather than a splurge.

Arlo Skye

  • Airy and light with 360-degree ventilation, a back sleeve to securely place over your carry-on, and a memory foam mattress for elevated comfort
  • A foldable design makes it easy to pack within a suitcase when not in use
  • Airline-approved. Poly-mesh / performance-nylon exterior. 

This is Arlo Skye’s very first dog carrier and it is designed to nestle comfortably on top of your Arlo Skye suitcase. 

What makes this carrier so special?  It is mostly the name that it comes with but it does have some features that the other carries in this article don’t have. 

  • 360 Ventilation is one of the main features of this carrier.  It is mostly a high-quality mesh with cloth-like corners and bottom.  There is no way your travel buddy will overheat in this carrier.  
  • Memory Foam Mat.  All of the carriers above come with some sort of mat to help with the comfort of your dog.  This is a perfect feature since your dog will be laying down for most of the flight. However, Arlo Skye doesn’t have just any mat in their carrier, they have a memory foam mat for maximum comfort. 
  • Approved for Delta, American, and United Airlines.  The medium-sized carrier fits on big planes, but it is advised that you check with your particular airline and measure the carrier before travel.  This will prevent any problems that may arise on the day of your flight.
  • Treat Pouch that allows for easy treating during travel.  This pouch also doubles as a strap to hook to your suitcase handle. This is independent of the mesh so it does not affect ventilation. 
little dog waiting at the airport after a long journey with airline cargo pet carrier and his owner luggage in the background

Continue Reading:

  1. Best Dog Beds for Anxiety
  2. Best Harnesses for Small Dog Breeds
  3. Best Bike Baskets for Dogs
  4. Best Pet Barriers for Subaru Outback

Final Thoughts

If you take one thing away from this post, it should be to make sure your carrier is approved by your airline before boarding the plane. I hate to hear horror stories from pet parents about their dog being forced to travel in the undercarriage.

Some dogs love travelling and some dogs hate travelling. If your doggie is a first-time flyer, I guess you both will be finding out soon. It may be worth consulting with your veterinarian about possible medications that could help ease their anxiety (or natural remedies).

So I hope you have found or are closer to finding the perfect airline carrier for your small dog. I also hope you both enjoy your trip!

Stuart loves blogging about his hobbies and passions. Sir Doggie is a place for him to share what he learns while being a pet parent. Click here to read more.