Which Carrier Should You Use for Airline Travel?

If you are looking to fly with your cat, the best option is to bring them on board in the cabin, under the seat in front of you. Transporting them in the cargo is not recommended as it is stressful for your cat, and there have been a few cases where the cat got lost in transit. Most major airlines will allow pets on board in their carrier, but not all airlines do, so do your research before booking your flight!

For my Canadian friends, here are the pet policies linked for our domestic airlines Westjet and Air Canada.

When choosing a cat carrier for airline travel, you should look for something that is comfortable for your cat, while also meeting the airline requirements. Each airline has slightly different rules, but you should look for something that is soft sided, has a leak-proof base, ventilated on most sides, and fits within the maximum allowable dimensions.

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

The size restriction for Westjet is 16″ L x 10″ W x 8.5″ H, and for Air Canada is 21.5″ L x 15.5″ W x 10.5″ H.

  1. Best for Use as Backpack and Carrier
  2. Best for Use as Car Carrier and Plane Carrier
  3. Other Options

Best for Use as Backpack and Carrier

If you are looking for something that doubles as both a carrier and a backpack, so it can be used on walks and hikes when you arrive at your destination, I recommend the Sherpa 2-in-1 Backpack and Carrier. This backpack / carrier is soft sided, with pockets for storage, and has removable backpack straps which can be reattached as a shoulder strap.

Sherpa has a guaranteed on board program, which basically says if you are registered and flying with an airline listed in the program, and ever get denied boarding due to the size of the carrier, they will refund your air ticket cost.

Dimensions: 18″ L x 13″ W x 10.5″ H

Sherpa Backpack on Westjet flight

What I liked about it:

  • This carrier functions well as both a carrier and a backpack. Its relatively comfortable as a backpack, and also has openings in the right places as a carrier.
  • It is soft sided and dimensions should fit in almost all airlines. Even if the height is a little more than the allowable space, you will be able to squish it to fit.

What I disliked about it:

  • It is soft sided and has no structure to it at all. For cats who like to sit on top of their backpacks, this will not work for that purpose.
  • The zippers feel a little low quality, and the curved zip is sometimes difficult to zip up.
  • There is no interior tether. I usually don’t use this, but for plane travel it is useful to have, to make sure your cat doesn’t run out when you open the carrier to check on them.

Best for Use as Car Carrier and Plane Carrier

If you are looking for a carrier that will primarily be used for car travel and plane travel (and no hikes or walks in between), then I would recommend the Sleepypod Air carrier. The reason I selected this is because it is crash tested for cats, and is one of the safest options for car travel. The Sleepypod Air also has some features to make it suitable for plane travel as well, including sides that fold up to reduce the length of the carrier, and carrier sides that can slant to lower the overall height of the carrier.

Sleepypod has a Crash Replacement Program, which will include a free replacement of your Sleepypod carrier if it has experienced an accident. These carriers only offer crash protection once and must be replaced if it has been damaged.

Dimensions: 22”L x 10.5”W x 10”H (reduces to 16”L x 10.5”W x 8”H)

Sleepypod Air on Air Canada flight

What I liked about it:

  • This is one of the safest options as a car carrier, as it is crash tested.
  • The carrier has relatively large dimensions which provide comfort for your cat, but the ends of the carrier can fold up to fit in tighter spaces.

What I disliked about it:

  • The black mesh of the carrier is double layered and as a result it is difficult to see inside, to check how your cat is doing.
  • The design of the zippers makes it a little awkward because it unzips all the way, and I would prefer to be able to open a small window for the cat to look out but not be able to step out.
  • The carrier is quite heavy.

Other Options

Some other options that I have not personally tested but also fit within size restrictions:

Mr Peanuts Tahoe Backpack – 17″ L x 14.4″ W x 9″ H
Mr Peanuts Gold Series Mini Carrier – 16″ L x 10″ W x 10″ H
Sherpa Elements Pet Carrier – 17″ L x 11.25″ W x 10.5″ H
Sherpa Original Pet Carrier – 17″ L x 11″ W x 10.5″ H

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