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Product review: Sleepypod Air pet carrier

This is an unpaid and unsolicited review of Sleepypod’s new Air pet carrier. Sleepypod sent me a carrier, at my request, to try out and review. The company has also generously given me a second, unused Air carrier to give away to one lucky reader. The giveaway will start on Monday, March 29th, and will be co-hosted by Dog Jaunt and by Edie Jarolim’s blog Will My Dog Hate Me. Check back on Monday to learn how to enter!

Sleepypod first caught my attention with a combination pet bed/carrier (the “Sleepypod”) that I praised in one of Dog Jaunt’s first posts. When I learned last fall that the company was introducing a carrier specifically designed to work for in-cabin pets (the “Air”), I was intrigued — and asked for a sample to review.

We’ve now used the Sleepypod Air on two separate trips involving several flights on different kinds of planes. It’s an outstanding carrier in ways that I’ll describe below, but it’s revolutionary in one particular way: It’s designed to compress in length from 22″ to 16″. A carrier’s length is always its Achilles heel — you want a long carrier so that your dog has room to sprawl, but U.S. airlines typically require your carrier to be only 16-19″ long (depending on the airline). The Sleepypod Air’s ends and interior padding are structured so that they can be folded up to fit the carrier lengthwise in a 16″ space (if you only fold one end up, it fits in a 19″ space). Once the flight is underway, you can pull the carrier out and turn it around under your legs — the ends fall back down, giving your dog an unusually large amount of room to maneuver.

Photo by Sleepypod

Please note that you can still only bring a small dog onboard — the carrier is just 10.5″ tall and 10.5″ wide — but she’ll have room to stretch, and that’s rare.

Here’s what we like: The carrier is made of a sturdy ballistic nylon and lined with a thick, easily-cleaned nylon. The zipper runs completely around the perimeter of the all-mesh top and ends, allowing the carrier to be collapsed when it’s not in use and allowing the top to be flipped off at the end of a journey, so the sides and bottom can function as a comfortable travel bed. Because the top and ends are all mesh, your dog has plenty of ventilation and you can see her easily from above (there are no privacy panels, so if your pet prefers cavelike solitude, this may not be the carrier for her). If you want to have the carrier mostly closed, but have one of the ends open, each end flap has a snap that can attach to the bottom of the centrally-located handle.

The bottom pad is cushy and washable. If you’re using the carrier as a travel bed for a pet you really want to pamper, you can buy a warming pad from Sleepypod that slips into the carrier’s bottom pad. But what about the cord (leading to either a car adapter or a wall adapter)? Sleepypod has positioned a large grommet in a bottom corner of the carrier, through which the cord threads. Genius!

There is a long pocket on one of the sides — there’s one on the other side, too, but it’s also the slot through which your suitcase handle passes, so I tend not to keep anything on that side. The handle and shoulder strap are both padded and comfortable. There is a harness tether — in another clever move, you can unclip it from the carrier if you prefer (most tethers are not removable, and cry out to be chewed off by a bored dog). The carrier is quite light (4 lbs.), which turned out to be a blessing — Chloe was weighed for the first time in the Air carrier, and easily came in under Jet Blue’s 20 lb. maximum.

 

Sleepypod Air at SFO

Here’s what we didn’t like: Theoretically, it’s not a problem that there’s no dedicated access zipper, since you can position the existing zippers at the top of the carrier and sneak your hand in between them when you need to pat your pup. In practice, that doesn’t work so well, because the edges of the carrier components are fairly rigid. Another side effect of the carrier components being so structured is that this carrier doesn’t easily lose height (this is one place where Chloe’s SturdiProducts bag comes out ahead).

When I looked at Sleepypod’s drawings of the Air carrier, I got the impression that when you wanted to shorten the bag, the ends flipped up and stayed up. In fact, they don’t. They flip up, but only as long as you’re applying pressure to them (as you would be when you’re wedging your dog’s carrier under your seat). [12/17/10 A reader just pointed out that Sleepypod’s web site now directs you to fold and unfold the ends several times when you first use your carrier; “I remember reading your Sleepypod review and mentioning that the ends wouldn’t stay up during your testing. As per the instructions on the Sleepypod web site, I worked folding and unfolding the end flaps several times prior to my trip and the end did go up and stay up when I folded it for our flight.”] It’s not immediately obvious, therefore, that the bag has the ability to be shorter. With that in mind, I’ve kept the explanatory card that comes with the Air bag and tucked it into the side pocket, so that if a ticket or gate agent is concerned about the bag’s length, I’ll have the diagrams to show them. They’re just diagrams, so they’ll work in any country.

It’s just as well that I’ve kept the explanatory card, because I need it every time I have to attach the carrier to a seat belt. Sleepypod has come up with an ingenious set of buckles that fasten the carrier securely to a seat belt, but without the diagrams, I’m lost.

Our last complaint? The carrier slips over the handle of a rolling suitcase by way of a panel on one of the long sides. Double-ended zippers at the top and bottom of the panel allow it to be a pocket when you want, and a slot when you want. So far, so normal. However, the Sleepypod Air panel is 14″ long! I assume the designers thought I’d like to have the option of having a 14″-wide pocket when the slot is not needed — and when the slot is needed, I can close the zippers tightly against the handle of my suitcase. It’s a great idea, but the zippers sometimes shift, allowing the bag to swivel around on top of the supporting suitcase. Happily, Chloe is a dog with a sunny outlook on life, and doesn’t lose sleep over sudden swoops. I suggest looking back frequently as you roll along to make sure everything’s in place. [1/3/14 See Nomad’s comment, below, for a really clever fix to this problem — thanks, Nomad!]

Please note that the Air comes in five colors. I asked for a sample in Orange Dream, because I’m a total sucker for orange. As always, I recommend that you get your carrier in a dark color (Jet Black or Dark Chocolate) so that it looks as small as possible. That said, however, we took our high-visibility Orange Dream carrier on JetBlue and Virgin America and neither airline turned a hair over the carrier’s size.

Dog Jaunt’s review policy requires me to give away freebies valued at over $50, and the Sleepypod Air has a retail value of $149.99. I can’t give the carrier I’ve been testing to a reader because it’s been thoroughly Chloe-fied by now. I don’t want to give it away, period, since I like it so much. My solution? I’m sending Sleepypod a check and adding it to Chloe’s Collection of Carriers.

Amazon link:
Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier

36 comments

  • Mary Haight

    Great review! Ok, now you need a contest where people have to guess how many pet carriers are in Chloe’s collection! That’s an interesting point you made regarding the ends that flip up but don’t stay in that position. It looks big, so I’m glad you didn’t get any trouble at check-in:) Thanks for the great information on this product, Mary-Alice!

  • Pingback: Contest: Sleepypod Air Giveaway!

  • Pingback: And the winner of the SleepyPod Air is…

  • kathy

    HI! I just received mine for a flight from WAS -> LAX this weekend. I’m freaking out bc I am in a window virgin america seat and hoping the carrier fits. I don’t want to buy a new one bc this one is so nice. But I also don’t want to be booted from the plane because the bag is a little confusing. I saw that you said you have flown with this carrier on Virgin. Did you have any issues I should know? How about the “squish” space – pretty easy or should I be worried? THANK YOU!

  • Hi, Kathy! Here’s my post about the Virgin America A-320 under-seat space: http://www.dogjaunt.com/2010/03/which-seat-works-best-with-an-in-cabin-dog-virgin-america-a320/ I suspect you’ll be fine even in a window seat — you’ll have to orient the bag front-to-back, not side-to-side, and you’ll be taking advantage of the fact that the top can be pressed to one side (so it’s kind of a trapezoid, in cross-section). At full length, you’ll stick out a bit into your foot space, so for take-off and landing you may want to flip up at least one of the ends, so you don’t catch a flight attendant’s attention (and then of course as soon as you’ve taken off, you can pull the carrier out and let the end(s) fall down again. I think it’s very doable — have a good trip, and let us know how it goes!

  • becca

    Do you think this carrier would be suitable for a west highland terrier? I want to get a female and I know they grow up to be about 20lbs. If not, do you have any recommendations of a good carrier of a dog her size? I would most likely use the sleepypod air as more of a car seat with a chance of a flight trip. (she may be too big to fly in cabin at 20lbs)

  • Hi, Becca! It’s a terrific carrier, but I think it would be too small for a pup the size you’re describing. I’d go with the large SturdiBag for flying (the XL would likely work better, but will be a nail-biter to get past the agents and on the plane), and in the car I’d consider a large Pet Tube from PetEgo, with the optional cushion, expanded only halfway across the seat — either that or an L.A. Company booster seat, if your pup wants to see out the window. Good luck! And let me know what you decide on!

  • julie

    Mary-Alice thanks for your excellent reviews. I got the Sleepypod Air — It fits my two yorkies that weigh 4 lb and 6 lb at the same time!! So I can fly Southwest and pay for only one pet carrier. Just thought this would be helpful info for future readers of this review. I’m very happy with the carrier. I bought it in black.

    Julie

  • Tara

    Do you think the Sleepypod Mini will work on Alaska? I am flying to California to pick up my puppy and want to send the Mini a month before hand so it can get used to the bed before flying her home with me. The fact that it is a bed and then changes into a carrier makes me think that it will help her with the anxiety of a flight at 10 weeks old. She is a tiny long-haired Chihuahua and will weigh less than 3lbs full grown.
    The Sleepypod Mini is 13″ in diameter and 11″ tall but can squish to a shorter height.
    Alaska says that it needs to be less than 12″ in width….

  • Hi, Tara — I think it would work fine. The top is a bit squishy, and the sides flex a little too. Although Alaska’s official maximums are 9.5Hx17Lx12W for soft-sided carriers (http://www.dogjaunt.com/guides/us-airline-pet-policies/ ) the actual available under-seat space is more generous — please see this post: http://www.dogjaunt.com/2010/08/which-seat-works-best-with-an-in-cabin-dog-alaska-737-800/ I love the idea of her everyday bed also being her travel carrier, and I love how you’ve thought ahead to make this as comfortable as possible for her.

  • Mai

    Hi!
    Thank you so much for your excellent review! I am wondering about the height of the bag… does it actually slide perfectly under the seat? I bought the Atom yesterday for my shih tzu, we are flying across the country on Virgin America. It seems a little tall and I just want to make sure!
    Thank you!

  • Hello, Mai! The only data I have for Virgin America is here: http://www.dogjaunt.com/2010/03/which-seat-works-best-with-an-in-cabin-dog-virgin-america-a320/ I haven’t looked closely at the Atom, because it’s too small for Chloe, but the published dimensions are 17″ long, 8.5″ wide, and 10.5″ tall. Theoretically, therefore, it’ll be about 2″ tall to slide “perfectly” under a VA seat (unless you turn it on its side, which is a possibility), BUT the top is mesh, and pretty flexible, so I feel that you will be able to slide the Atom under the hard case of the life jacket with just a little push. Truly, I don’t think it’ll be an issue for you guys. And as soon as you take off, you can pull your pup’s carrier out under your knees, giving her back that little bit of room she’ll need to lose on take-off and landing. Safe travels, and let us know how it goes!

  • Rebecca

    Hey there! I was wondering if you can use the Sleepypod Air on international flights? What do you recommend?

  • You certainly could, Rebecca — it’d be an excellent choice. Your pup would need to be 10″ or under at the shoulder for it to work, but if that’s the case, she’ll love the long length.

  • lauren

    Hi there, just wondering – you responded to someone elses comment about the official dimensions allowed by Alaska but stated “the actual available under-seat space is more than generous”. This makes me wonder… do airliners actually measure the case? and do they expect your carrier to fit those dimensions? I mean, is it bad if it is over the amount, particularly in height? As the sleepypod air is approximately 10.5 which is already slightly over the maximum of average height required. I ask, because I am going to go on Finnair and their dimensions are 55x40x20 cm (21x15x8 in) (length x width x height).. Think I could still use this for my cat?

  • Rita Vazquez

    I bought a Sleepypod Air, but before using it, given that what I had was a 3.4 lb. teacup Yorkie. I also got the Atom, and when comparing it I decided that I did not need the carrier to be so long, and I liked the little extra height of the Atom. So I returned the Air and kept the Atom. It allowed me to have my doggie comfortable and while entering the plane in which you are required to only have two pieces with you , I would put my purse with Rufus. We traveled a lot in the year and a half I had him. We never had a problem squishing the atom under the seat, being a soft carrier and at the same time sturdy, we got it under the seat and the mesh never got deteriorated. If you see my Atom you would think I bought it yesterday. So it is very, very good, I highly recommend it. But, now I have a new dog, and wished I would have kept the Air. Because this one is also a teacup, but in the Air, while your dog lays, they can see outside, in the Atom, since it has two convenient side pockets, the mesh requires your dog to be a little taller while he lays, to see outside.

  • Thanks so much, Rita! I’ve never bought the Atom, since it’s way too small for Chloe — I’m very grateful to have your thoughts about it, and a bit of a comparison with the Air.

  • Jane

    I bought two Sleepypod Clickit for our two dogs. We rescued a smallish Lhasa-ish mix who’d had a traumatic amputation of her right front leg. We are extremely concerned about car safety because any further injury would affect her quality of life. The main problem is that harnesses do not stay centered due to the missing limb. Before buying the Clickit, I discussed the situation with with the Sleepypod staff, who felt the Clickit might stay centered, but said it was not tested under those conditions. Even though Maggie is a quiet car traveler, the Clickit did not remain centered and her car safety is compromised. As a result, we are looking for a very safe car carrier that has passed safety testing.
    I am awaiting a refurbished Sleepypod Air to arrive but have concerns if Maggie will be comfortable in it for anything but very short car rides. She weighs 14.5 pounds. (Her rehab vet wants her get down to 14 pounds.) She is 11 inches tall at the shoulders and is 17 inches long from neck to rear. If the Sleeypod Air does not work for us, do you have any car carrier recommendations? I am considering larger carriers since air travel is not the main purpose and so Maggie will have more than enough room to easily change positions or turn around. Specifically, I am considering the Sturibag XL, the Snoozer 3 in 1, and the K&H Travel Safety Carrier. However, I keep comparing the type of seat belt attachments in the Air and the remaining options and continue to have safety concerns. Thanks for any advice regarding a particularly challenging issue.

  • Hi, Jane! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment about the Clickit and how it works (well, how it DOESN’T work) for Maggie. The Air is a splendid travel bag, but for car travel I’d point you to the choice we’ve made: PetEgo’s Pet Tube. Here’s a link to the post I wrote about it recently: http://www.dogjaunt.com/posts/petegos-pet-tube-an-update-on-how-to-install-it/ It’s a good option for dogs like Chloe and Maggie (who are about the same size) because it gives them more room and visibility than a carrier like the Air, but doesn’t require a harness. Chloe’s now perfectly content in hers — and now that I know how to install it correctly, I’m confident that it’ll keep her safe. Hope that helps! (You would want to get the small size Pet Tube for Maggie, as we have for Chloe — the bigger size, even cinched to fit in one seat, is really more space than they need.)

  • Trisha

    I stumbled across your blog while searching for a carrier for my mini dachshund and it has so much great information. I’m wondering if you can give me a little advice. I bought a Sherpa To Go medium size bag (16″ L X 10.5″ H X 11″ D) for our first trip and while he fit I was not thrilled with it. The bottom slid around a lot as he’s a wiggly one, he even did a few somersaults in it in the parking lot while I was getting my bag out (bad dog parent moment) and I felt like it was squishing him as I carried him because the bottom was not rigid. The strap was also not very comfortable when carrying him through the airport, think cheap duffle bag. I’m debating between a Sturdibag and a Sleepypod Air (or something else if you have a suggestion). I want something with a more rigid bottom, more quality design, and a little more room. My guy is small but muscular (around 15 pounds), obviously height is not a problem in the dachshund world but length is (he does curl up and sleep in flight). I fly standby so I don’t have to worry about ticket agents rejecting me for size violations, my biggest goal is just his comfort and my ability to carry it comfortably (over the shoulder strap) in the airport without squishing him. Any advice? Thank you!!

  • Elke Drutschel

    I am so grateful for your thorough review of the Sleepy Pod Air. I will fly internationally from the US to Europe on Lufthansa and have received conflicting reports as to their in cabin carrier dimensions. Will travel with a 14 lb paralyzed cat and am anxious about not being able to bring her on board. I came across the Sleepy Pod and thought it would offer a bit more room for the kitty but I am concerned the agents at the counter may have a problem with it. Hope you can help with this dilemma. Thank you also for your tip about the color selection – making a dark colored carrier appear smaller!!

  • Hello, Lauren — I am so sorry to be so late in responding. Your trip is probably over and done with! But had I responded in time, I would have encouraged you to give the Sleepypod Air a try. It may be taller than the official maximums, but as I mentioned, it gives/slants a bit, and will fit in a lower space. Also, based on my experience with other airlines, while the lowest spot under a Finnair seat may be 8″, there are likely to be other spots under the seat that are higher — often, that dimension is directly under the life vest holder, or an electronics box. Fitting in odd-sized spaces is a little easier with the large SturdiBag we often use for Chloe, since its top is so flexible, but the Sleepypod Air should work fine. I’ve never had anyone measure Chloe’s carrier, and she’s only been weighed a couple of times. Typically, if your carrier is within the realm of reasonable (and the Sleepypod Air is), and your pet looks comfortable in it, it will make it onto the plane.

  • I think it’s an excellent choice for your purposes, Elke — your girl will really appreciate the extra length the Air provides. 14 lbs is a modestly-sized pet, and the Air is a light carrier. Even in the bright orange, it looks sleek, and the black is even sleeker. I would be astonished if you were turned away — and if anyone attempts to, I would certainly tell them about her disability. They’d have to be heartless to resist that. Safe travels, and I hope the trip goes very smoothly for both of you.

  • Hi, Trisha! I’d go with the Sleepypod Air, if I were you. It’s very long, but can be folded up to be short (and your pup is a size to handle even the shorter mode), so you’ll never have to be nervous about being rejected by a ticketing or gate agent. It’s not as tall as the medium Sherpa, but you’re right, you don’t care about that. And it’s beautifully made — I think you’ll be impressed by it. If, for some reason, you don’t like the strap, I’d consider replacing it with the amazing Tom Bihn “Absolute” strap (http://www.tombihn.com/PROD/TB0505.html ) — but I’d be surprised if you felt like you had to. Hope that helps, and that you guys travel very happily together!!

  • Taylor

    I love your review on this product, and it has made me even more confident in purchasing it for my upcoming move that I will be doing. I feel confident that my dog with be comfortable in the bag (she’s a 12 pound minpin), but I wanted to ask if you thought that getting the SleepyPod Air will be okay to use on Alaska Airlines? I will be flying from Florida to Washington, and honestly this is the only product that I have found and really liked enough to invest in. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! 🙂

  • Hi, Taylor — I think it’d be a terrific choice for your MinPin (you’ll just want to make sure your girl is no more than 10″ tall at the shoulders, for her to be comfortable). I’d use it on Alaska flights without hesitating — it’s a compact bag, and it flexes, essentially, by tilting, so it should fit in the spaces you’ll encounter. Please let me know what you think of it!

  • Nomad

    Hi. I know this is quite old, but I thought I’d share an idea. With my sleepypod air, I slid it over the handle of my bag , made it as centered as possible, then put 2 safety pins vertically on either side of the handle. Then I slid it off and hand sewed 2 seams with sturdy thread just outside of the pins – stopping 1/2 inch BELOW the top zipper and ABOVE the bottom zipper. This effectively makes the one long pocket in 3, the outside 2 of which can still be used even if using the middle over your luggage! It also stops the bag from sliding around so much. I hope ths helps someone. Have a good day.

  • Brilliant, Nomad! Thank you!!! This post has been around for awhile, but the bag remains a useful, popular one, and your fix addresses one of my top pet peeves about it.

  • Susan Smith

    I know this post is older, but I have gleaned great information from it. I travel from WA to CA with my Bichon (Bailey) about 6-8 times a year. I have always used a Sherpa bag, as that is what the breeder suggested when I first got him 9 years ago. The Sherpa is needing to be replaced and I am very interested in the Sleepypod Air. I wrestle with the Sherpa every time I try to get it under the seat of Alaska Airlines, which I always fly. It does allows for plenty of ventilation and that is a concern because Bailey is very hot blooded and with his thick show coat gets quite warm and can be heard panting under the seat. Do you think the Sleepypod would allow enough air to circulate for him?

  • Lauren B.

    Hi! Thank you so much for your thoughtful review(s)! I am searching for a airplane-friendly carrier for a puppy (a toy poodle mix) that should grow up to be less than 10 pounds. I think I have it narrowed down to either the Sleepypod Air or the Large SturdiBag. Which would you recommend? Particularly, have the flaps on the Sleepypod Air become easier to fold/stay up as you’ve used the bag more? Do you think the extra space available in-flight (when the flaps are down) is a significant advantage? I’d love more of your thoughts. Thanks!

  • Hi, Lauren! I ended up giving my Sleepypod Air to a friend with a miniature Dachshund, because really, it was perfect for her Sophie. From other users’ reports, though, it is my understanding that yes, the flaps do eventually cooperate better. I think either carrier would be a win for your pup. I do like the extra headroom of the large Sturdi for Chloe, but your pup will likely be a little shorter at the shoulder than Chloe. Hope that helps!

  • Hi, Susan — There is good ventilation in the Sleepypod Air (the whole top is mesh). A Bichon, though, is likely a similar configuration to my Chloe, and she’s happier with the head room of the large SturdiBag. I recommend that for you guys. It’s the same outer size, basically, as the Sherpa you’re likely using, but it has more ventilation, it’s lighter, and it has a very flexible top and sides, so you don’t get the wrestling that you have with the Sherpa. (I’ve used the Sherpa a few times now, and I hear you about the wrestling.)

  • Mamie

    Hi! I’m trying to get my yorkie used to the Sleepypod Air in preparation for his first flight from NYC to Oregon. He’s fine sitting in it as long as the flap is open. I try to zip him closed so the zipper ends at the top in case he wants to poke his head out, but he freaks out because the zipper around the round corners of the flap aren’t smooth, and I end up having to shift the bag around to get it to zip properly. By then, he’s squeezed himself out through whatever opening is left. Have you had that problem when you were using it?

  • Golly, Mamie, I haven’t. I wonder if a spritz of graphite on the zipper at those locations might help? Also, tossing a lot of quality treats in while you’re maneuvering the bag, so he associates the bag and a little bit of jostling in it with, say, chicken or ham?

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