When purchasing an airline-approved pet carrier, it is essential to arrive armed with the information you need to make a confident purchase. Dogs on Planes already provides most of the basic information you need to know, but if it’s convenient to do so, we also recommend you take advantage of the in-store experience including a brief trial run with your pet. When you’ve narrowed down the options, you can ask a sales associate the following questions to guarantee a great purchase.


Do you have a scale?

Some pet carriers advertise incorrect weights and heights. If you are purchasing a container for simple vet visits, these measurements don’t matter very much. However, one inch of height or a couple pounds of weight could ruin your dog’s ability to board a plane. Though a specific carrier may claim to be “airline-approved,” the maximum measurements are not standard across airlines. Check your provider’s requirements before purchasing. In assessing the measurements yourself, you ensure airline height and weight compatibility. Most larger or specialty stores offer a variety of pet services, such as grooming and boarding. In most cases, there will be a scale and tape measurer available.


Is there any proof of airline approval?

As with measurements, some carriers falsely advertise airline approval through tricky and confusing wording: “travel approved,” “travel tested,” and “flight safe” are popular choices to make customers believe the product has been airline-approved. Look for signage, stickers, or informational tags before making your pet carrier decision. If you don’t see anything, ask the sales associate if the store has additional information or literature on a specific product. In most cases, the salesperson will be able to look up any certification or approval a carrier may have.


Does it expand or collapse?

Though measurements are the most important factor in choosing a pet carrier, comfort should follow as a close second. Soft-sided carriers provide added comfort; their ability to collapse under a seat and expand to increase available pet space could mean the difference between your animal having a peaceful trip and a stressful one. Look for carriers that expand in one or two directions; this small addition can double the space your pet has to move around during the flight. However, always check to see that this addition does not hinder any other safety feature, such as ventilation and security.


Is anything else included in the purchase? 

This is an especially important for pet parents flying their animals in the cargo hold. These kennels are made of hard-sided material, such as plastic, metal, or wood, and they have solid roofs. Most do not come with any sort of bed or lining for added comfort, so it is essential to ask your sales associate. Additionally, animals traveling in cargo must have access to food and water dishes, which affix to the inside of the door. The airline staff should be able to access the dishes without opening the door. Some cargo kennels include these attachments, but many do not. If your kennel is not sold with the necessary materials, you can easily buy food and water dishes for a few extra dollars. In asking during the purchase, you eliminate a potentially devastating surprise on the day of your flight.


Can my dog test it out?

This is perhaps the largest benefit of shopping for a pet carrier in a store. You’ll arrive armed with your airline’s maximum measurements, but these mean nothing if your pet cannot fit comfortably in the carrier. Bring your dog along and allow him to check out the container. If he can’t stand or sit comfortably in the space, move onto the next option. Additionally, bringing your dog will allow you to check if the carrier fits within an airline’s weight requirement.

In asking these questions, pet parents ensure they get the best, most comprehensive information about specific pet carrier products. However, it is important to arrive at your pet store already understanding the features necessary in airline-approved carriers. Research your airline’s specific policies, write down the measurements you need, grab your dog, and head to your local pet retailer to find the airline-approved carrier you need.


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