When I first got my Pomeranian Luna I bought everything cheap of Amazon, including her pet carrier for flying. There are so many things you have to get when you first own a puppy – harnesses, leashes, poop bag holders, playpens, crates, pee pads etc – that of course the initial cost really ads up.
I tried the X-ZONE pet carrier, which is a super cheap carrier (currently available on Amazon around $22) and it has all the features that are needed for flying on planes. It did the job but sadly it didn’t really hold up that well over time, as my dog is an aggressive chewer and she gradually gnawed through the rather thin canvas fabric. I’d still recommend it if you’re on a budget but it is made of cheap materials and there the poles that are meant to keep the bag’s shape started poking through the fabric.
Then I got the Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier. This one has been around for a long time and is very well reviewed. It’s made from a thicker fabric and is better made but I found that sometimes it collapsed in a bit on Luna when I carried her around.
Really I wanted something better, something stylish and something that’ll last me many years. I also just wanted something that’s comfortable and pleasant for Luna to be in for extended periods of time.
Deep down I’m one of those people that prefers to invest in a top-of-the-line item once than buy cheaper items that aren’t up to scratch and I’ll have to replace. When you end up buying something twice it ends up being more costly than if you’d just bought the pricier item to begin with.
So, in search of the best dog carrier for airplanes, I did my research and decided to buy The Pet Carrier by luxury luggage brand Away. Away creates thoughtfully designed, stylish luggage that withstands the test of time, so why would their pet carrier be any different?
I absolutely love this carrier. This isn’t a paid promotion, I paid for it myself but thought it might be useful for other pet owners to see what it’s like in the flesh. So here’s my review:
Away Pet Carrier Features
From the moment I opened the box I could tell this is not just another pet carrier. I was trying to take some photos of it on the couch when Luna hopped up and straight in it. And she’s not even allowed on the couch! She loves it!
The Pet Carrier is made of thick, durable nylon fabric. Here’s a quick list of it’s features:
- Certified by The Center for Pet Safety (CPS)
- Meets Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements
- Removable, washable, plush sherpa bedding
- Water-resistant lining for easy accident cleanup
- Safety collar clip to prevent quick pet escapes when opening
- Water-resistant nylon exterior with leather trim
- Latches that fasten to a car seat belt
- Strap that secures to any Away luggage
- Large side zipper pocket with slip pockets and a key clip
- Side pocket with waterproof lining and drainage holes (for storing a collapsible water bowl)
- Two-way zip top and side openings for easy access to your pet
- Retractable privacy screen
- Mesh panels on three sides for ventilation
- Removable name card
- Dimensions – 18.7″ x 10.8″ x 10.75″
- Weight – 4.3 lbs with shoulder strap | 3.9 lbs without
- Fits pets up to 18 lbs
Sturdy, thick fabric – While other carriers I tried had these plastic poles in place to create the frame of the bag, The Pet Carrier by Away is made of such thick nylon material that it just naturally keeps its shape. This means I don’t have to worry about the frame collapsing in and the poles eventually piercing the fabric of the bag, which happened on my others. The materials are also such good quality that I’m not concerned about Luna chewing through the fabric. It’s also water resistant.
Mesh top loading door – Another feature I like about this carrier is that the top loading “door” to the carrier is made of mesh material, so it’s not completely opaque. This means that Luna can see me through the top of the carrier, even when the door is closed. This is a feature I couldn’t find in any other carrier, and one that’s important. If she’s on the floor of the cabin or her bag is on my lap, she can still see me through the top window. Most carriers just have mesh on the side panels, not the top.
Plenty of ventilation – The carrier has mesh on three sides – the top, the front and the back side. Plenty of ventilation to make sure your Luna can breathe and fits with airline requirements. The mesh on the top and back has more of a “material” feel, while the front door mesh has more of a plasticky feel to it. She can see the most through the front door as the holes are larger. The mesh material on the top and back has much smaller holes and is less see-through.
Magnetic privacy screen – As mentioned previously, the front “door” of the Away carrier has a slightly more open plasticky mesh. It also has a privacy screen that rolls down with a magnet to keep it firmly in place once it’s down. If your dog won’t settle down when it can see and hear what’s going on outside, then you might want to put the privacy screen down. Or if your dog is prefers to be able to see, you can simply roll this up and secure it with the button. You have the option of both, which is great.
Easily concealed – One of the things I like about this carrier is that while it has plenty of ventilation, Luna can also be easily concealed when in public places like shops. The bag has two opaque sides and the black mesh fabric on the top and bottom has quite small holes, so people can’t really see in all that much, especially if you put the privacy screen down. Some bags are very open, which means everyone can see you’re carrying a pet.
Strong metal zippers and hardware, in black – Sometimes I find silver hardware looks a bit cheap and gold hardware can peel and scratch. The black zippers and hardware on the Away carrier are ultra chic and blend with the rest of the bag. They’re also made of thick, heavy metal – definitely not flimsy. Luna can easily chew through plastic hardware, so I know this bag is built to last.
Rounded shape makes it easier to fit under the seat – My previous carriers were quite square in shape which can make it harder to squish them under the seat in front. This bag has a nice rounded shape, which gives you a little more wiggle room.
Comes in two colors – The carrier comes in two colors – black and a sky blue color called “Coast”. Personally I love black as it goes with everything and it also never looks dirty.
Leather accents – The leather accents give the bag a stylish and premium feel.
Side pockets for storing items – An important feature of any carrier is the amount of pockets. When you travel with the dog you need to take things like treats, leashes, collapsible bowls and other gear, in addition to your own personal items such as keys, passports and phones. The Away pet carrier has a long zipped pocket on the outside with plenty of room for storing such items. There’s also a key clip inside the pocket that you can attach your keys to.
Pocket with drainage holes – There’s also another zipped pocket on the end of the bag with drainage holes so you can store a collapsible water bowl in there and any leftover water will just drain out of the bag. Pretty unique!
Removable sherpa lining – Most carriers have some sort of removable sherpa lining or bottom which is great in case the dog has accidents. Luna won’t have an accident anymore but she definitely did when she was a puppy. The sherpa bedding is cozy, washable and high quality, plus the fluff doesn’t seem to come off.
Inner safety clip – The inner safety clip allow’s me to attach Luna’s harness to the clip so she can’t make any quick escapes when I open the bag.
Luggage sleeve – A luggage sleeve on the back of the carrier allows you to slip it over the handles of any Away luggage.
Might not fit some airlines – Carrier size is very tricky because your small dog must be able to stand up and turn around but the bag also needs to be able to fit under the seat in front of you. Some airlines allow carriers up to 11 inches high, while others only allow bags up to 8.5 inches high. It all depends on what airline you’re flying with and the aircraft type. This bag is 10.75″ high, which should be fine on airlines like Delta and United, but might not be OK on airlines such as Southwest or JetBlue. Most pet carriers I’ve looked at online are around 10.5″-11″ high, so this height is quite standard, but some airlines do specify 8.5″ height. You still might be able to get away with it though, it just depends whether the airline staff are sticklers and measure the dimensions. If you make it to the aircraft and you can squish the bag under the seat in front of you, you should be fine. I’ve read plenty of reviews on Amazon from people who’ve managed to get on board with slightly larger carriers, even if it was a tight squeeze. You do run a risk of being kicked off the flight though if it won’t fit.
No memory foam – I’ve seen some carriers with memory foam padding on the bottom for support, but the sherpa bedding is comfortable so this isn’t something I’m particularly concerned about.
Not as see-through as some carriers – I mentioned before about the Away carrier being great for concealing your dog from view. On the flip side, if your dog likes to be able to see out a lot, I’ve seen other carriers that have mesh on all sides and are much more see-through.
Heavier than other carriers – When I saw the weight of the bag on the website I was worried about it being too heavy. When I put Luna inside I actually didn’t feel like it was too heavy at all, but she’s also only 6.5lb. There are definitely more lightweight options on the market but they’re also made of flimsier materials, so it depends what you’re looking for. Some carriers have a max combined weight limit for the pet + carrier so if you have a dog that’s on the heavier side, you might need something lighter.
If I could give this bag 11/10 I would. It’s perfect for me and Luna. If I was designing a carrier myself this is what I would’ve designed. You can tell Away’s designers put a lot of attention into creating the ideal pet carrier and it really shows. The only proper downside to it is the price tag of $225 but you get what you pay for. It’s a good investment and I should last a long time, plus Luna’s comfort is important. Flying can be a stressful experience for a dog since they have to sit in it for several hours, so it’s worth spending a bit extra on something that’s not also stylish, but also comfortable for the them. Plus, Away offers a 100 day free trial, so you can test it out in the real world and see how you feel about it. I think that’s a pretty good deal but I know I won’t be returning mine!
A note about choosing the best dog carrier for flying
When flying with a dog in cabin there are certain rules you have to follow when it comes to pet carriers.
Firstly, you need to make sure that the size is suitable to fit underneath the seat in front of you. Each airline has its own dimensions and requirements, so always check with your airline before traveling. Some list the details on their website, while others require you to call up their customer hotline. Current approximate maximum sizes for soft carriers are as follows:
United Airlines: 18″ long x 11″ wide x 11″ high. Read the pet policy here.
Spirit Airlines: 18″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ high in overall dimensions. Read the pet policy here.
Delta: Varies by aircraft type. Call for info. Read the pet policy here.
American Airlines: Doesn’t say on their website. Contact reservations to find out the measurements. Read the pet policy here.
JetBlue: 17″ long x 12.5″ wide x 8.5″ high. Read the pet policy here.
Alaska Airlines: 17″ long x 11″ wide x 9.5″ high. Read the pet policy here.
Southwest: 18.5” long 13.5” wide x 8.5″ high. Read the pet policy here.
Frontier: 18″ long x 14″ wide x 8″ high. Read the pet policy here.
Hawaiian Airlines: 16″ high x 10″ wide x 9.5″ high. Read the pet policy here.
The most generous airlines for pet carrier size seem to be United and Delta. Delta’s own branded Sherpa pet carrier measures 18″ long x 11″ wide x 10.5″ high. I once called up Delta to make a reservation and I had two sizes of carrier. I had one measuring 17″ x 11″ x 11″ and another measuring 19.5″ x 12″ x 12″ and she said the larger one was fine. Very happy flying with a pet on Delta.
The floor of the carrier must be leak-proof so that if your dog has an accident it won’t leak out.
Next you need to make sure it has plenty of ventilation. Some airlines require ventilation on 2 sides while others require 3 (or even four on international flights), so it’s preferable to choose something that has ventilation on three or more sides.
Soft carrier vs hard carrier
Soft carriers are more collapsible so airlines allow slightly larger dimensions than if you opt for a hard case. Always go with a soft case if you’re flying in the cabin – it’s also just more comfy for your pet.
If you’re thinking of getting the The Pet Carrier by Away (or any other product), here’s my referral link https://referrals.awaytravel.com/away533829. You’ll get $20 off your first suitcase or bag.