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Two more dog carriers for in-cabin plane travel

Photo by Bergan

Amazon carries a lot of Bergan carriers, so I thought I’d take a look at their most appealing product, the Bergan Comfort Carrier. I ordered the Large size (19Lx10Wx13H), but for airplane use you’d want to order the Small (17Lx8Wx11.5H). That’s officially larger than most U.S. airlines’ maximums, but the carrier is very flexible, so it will actually work. It also looks trim, especially in black, so it may not catch a ticketing agent’s eye at all. [Please note that the carrier also comes in a “Plus Small,” which turns out to be the same size as the Small but with a water bowl, leash and treat bag thrown in. Stick with the Small size — the water bowl and leash you buy elsewhere will be better quality, and Ziploc bags work fine for treats.]

There are a lot of things I like about this carrier. It has huge ventilation panels, including one on top, so you can see your dog while she’s at your feet, where she’ll be for most of your journey. A small zip along one edge allows you to reach in easily and pet (and feed) your dog. It has several good-sized pockets, a thick fleece pad, and it collapses for storage. A small clip secures together the two zipper tabs at each end, so the zippers cannot work open (or be worked open by your dog). The carrier is light, so it won’t kill your weight allowance, and it has sturdy loops through which a seat belt can be secured.

Here’s what I don’t like: It’s not a very sturdy product. I love the idea of the zipper clip, but the clip itself is flimsy, and wouldn’t resist a really concerted escape effort. On the bag I received, the zipper for patting access arrived opened behind the zipper head — it closed when I zipped it open and shut again, but it was a bad sign, and the zippers are, in fact, very lightweight. This is one of the best bags I’ve seen in this price range, but it will not hold up to repeated use.

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Photo by Pet Flys

Photo by Pet Flys

And now for something completely different: the Pet Flys carrier in the “Enter the Dragon” pattern. I ordered it in the Super size (19Lx9Wx12H), which fits Chloe but is too large for airplane use — the carrier doesn’t flex the way a SturdiProducts or Sherpa carrier does. It comes in two smaller sizes, both of which will work as in-cabin carriers: the Mini is 13Lx8Wx9H, and the Small is 16Lx9wx10H.

This carrier is solidly-built and thoughtfully-designed. It also has style. “Enter the Dragon,” one of several eye-catching designs, is black and purple and decorated with a huge embroidered black and red dragon. The exterior is sturdy canvas; the interior is some sort of wipeable nylon material, with fleece on the bottom and one long side (a separate fleece blanket is included to provide padding). No fabric mesh here: one end is a stainless-steel mesh window, and the other is pierced with several large grommet holes for ventilation. A chain tether clips to the mesh window and can clip to your dog’s collar. A privacy flap can be lowered over the mesh window. There is a shortish strap that functions as a handle, and a long shoulder strap — the two straps can be connected to make a really long strap, allowing you to sling the carrier across your body like a messenger bag.

Here’s what I don’t like about it. My smallest gripe is that the canvas straps are so sturdy and thick that it’s nearly impossible to snap them shut around their rings. There’s also an odd little strap sewn inside that I think is meant to allow you to zip the long, entrance side of the bag partly closed but then snap back a corner so your dog’s head can poke out. I can imagine situations where that might be a good idea, but the strap begs to be chewed off by a bored dog.

A bigger gripe? When the carrier is at your feet, you can’t see your dog at all. There are two very large grommet holes near the top ridge of the carrier, but they don’t provide a view. And although I like the option of privacy for a dog, this carrier strikes me as too private. Both long sides are solid fabric, so the only way your dog can really see out (or you can see in) is through the mesh window on one end. Chloe takes an interest in her surroundings when she’s traveling, and I like to keep an eye on her, so this is not a good match for us — I appreciate, though, that it may be just the ticket for some dogs.

One more thought: Although the label says that it “buckles easily into the car for maximum safety,” I don’t see how. There are no loops through which a seat belt can pass — perhaps the manufacturer means that the seat belt can pass through the shorter handle. If so, it would be somewhat secure, but not as secure as the Bergan carrier (above), whose loops are positioned so that a seat belt really holds it tightly against the back of the passenger seat.

If my gripes don’t impress you, you’ll like this carrier. It’s pricey, but you’re getting what you pay for.

Amazon links:
Bergan Comfort Carrier Soft-Sided Pet Carrier, Small
Pet Flys Spring Puppy Love Carrier – MINI
PET FLYS Uncle Monkey Pet Carrier SMALL

11 comments

  • Angela

    Have you ever tried to take your large Bergan on a flight?

    I just bought a large and am obsessing over whether I can get it on JetBlue.

    Any thoughts?

  • Hello, Angela! I didn’t keep the large Bergan carrier I bought, because it really is too large to work as an in-cabin carrier. A carrier that’s 19″ long is always pushing it, and JetBlue’s maximum measurements are not generous. If your dog is too big for a medium Sherpa bag (a large Sherpa bag is also too large for in-cabin use), take a look at the large SturdiProducts bag. It’s non-complying, but it’s very flexible, and we’ve had good luck with ours. I think a JetBlue agent questioned it, but we showed him how flexible the sides and top were, and he punted the decision to the flight attendants (who didn’t turn a hair).

  • Angela

    Thanks! I’m going to exchange the large Bergan for a small. The large had quite a bit of room; I think the small might actually be the right size for everything.

  • Amanda

    Hi there..thank god for your blog-very informative! I am traveling for the first time with my newly-adopted shih tzu chihuahua mix (similar in size to your pooch). I bought a traveling carrier from Bed Bath and Beyond the other day because it was cheap and my lack of time to shop around. I am nervous that it is too big after reading your post regarding acceptable carrier dimensions. The bag is 12.3″ H x 19″L x 13.3 W …obviously it is too large according to requirements, but is there any way it could work? It is VERY similar in shape to Bergan comfort carrier..almost identical in fact. It is collapseable and some-what flimsy-I could probably manipulate the dimensions to a certain extent. I am flying Northwest and I can’t find the under-seat dimensions for the life of me…..

    This stress of this all is overwhelming! Any words of advise you could give me would be greatly appreciated!!! P.S. I leave Thursday (TOMORROW) and need to figure this all out ASAP!

    Thanks again for such useful posts!

  • I can’t tell how tall your dog is, but a Shih Tzu/Chih mix should be fairly petite — you probably don’t need a carrier that big (it really only needs to be slightly taller than their shoulders) — and it really is too big for an in-cabin carrier. I suspect that the dimension that’s most dicey (the 19″ length) is also the one that’s stiffest, and won’t flex much. I’d dash out to a Petco or a PetSmart and buy a medium Sherpa bag — I don’t particularly love Sherpa bags, but they’re pretty good quality and those two stores carry them. (Of course you should make sure that your pup will fit in it before you buy!) Airlines like medium Sherpa bags, and they’re a good, workable length (and the tops and sides flex). You’ll pay more than you did for the BB&B bag, but you’ll notice a difference in quality. The main thing is to get your length dimension under 19″ and preferably in the 17-18″ range — still too large, officially, but workable. Good luck! Breathe! and safe travels.

  • Amanda

    thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly. I am heading out to petco now to find a sherpa bag.

    thanks again!

  • Genichka

    I love my Petsfly carrier and yes, the straps are hard to snap together! And that mystery strap on the inside of the carrier…lol…no clue where it’s suppose to snap to. Other than that, I really like this carrier. I got it in small for my pom and it’s perfect. As a matter of fact, he LOVES to retreat to it to take naps. It’s like a safety zone for him.

    That Bergan carrier seems awesome. It reminds me of the Sherpa Sport carrier (I have but it’s a bit too small) but with more mesh! And the pet connect feature pocket is awesome. I might opt for this carrier. Pockets and zippers are a big plus for me.

  • Thanks so much for your comment, Genichka! It’s good to hear from someone who loves their Pet Flys carrier (and has a dog small enough to fit in the size that works on a plane!). The Bergan carrier has a lot of good features, but after the Pet Flys carrier, I think you’ll find it kind of flimsy….

  • Penelope

    Hi, I was just reading through all your info on traveling with a pup and couldn’t resist sharing my experiences. I have flown with my pup multiple times on Southwest and American Airlines with the large Bergan bag (my little Shiba needed the extra height) and never had a problem. It fits under the seat perfectly since it’s flexible (I always take a window seat) and neither the check-in staff nor the gate staff/flight attendants have ever commented on the size of her carrier. To be completely honest, 70% of the time nobody realizes there’s even an animal in there and its smaller than half the bags people are carrying with them so it usually flies under the radar.

    On a side note, Bergan customer service is great! They guarantee their product for 1 year. My pup chewed on her first one a bit and as a result the zipper broke and the whole side started coming apart :-/ I called the company and they sent us a brand new one 3 weeks later! I haven’t tried any other carrier as we have been completely happy with ours.

    Hopes this helps all those new to flying worried about their carriers 🙂

  • Thanks so much, Penelope!! It’s so helpful to have reports from people like you who have actually flown with/lived with a carrier. I really appreciate hearing from you!

  • EcoDog

    I fly with the small Bergan carrier for my 5 pound papillon. I was initially concerned about the “flimsy” feel of the bag too, but I have had it for over 4 years now and I haven’t had any problems with it. The bag barely gets a glance from ticket agents.

    I think that newer versions of the bag have less sturdy zippers and zipper clips than the bag that I have.

    I liked the bag so much after I bought it that I reviewed it on Amazon and there is a picture of little Molly in the bag associated with my review.

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