Flying with your furry friend can be an exciting adventure, but it’s essential to ensure their safety and comfort throughout the journey. One of the crucial aspects of traveling with pets is choosing the right pet carrier. In this article, we’ll delve into the specifics of pet carriers, why they’re necessary for air travel, the different types available, and American Airlines’ regulations regarding pet carrier sizes.

What is a Pet Carrier?

A pet carrier is a portable enclosure designed to transport pets safely and comfortably. Whether you’re traveling by car, train, or plane, a pet carrier provides a secure space for your furry companion during the journey. It serves as a cozy retreat where pets can relax while on the move, offering them a sense of security and stability in unfamiliar environments.

Why Pet Carrier is Needed While Flying?

When flying with pets, airline regulations mandate the use of pet carriers to ensure the safety of both pets and passengers. Pet carriers help prevent pets from wandering freely within the cabin, minimizing the risk of accidents or disturbances during the flight. Additionally, carriers provide a familiar environment for pets, reducing their stress levels and ensuring a smoother travel experience.

Types of Pet Carriers

There are various types of pet carriers available, each offering unique features to suit different travel needs. Soft-sided carriers are lightweight and flexible, making them ideal for small pets and short trips. Hard-sided carriers, on the other hand, provide extra protection and durability, making them suitable for larger pets or long-distance travel. Backpack carriers allow for hands-free transportation, while wheeled carriers offer convenience when navigating busy airports.

  • Soft-Sided
  • Hard-Sided
  • Backpack Carriers

American Airlines Carry On Pet Carrier Size

When flying with American Airlines, it’s essential to adhere to their guidelines for carry-on pet carriers. The airline has specific size restrictions to ensure that pet carriers fit comfortably under the seat in front of you. Generally, the dimensions for carry-on pet carriers are limited to 17 inches long, 11 inches wide, and 11 inches tall for soft-sided and 19 inches long, 13 inches wide, and 9 inches for hard-sided. Additionally, there are weight restrictions, typically ranging from 15 to 20 pounds including kennels, depending on the aircraft.

When it comes to carry-on pet carriers, American Airlines pet policy has strict size limitations to ensure they fit comfortably under the seat in front of you. Here are the allowed dimensions:

Carrier TypesMaximum Dimensions (L x W x H)
Soft-Sided (Recommended)18 x 11 x 11 inches (46 x 28 x 28 cm)
Hard-Sided19 x 13 x 9 inches (48 x 33 x 22 cm)

American Airlines Checked Baggage Pet Carrier Size

If your pet is too large to fit in a carry-on pet carrier, American Airlines also allows pets to travel as checked baggage in the cargo hold. The size restrictions for checked baggage pet carriers may vary depending on the aircraft and destination. As a general rule, carriers should be spacious enough to allow pets to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably.

For larger pets that need to travel in the cargo hold, American Airlines also has specific size requirements for checked baggage pet carriers:

AirlineMaximum Dimensions (L x W x H)
American Airlines40 x 27 x 30 inches (101 x 68 x 76 cm)

This service is only for military personnel and State Department officials on order.

Choosing the Right Pet Carrier

When selecting a pet carrier for air travel, consider factors such as your pet’s size, temperament, and comfort preferences. Opt for a carrier that provides adequate ventilation, secure closures, and a cozy interior for your pet to relax during the flight. Additionally, be sure to measure your pet and carrier dimensions accurately to ensure compliance with airline regulations.

Preparing Your Pet for Air Travel

Before the big day, take the time to acclimate your pet to its carrier by gradually introducing them to it in a positive and rewarding manner. Encourage them to explore the kennel at home and associate it with pleasant experiences, such as treats or playtime. This will help reduce their anxiety and ensure they feel comfortable and secure during the flight.

Tips for Smooth Air Travel with Pets

To ensure a stress-free journey for both you and your pet, pack essential items such as food, water, medications, and comfort items in your carry-on luggage. Additionally, consider booking a direct flight whenever possible to minimize travel time and avoid layovers. Finally, communicate with airline staff and fellow passengers to ensure a pleasant travel experience for everyone onboard.


Can I use any type of pet carrier for air travel?

No, airlines have specific regulations regarding the type and size of pet carriers allowed for air travel. It’s crucial to choose a carrier that meets these requirements to ensure a smooth travel experience.

What should I do if my pet gets anxious during the flight?

If your pet experiences anxiety during the flight, try to comfort them by speaking softly and offering reassurance. You can also provide them with familiar items, such as a favorite toy or blanket, to help calm their nerves.

Is there an additional fee for traveling with pets on American Airlines?

Yes, American Airlines charges a pet fee for each pet traveling in the cabin or as checked baggage. It’s essential to check the current fee schedule and make arrangements in advance to avoid any surprises on the day of your flight.

What happens if my carrier doesn’t meet the airline’s requirements?

If your pet carrier exceeds the specified dimensions, you may be required to check it as cargo or make alternative arrangements for your pet’s travel.

Can I purchase a pet carrier at the airport if mine doesn’t meet the requirements?

While some airports may have pet supplies available for purchase, it’s always best to ensure you have a suitable carrier before arriving at the airport to avoid any last-minute complications.

What should I do if my pet gets anxious during the flight?

If your pet experiences anxiety during the flight, remain calm and offer reassurance. Consider using calming aids recommended by your veterinarian, such as pheromone sprays or natural supplements, to help keep your pet relaxed.

Can I bring my pet on board as carry-on luggage?

Yes, many airlines allow small pets to travel in the cabin with their owners as long as they meet the size and weight requirements for carry-on pet carriers.

What should I pack in my pet’s carrier for air travel?

It’s essential to pack necessities such as food, water, medications, and comfort items like blankets or toys to keep your pet comfortable during the flight. Additionally, include any required documentation, such as health certificates or vaccination records.

How can I ensure my pet stays comfortable during the flight?

Choose a carrier that provides enough room for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Additionally, pack familiar items like blankets or toys to help reduce stress during the journey.


Choosing the right pet carrier is essential for ensuring a safe, comfortable, and stress-free flying experience for your furry friend. By familiarizing yourself with American Airlines’ pet policies and regulations and selecting a carrier that meets their size requirements, you can embark on your journey with confidence, knowing that your pet is in good hands.

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