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Reader’s report: Pushing back when your dog’s in-cabin carrier is “too big”

Reader Joanna, who travels frequently with her Cardigan Welsh Corgi, told me about a recent exchange with a United ticket agent, who decided her dog (26 lbs., in an extra-large SturdiBag) was too big to fit under the seat:

“Last time on United at ticket counter they refused to let my dog go in cabin despite my measuring tape and pleas. Well, I took my SturdiBag in the cabin after dog was put in cargo and lo and behold, it fit with not a problem. I snapped a photo, grabbed the airline attendant and demanded they bring my dog up from cargo. They did, and ended up after the fact refunding every penny of the dog fee….”

That’s impressive. I hope that I would have had the creativity and tenacity to do the same thing, but now that I know about Joanna’s success, I’d certainly follow her lead.

Along the same lines, consider taking a picture of your dog successfully installed in her carrier under the seat on an airline (and an airplane type) you often fly — or a picture of Chloe or another dog, in the same-sized carrier you use — and bringing that with you, so you can show it to an airline agent who’s worried about your carrier’s size. I’ve started collecting readers’ pictures of their dogs in carriers, and our pictures of Chloe in her carrier (in the blog’s sidebar, click on “Pictures of carriers on planes”), and there are a couple more, posted by readers, on Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page.

Joanna has another suggestion, which comes naturally to someone with an agility dog — but I believe that we all could achieve the same result with a little effort, and perhaps some guidance from a local trainer:

“Another idea that seemed to work to make it look like it’s no problem for your dog to turn around and get in and out of the bag easily [a requirement for most airlines] is to teach them to back up. Then you don’t look like you are struggling to smash them in. Also, teaching rights/lefts with cookies will make them turn around on their own without us manipulating them.”

She referred to a friend who travels with Shelties (another dog I would never have dreamed of trying to get under a plane seat), and brings two sizes of SturdiBag to the airport with her — she believes her friend approaches the ticket counter with the large SturdiBag, then switches her dog into the extra-large after going through security.

There are some risks with that approach, namely that the boarding agent will disapprove of the larger carrier, and that it won’t be possible to transfer the sticky tag placed on your dog’s original carrier by the ticketing agent (some airlines instead use a tag with an elastic band, or no tag at all). Consider instead trying first with the extra-large, and then falling back, if need be, to the large. The problem with that approach, though, is that it lets the ticketing agent view your pretty-darned-large small dog in her entirety, not tucked away in a hard-to-see-into bag.

On balance, I’d stick with the large SturdiBag, and transfer your dog to the extra-large — if you absolutely must — as discreetly as possible once you’re on the plane. You wouldn’t need to re-transfer your dog back into the large SturdiBag at the end of the flight, assuming that your dog truly does fit under your particular airplane seat in an extra-large SturdiBag. This approach will work best if you have a traveling companion who can carry the extra bag for you, and can give you the extra legroom you’ll need to effect the transfer. Please note that this should be attempted ONLY by owners who are completely confident that their dog will not escape their control during the transfer process. If there’s a possibility that your dog might bolt once that first zipper opens — and keep in mind that being on an airplane is stressful, and may make your reliable pup less than reliable — do not open the zipper.

All of this strategizing assumes that you have a dog that is really pushing the limits of what works in-cabin, like a 26-lb. Corgi, or a Sheltie, though even in that size-range there are important differences between breeds and dogs: “But, she has shelties. They can turn tighter and are like spaghetti noodles. I have corgis, more like inert, squat sausages.”

46 comments

  • Sarah Louise

    It’s heartening to hear that Joanna has been able to travel with her pup. I have a 25-pound beagle mix that I’m going to *attempt* to fly in the cabin. He’s an adult, very well behaved, and very used to traveling by car. Family stuff has come up and there is just no time to wait for the next Petairways flight out of the West Coast (December 19th?! – almost a month from now). I’m going to buy the extra-large Sturdibag, take a red eye flight direct to Chicago, and sit first class. Hopefully this combination works for the night shift airport folk, because I am certain Jack will have no problem with curling up under a seat if he’s given the chance.

    I like the idea of having a picture of one of these bags ready-to-go in case I’m given trouble. I’m wondering if Joanna or anyone else that reads this blog has a photo I could use of the extra large Sturdibag fitting under an airline seat? Otherwise, I’d be interested in any pictures of the large Sturdibag fitting down there.

    Thanks much and happy travels, everyone!

  • Hi, Sarah Louise! I do hope it all works out for you — you might also want to post a comment on Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page, in case Joanna reads that instead/also. I don’t recall seeing any pix of an XL in action, so I can’t help you there. Crossing my fingers for you, though!

  • Adam

    Hi Mary-Alice,
    Firstly, thanks for your informative blog. I’ve spent the better part of an hour perusing all of the posts and comments, hoping to find information that might prove useful to my particular situation. I’m an American, though I’ve been living in the France for about four years now…with the French attitude towards dogs being as positive as it is, I recognize I’m pretty fortunate to live here! 🙂

    Anyway, I shall be headed back to the U.S. for the Christmas holiday to visit my family, and I am taking my 6 month old Cocker Spaniel along for the visit. As he is so young, I don’t want to board him here in France. I’d been planning to take him cargo all along, but the discovery of the SturdiBag makes me think that perhaps I’d be able to take him along in the cabin. He weighs just around 16 pounds at the moment.

    I was hoping you could clarify what you’ve mentioned in other posts/comments about the 20in. of the XL Sturdibag being too long. From your photos, I’ve seen you generally fly with your bag positioned sideways. I’m flying with United, who asks that the bag be 18 in or smaller. Would a 20 in bag simply jut 2 inches into my leg space, or is it much more noticeable than that?

    I’ve not been able to find many photos of the XL Sturdibag online, other than the promotional photos released by Sturdi Products. I did however find an XL bag demoed on their YouTube channel, and I’ll admit it seems pretty enormous. I feel like I could probably just barely slip past the gate agent with the bag, but I am legitimately concerned about fitting it under the seat.

    I’ve read your advice against the XL bag in several different areas, but I simply wondered as to whether the situation with your reader that you mentioned has changed your opinion at all?

    Any input you could provide would be greatly appreciated! 🙂

    Merci from Paris!

    Adam

  • Hi, Adam! I have to say that until I read the reports that you see in this post, I would never have considered trying to fit a dog in an XL SturdiBag under my seat. The Large is as big as I like to go, but clearly there are folks who are successfully (well, mostly) flying with an even larger carrier. I don’t have any pictures of the XL in practice, and I don’t know of any. I sat next to a woman once with a large Sherpa bag, which at that time was the size of an XL SturdiBag. She oriented it front-to-back (you have to) and it did stick out several inches (I’d say 4-5 inches) into her legroom area. She concealed the problem with a coat over her knees. If you were traveling with someone else, I’d propose that you consider bringing him on board in the large SturdiBag (assuming that he’s not uncomfortable) and then moving him, once you take off, into the Pet Ego Pet Dome I’ve described in a couple of posts. Since it sounds like you’re traveling alone, I’d take the chance on the XL SturdiBag. You might consider shortening the base (that slips into, and reinforces, the bottom) by two inches, as a reader suggested, so if you’re challenged you can show them that the solid part of the base is only 18″ long (plus a bit of fabric) — and of course you’d also show them how flexible the top and sides are, and how much room there is around your dog — a 16 lb. dog really isn’t enormous, and airline people do seem to give international travelers a bit of a break. I know it’s a bit risky, and a bit nerve-wracking, but if it was me, I’d try it. From your dog’s comfort point of view, I think it would be totally fine. A 16 lb. dog should fit well under a seat for takeoff and landing, and the rest of the time you can pull his carrier out into your legroom space. Let me know what you decide to do, and how it goes!

  • Adam

    Thank you so much for your input! I’m flying next week, so I’ll let you know how everything goes 🙂

  • Elise

    I’d love to know what happpened, and if the sturdibag XL worked for you? I am attempting to fly on Sat (Xmas eve) on Southwest from LA to Chicgo with my 27 lb cocker spaniel in the XL Sturdibag. Were you questioned a lot, or just waved through? I am hoping that the airline employees will give me a break since it’s Xmas. What do you think?

  • Lisa

    Hi everyone!

    I thought I’d leave a helpful comment about traveling with my 22lb Beagle/Corgi Mix (Oscar) on Southwest. I usually fly out of Nashville with him in the large Sturdibag without any issues. No one in Nashville has ever said a word about the bag being too large. However when I attempt to fly back to Nashville from Albany NY that is where I run into trouble. We have flown about 6 times with Oscar until having one incident back in August 2011 where a woman stopped us for the carrier being too large. She tried to say my dog couldn’t turn around but he turns around just fine even in cabin! Luckily she let us go because it was a return flight and I was very flustered. On our most recent trip back from Albany on Christmas/New Years, the man at the ticket counter took out his measuring tape and said the large Sturdi bag was too big and that my dog was also too big. I started turning on the tears because I was convinced he wasn’t going to let us go and I didn’t know what I was going to do. Well that led him to get his supervisor to make the final call on the bag. I think the supervisor felt really bad with me bawling at the counter so he was nice and let us go ahead but told me if he has to come out again the next time he wouldn’t let me go because my dog is too big. His next comment was that the people in Nashville are not doing their job and are trying to avoid confrontation. If you are flying with a dog over 15lbs, be mindful that this probably will happen to you eventually. All of the airlines have very subjective policies and it depends on who is working that day. Personally I don’t think I should be punished for the fact that one airport supposedly “does their job” and another “doesn’t do their job to avoid confrontation.” At this point I’m really confused about what to do because I really want to fly with my dog and he does great on the plane. If anyone has any suggestions I would greatly appreciate that!

  • Hi, Lisa — It’s a tricky business with dogs like ours — Chloe doesn’t weigh as much as your pup, but she’s tall, so she pushes the envelope in a different way. There isn’t much recourse, because the airline agent you happen to encounter gets to make the call about whether your dog is too big for her carrier or for the available under-seat space. The best you can do is be comfortable in your own mind/conscience that your dog is comfortable in her carrier, and then demonstrate how flexible its edges are (in the case of the SturdiBag). Keep your tag on from your last flight, to show that another airline agent thought the carrier was okay. Carry pictures of your carrier in position under the seat of a similar airplane. Cross your fingers. Cry (which, as you’ve found out, is easy when you’re beside yourself). It’s especially tricky for you because you travel a lot, it sounds like, between the same two locations. Gadabouts like me are a little safer. Thank you for the heads-up, and the reality check — and my fingers are crossed for you.

  • Lisa

    Thanks Mary-Alice for the encouragement! Your blog has been really helpful! My next plan is to try a different carrier with him but I like the flexibility of the Sturdi bag so much it will be hard to part with it. Wheels would be nice since he is so heavy though. I’ll take a look back at the bag reviews again. We won’t be traveling again until summer so we might be able to take a chance again or figure something else out. Thanks again!

  • Adam

    Firstly, let me apologize in taking so long to report on my experience flying in December with an XL Sturdibag. Between jumping between holiday time with my family in the States, real life in Paris, and a surprise two week visit “down under” for an Australian friend’s wedding, I have been a bit scattered!

    At any rate, I wrote about considering the XL Sturdibag and wondering whether or not it was the right fit for my Cocker Spaniel. Upon Mary Alice’s advice, I ordered the bag. I was shocked to see just how big it was, simply because I had yet to witness it in person. Following the advice of some past commenters, I chose to shave off about an inch of the hard baseboard in the bag. Ultimately, I don’t feel this was necessary, though it did nothing to damage the integrity of the bag.

    On the day of my flight, I nervously stuffed my dog inside and headed to the airport. Oliver fits inside while standing, but just barely! Because I was gearing up for a long distance flight (nearly 10 hours), I took him on a long walk the night before I left and another 2.5 hour walk before the airport. Nevertheless, he got a bit fussy and was fidgeting a lot as I checked in.

    My heart was beating quickly at the check-in counter in Paris. The United representative was American (not that it makes any difference), and checked my bag with no problem. When she saw I had a pet reservation, she asked me to place Oliver on the counter in his bag. I did so and the woman started laughing like a mad woman. “You want to put THAT on the plane? Oh no way. No way is that going to work.”

    She consulted with another of her colleagues, jeering “Susan, can you believe this passenger thinks THAT will go under the seat?” I felt embarrassed by her behavior, but I did my best to let it roll off my shoulders, assuring her that it fit under the seat. She referred me to the “service desk” which was an area directly across from the check-in counters and followed me over there to laugh it up with her colleagues. They were actually pretty apathetic, and I showed them how flexible the roof of the carrier is and explained that it does indeed fit.

    By this time, Oliver was really annoyed, since his bag was being poked and prodded. The bag itself is incredibly lightweight and if he moves about inside, he can easily roll the bag over. When I stuck it on the second counter for these representatives to check, he was fussing a lot, so a giant black moving bag was sitting in front of these ladies. I assured them that it was simply because he was a little annoyed. They peeked inside and the first woman said he was unfairly smooshed inside, though he seemed pretty comfortable to me.

    In spite of the initial representative’s protests, her colleagues deemed the bag okay to go through and I paid Oliver’s pet fee. I was pretty nervous about how things would go on the plane, but after that ordeal, figured it couldn’t get much worse.

    As luck would have it, the same representative was the woman who checked my ticket at the gate, inquiring one more time, “You REALLY think your dog will be fine?” I just smiled at her and walked right on by.

    I flew on a Boeing 767-300, which is the aircraft generally used for the Chicago-Paris route. I chose a window seat which ended up being a mistake, as there is a large media box underneath these seats. As best as I could see, the box was located under all window seats on the plane. In the end, I pushed the bag under as best as I could, though it jutted a bit into my neighbor’s space.

    My seatmate was really friendly and soon after she sat down, I pulled out an adorable picture of my little guy and explained that he was at her feet if she felt anything wiggling. She was shocked to know he was down there and was absolutely wonderful about it, simply saying she wished she could pet him! The flight went without a hitch and he didn’t complain a bit. I don’t think the flight attendants ever knew he was there.

    If anyone does choose to fly United and is on this aircraft, I’d recommend choosing the middle seat in the middle of the plane. This definitely had the most room. The aisle seats in the center were also more roomy underneath.

    Unlike Mary Alice, I don’t carry measuring tape, so I unfortunately can’t provide specific dimensions. I did snap a quick picture of the bag in action. I am posting it on the Facebook page and below. As you can see, it juts out into the foot area quite a bit. I simply draped my blanket over my legs and the bag and the flight attendants never said a thing.

    If you choose to fly with the XL Sturdibag, do it at your own risk certainly. Nevertheless, I am proof that it can be done! 🙂 Stay calm and do your best to stand up to the representatives firmly but politely. Worst case scenario they say no, right?

    Best of luck everyone!

    Bag in action:
    https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/422454_3085475454014_1177710064_2496407_1431827810_n.jpg

  • Holy mackerel, Adam, what a story! I’m very impressed that you had the confidence to convince the agents that it would work — and I’m delighted that it did, in fact, work for Oliver. Thank you for all the details, and for the photo. That’s the kind of info people really appreciate as they calculate what space their pet needs, and how much their own nervous systems can stand…. (I’m wondering, what would you have done if the agents hadn’t backed down? Did you have an alternative carrier up your sleeve?)

  • Terri

    Wow, yes, what a story…gives me hope! My partner and I are trying to figure out if we could possible fly with our 16 pound poodle mix. He is a bit tall 15 inches, and very furry, but can curl up into a tiny ball. I would have to use the XL Sturdi. Would love to know Oliver’s height and length at the time of this flight…thank you so much, Adam, for sharing this with us.

  • Adam

    Hi Terri-
    I measured Oliver to be about 15 inches tall and he was just over 20lbs…I unfortunately don’t have any idea as to his length at the time…I would guess about 17 or 18 inches. The XL Sturdibag was definitely not “roomy” but he tends to roll up a bit, so it really was no issue. I’m not certain what airline you’re planning on flying, but United doesn’t have a set weight limit, so I lucked out a bit there…a lot of others have limits that would have excluded him.

    Best of luck with your travels 🙂

    Adam

  • Terri

    Thanks, Adam! Looks like I might be able to pull it off. Ziggy comes in at around 17 pounds so the weight is not a big problem. I was more concerned about his height. It’s hard to decide on airlines, but I am trying to find the one with the most space under the seat. I have flown with my small chihuahua poodle, Puma in a large sturdi and there was a flight on Continental where I could barely squeeze that bag under the seat! So I get worried. :0 Thanks so much for your help. 🙂

  • Susan

    Hi, I’m also trying to figure out how to fly from Europe to the States this summer with my Sheltie (in the cabin). I just weighed him and was surprised to find that he’s now 19.5 lbs. because he’s always been around 17 lbs. Can it all be the winter coat? At any rate we’ll really be pushing it at that weight. From my research it looks like Air Canada has the highest weight limit at 22 lbs., though that would mean flying from Frankfurt rather than Berlin where I live. But Air Canada has a really strange pet carrier size – basically they seem to have just used the same size as for carry-on luggage: Height: 27 cm (10.5 in), Width: 40 cm (15.5 in), Length: 55 cm (21.5 in). Needless to say I can’t find a (very lightweight!) pet carrier with anything resembling those dimensions. Does that mean I can use any normal soft-sided carrier that will squish to those dimensions? I hesitate to call the airline to ask because it seems that whatever information they give me will probably have nothing to do with what the gate agent thinks anyway.
    I was interested to read what Adam wrote about United not having a specific weight limit, also because they seem to partner with Air Canada and fly directly from Berlin to Newark. But can anyone tell me how this works if there are no specific weight restrictions? Do I just put him in the extra-large Sturdibag and put my fate in the hands of the gate agent. How tight a squeeze would it be to put a Sheltie in a large Sturdibag? He has a shoulder height of around 15-16 inches. Anyone know of other airlines with generous size policies that fly internationally? All insights very much appreciated!

  • Adam

    Hi Susan!
    I subscribed to the follow-up comments on this post a while ago, so I just thought I’d add my two cents! 🙂 United doesn’t post anything specifically about weight limits, which was great for me, as some airlines impose really tight restrictions…think 10 lbs! I can only speak from experience flying with United, but my bag wasn’t weighed at any point.

    If I were you, I’d try to keep your connections to a minimum…smaller planes seem to have smaller everything, meaning it could be hard to fit your bag + doggie under the seat, should you be on a commuter flight. You’ll likely find that the airline will give you entirely different answers, depending on how many agents you speak to…for example, I often fly with my guitar as carry on luggage, and on any given day, four different airline reps will tell me four different things about whether it is or isn’t accepted. For the record, I’ve never had any problems flying with it either 😉

    Regardless of what Sturdibag you ultimately choose, neither of them will fit under 10 inches…the flexible roof is what makes it so attractive. If you encounter resistance at the airport, you can show them how flexible the top is and hope it works to persuade them.

    I honestly can’t imagine trying to stick your Sheltie in a large sturdibag…I just don’t know how he would fit. Oliver is 15 inches at the shoulder and I can’t imagine trying to stick him in something smaller than the XL…furthermore, the dog is supposed to be able to stand and turn around, and there’s no way he will get anywhere close in the large bag.

    I found the whole process to be really stressful, but it can be done clearly! If you fly with the XL, you need to be prepared to accept the worst. For me, this meant getting comfortable with the idea of the staff potentially saying no, and requiring me to purchase a crate at the airport for the underbelly of the plane. I would have HATED that, which is why I politely pushed back…but ultimately, the call is in the hands of the workers on call. Pray hard and keep your fingers crossed!

    In flying with my guitar, I’ve found that the check-in agent is normally happy to pass off to another employee…meaning they may say, “Well, I don’t know if they’ll accept it…I’ll let you through and then you can talk to the gate agent.” At the gate, I normally don’t say a word and just walk on by. The same was true with Oliver, as the check in agents reckoned that the gate would turn me away if there was an issue. That’s another beauty with the XL Sturdibag, it can almost pass for a duffel bag. If you can train your dog to accept spending time in it without complaining too much, you can probably walk right past the agents and they’ll be none for the wiser.

    Good luck!!

  • Susan

    Hi Adam, and thanks for your reply! I did a little more bag research and actually found a picture of a Sheltie in an extra-large Sturdibag, which was pretty convincing that he’s not going to fit in anything smaller:

    http://www.sturdiproducts.com/client/productdetail.aspx?Info=tpE7n2qujtxYZpzwGqk4dmeRmJWbOnDZvniFZzXZHq8=

    Or is that a Collie in the picture? But anyway, I thought I’d check out the Berlin-Newark route with United, and at first everything looked good because as has been mentioned, they offer the option of booking an in-cabin pet when you make the online reservation. But as I kept getting an unspecific error message, I called United to ask what the problem was. To my surprise, the call center agent insisted that he is totally, 100% positive that United never allows pets in cabin on transatlantic flights – “because of the length of the flight – the animals might get nervous in the cabin.” Of course it doesn’t help at that point to say that it’s precisely because of the length of the flight that I want my pet in cabin, but I did anyway of course. 🙂 And when I told him that I knew of someone who had flown (recently if I recall) from Paris to the States with their dog in cabin he said “oh, maybe the ticket agent made a mistake and let him through.” But he’s still totally positive this is not allowed on United. But Adam, I assume you cleared it with United first and purchased a ticket for your dog, or did you really just turn up with him? If so, I guess that’s the way to go if there are no other options – just act like you know what you’re doing and hope it works! But I’m still confused about what the United agent said – does anyone have any information on this? I would also absolutely HATE to have to put Benny in the hold!

  • I’ll be interested, too, Susan, to hear what Adam says — but we certainly traveled to Paris from Seattle with Chloe in-cabin on United. Now, that was over a year ago, and before the Continental merger, so things may have changed. I’ll be calling too, to try to figure out what’s happening, but in the meantime I’d call United again if I were you and ask to speak to a manager to resolve the issue — and I’d consider another airline, too, just in case.

  • Adam

    Hi Susan (and Mary Alice :D)-

    I would venture to say that the representative in question was misinformed, which is a frustrating reality of airline travel. As I mentioned above, representatives seem to give answers that totally contradict one another on a routine basis. For example, when I flew with Oliver, I had originally assumed I would have to fly him in the hold, due to his size. I reconsidered and risked it with a Sturdibag because I was flying from Paris to Chicago in December…hardly two cities known for their winter warmth! (For the record, yes, this was just a few short months ago, after the merger)

    I called United and spoke to several different representatives, all of whom gave me different answers… “If the weather is below X temp, he will be refused.” “If the weather falls below a certain temp, he’ll be accepted but you will need to sign a waiver.” “We have no temp restrictions, it is entirely based on the check in agent’s judgement.” You get the idea.

    The ticket agent certainly didn’t make a “mistake” as your representative told you. In fact, I called ahead and made a reservation for an in-cabin pet. When I checked in at the counter, the agent said to me, “Now, I see this says you have a pet. Is that accurate?” No mistake there.

    Even if the policy had changed in the three months since I traveled, the representative should have been aware of that and able to tell you that this is a new policy. United’s pet page has changed, as the fees were previously listed for travel between continents with a pet in tow. (http://united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/animals/in_cabin.aspx) Regardless, there does not appear to be a blanket restriction, as it states: “For travel outside the U.S. with an in-cabin pet, contact United Reservations at 1-800-UNITED-1 (1-800-864-8331) for assistance and information about international in-cabin pet acceptance and service charges. ” I would imagine it would simply say this isn’t allowed if it were the case.

    I sincerely hope that the individual you spoke with was just another representative who didn’t understand the company policy. When I called in Nov/Dec, I was often placed on hold as they verified policies, told contradicting things, yada yada…I feel frustrated just thinking about it! Silly airlines… 😉

    Good luck! Let us know what you find out!

  • Melanie

    Adam,

    Bonjour I have been following your posts and I also have a cocker spaniel here in Paris and want to take her on-board on our way back to the US. I moved her here in 2009 and she is almost 14 years old now and I am petrified of her having a stress related heart attack if she were in the compartment below again. She sounds about the same size as Olivier weighing a healthy 20lbs or 11,5 kilos. I am wondering if Oliver would have fit as comfortably in a L sturdibag as XL? Did the agents make you do anything special before accepting him as carry on? How was he during the flight? Did he try to get up and get out? Anything you can suggest is appreciated. I never considered that Bosley would be accepted on board until I read your post!
    Melanie

  • Adam

    Hi Melanie-

    I was pretty apprehensive about whether or not Oliver would be accepted, but ultimately I was able to weasel my way on-board with him! 😉 I am not certain which carrier you generally fly with, but United has one of the most generous in terms of weight restrictions (none! Aside: Mary-Alice, were you ever able to establish why Susan was told United wouldn’t take her pet?). At any rate, you’ll likely want to make sure Bosley is at least within the weight limits.

    Oliver was a bit antsy by the time we made it to CDG, but that was after jostling him through the RER with my other luggage…I think he was crabby because he was exhausted. I took him on a three hour walk the night before I left and another 2 hour walk the morning of the flight. You know Bosley’s energy level best, but especially at 6 months old, Oliver just had energy to burn…so I did my best to make sure he was exhausted. Keep in mind you’ll want to pay attention to water/food intake as well…and find the right balance between burning energy but not overly dehydrating her, as you can’t very well allow her to gulp gallons of water upon your return home.

    All of that said, he literally didn’t make a peep for the entirety of 10-ish hour flight to Chicago. I was incredibly impressed…and thankful. I had this nightmare that he was going to bark when he got agitated and sick of the bag! =P When I let him out after customs, he kind of yawned and it took him ages to go potty. I think he thought he had just had a long nap!

    As for getting him accepted, you can read the whole story above…but it was a challenge to negotiate with the airline agents. I am certain that living in France has made my backbone so much stronger than it once was, since “service client” here is hardly a right like it is at home! =P I just stayed firm and politely showed how the roof collapses, etc. I told the little white lie, “Oh, I’ve had tons of experience traveling this way, no problems ever!” Maybe that could help. 😉 It’s also worth noting that the French agents were those who ultimately let me through…sometimes apathy reigns supreme and that was certainly the case then!

    One last note on size: there is no way Oliver would have fit in a large Sturdibag, unless he were on his tummy the entire time. The XL was hardly roomy, he only had a few inches to spare on his stomach, and when standing, he was a bit cramped. I’m not certain when you are planning on heading towards the States, but if you have the time, you might consider ordering through Zooplus…if you determine the size you ultimately order won’t work, they accept returns. I couldn’t find anywhere else in Île-de-France that sells the bag in a physical store.

    Bonne chance Melanie et bon voyage Bosley! 😉

  • Melanie

    Thanks Adam! I really appreciate your advice. I am less optimistic now, learning Oliver was just a pup. Bosley is 13 so I think it will be below the plane for her. I will try the bag in anycase just to see how she “fits” in it and go from there. United doesn’t fly direct to Detroit, I think our choices are Air France and American for direct flights but I will do some more research in this area.
    Thanks again for responding. Much appreciated! You and Oliver take care.
    Melanie

  • Jeanne Kirk

    I bought a Sturdi Bag large to take my 9 lb shihtzo/poo from Victoria, BC, Canada to Florida. Despite a calming tablet prescribed by the vet he was not a good traveller and tried to get out of the bag by scratching the main opening and the top opening. Unfortunately he has made such a mess of the front mesh panel it nearly has a hole in it and will certainly not survive my return trip to Victoria.

    The only alternative I can think of is trying to find some strong mesh and stitching it over the mesh. Anyone have any other suggestions?.

    Be care of the zips as my dog quickly found that by scratching he could open the zips both at the top and the main opening. I then used the clip on both ends of the zip only to find that he could still open the zip then nearly choked as the clip has a piece of string there that allows the zips to open a few inches. My dog got his head stuck through the zip opening and couldn’t get either in or out. Don’t use the clip on the kennel – get an O ring or use something that has no extra length in it. Fortunately he did this when I was there but in Seattle when he was taken from in in his kennel for Customs I was away from him for over an hour so I was sure pleased he hadn’t discovered how to open the zip there otherwise he would have choked to death by the time I collected him.

  • Good Lord, Jeanne, what a trip! I hope you figured out how to handle the mangled mesh — I think your plan is the best anyone could have come up with. SturdiProducts will repair the bag for you, I believe, and you can also get one from them with extra-sturdy mesh. Perhaps your vet might be able to prescribe another, more effective tranquilizer? Oh, that poor pup. Thank you for the heads-up about securing the zipper — other readers have mentioned tugging the zippers all the way around to one end, not having them meet in the middle, but your pup seems to have taken it to the next level! An O-ring is a good idea, or maybe, even better, a removable cable tie — easier to handle than an O-ring, I think. I sincerely hope your next trip is better!!

  • Duncan

    Hi everyone. THANK YOU. I love reading the stories. Here’s my dilemma 🙂 (Yes, I’ve read almost everything on the web but still some questions)

    My dog Chomp is a small 4 yr old Cocker weighing 8.5kg and is 14inches tall (to the collar bone) and about 17inches long. A fairly small size.

    I’ve traveled from Beijing to Vancouver putting her in a XL Sherpa on Air Canada and also from Vancouver to Buenos Aires in the same bag in the cabin. Air Canada has great leg room under the seats and a fairly solid size and weight limit. The Air Canada agent did give me a bit of heck for stuffing a dog in the bag (she can’t ,stand up in it without pushing the top with her back) but I assured her it was better than putting her in the belly of the plane.

    Like many of you, once you get past the ticket lady the steward and stewardesses seem to love dogs. Strange.

    Anyways I am contemplating the Sturdi XL bag. Chomp ate her Sherpa bag one day while we were out (she gets mad when we leave her sometimes) – so we need a new one.

    I know she’ll ‘fit’ into the L Sturdi or XL Sherpa bag but I like the idea of a bigger XL Sturdi.

    Here’s my question (finally I know); Can I take the poles off the Sturdi XL bag (hence making it SUPER collapsible) when showing them the bag as opposed to showing it’s a Bendi Bag and is ‘ok’ – ? Thoughts on this strategy?

    Also – if anyone has any experience with a transit stop in Hong Kong and a dog either in the cabin or in baggage I’d love to hear from you.

  • Susan

    Hi there again, I’m reporting back finally nearly a year after I first wrote about flying for the first time with my Sheltie in-cabin from Germany to the US. I decided on going with Air Canada from Frankfurt since they had the most generous weight limits (22 lbs.) and United was giving conflicting information. I was originally booked from Frankfurt to Toronto and then Toronto to Orlando on August 7, though due to a problem with the plane in Frankfurt there was a 24-hour delay and I ended up flying Frankfurt – Montreal – Toronto – Orlando the next day. But I must say the delay wasn’t too bad – Air Canada put us up in a very nice 4-star hotel with food and drinks by the pool included so that was all quite bearable. 🙂 Plus the hotel happened to be right next to some woods where funnily enough I had sometimes gone for walks with Benny back when we lived in Frankfurt so that was convenient too.

    But as to the flight itself: I made it through check-in fine but upon seeing me with my dog and extra-large Sturdibag at the gate, the agent said that did not look like that was going to fit and my dog would have to fly cargo. She then called her supervisor, who said the same thing but at least gave me a chance, asking my to pre-board with her to show her if the bag would fit under the seat. I was pretty nervous as you can imagine but boarded the plane, went to my seat and with the agent watching managed to shove Benny in his sturdibag under the (aisle) seat. The bag was just sticking out a little and she said if it stayed like that it would be ok. I can’t tell you how relieved I was. Plus it turned out to be a huge stroke of luck that Benny was so pliable at that moment because on the 2 connecting flights I never quite got the bag to fit under the seat that well again. And the aisle seat on this flight turned out to be a good choice because there were no underseat obstructions like I saw on some other seats. The flight itself was fine; I must say Benny seemed more relaxed even during takeoff and landing than sometimes when driving in the car! After that I had no problems with agents on the connecting flights, which were also operated by Air Canada, and on the last leg from Toronto to Orlando I even got upgraded to first class, where the extra-large sturdibag fit very nicely under the seat. (Sorry I do not have the aircraft types for the flights.)

    Anyway, now I’m facing the same ordeal again as I’m flying back to Europe for nearly 3 months at the end of April. This time I am considering going with United, as the fares are cheaper than Air Canada and there is a pretty good connection from Florida (I’m now living between Tampa and Fort Myers airports) to Berlin via Newark on United. According to the info on United’s website, flexible pet carriers can be 18 x 11 x 11 inches long, so I may end up doing what Adam did and sawing off the extra inch to inch and a half of the bottom Sturdibag panel to make the hard dimensions fit. Then it looks like I’ll have to call United to book because for some reason I always get an error message when trying to put in an international flight on their website (which was also the case when I was looking last summer; you’d think they would have fixed that by now!!). And then I’ve got a question for the experienced pet flyers: I’m seeing a connection via Newark with only 45 minutes connection time. Would this work for connecting with a pet, or does that even make a difference (or potentially be good even)? Otherwise I’m looking at very long connection times, and as I determined on my flights through Montreal and Toronto it seems no airports have pet bathroom facilities without having to pass security. Benny is very good at waiting to go as he demonstrated on the long ordeal to the US last August, but I don’t want to torture the poor guy either…

    Also, the flight from Newark to Berlin is on a 757-200, and it says on the United website that pets flying on this plane have to be in a window seat. Now do you think this is because they want the pets out of the way, or because the window seat has more room under the seat? I must say that so far I’ve found the aisle seats good considering that a sheltie in an extra-large sturdibag really is pushing things a bit; I can’t quite imagine being shoved back into a window seat. Oh and last question – if worst comes to worst and he has to go cargo, what do they use for a carrier – not the softsided Sturdibag I hope? Do they provide a container?

    Thanks, and all tips/insights area appreciated!

  • Duncan, I am so sorry — this comment got lost, and now it’s, dear heaven, May. My take on it is that if she fits in the large Sherpa, I’d stick with that (you must mean the large, right? I don’t know of an XL Sherpa) or move slightly upwards (in width and height) to the large SturdiBag. The XL SturdiBag is a really big bag — significantly larger than either of those, and taking the support rods is not trival (plus, it leaves the bag completely deflated, which might just highlight how large your pup is). Actually, give serious thought to the large Kobi carrier — given its normal dimensions, plus its great gusset, it might be just the answer.

  • Susan, I am so sorry — your comment is wonderful, and it just got BURIED in my in-box. And now, of course, it’s May, and you’re already IN Berlin by now — I do hope everything went smoothly. I’d be just as happy in a window seat, because I could pull Chloe’s carrier out a bit, and not have to keep jostling her as my seat-mates wanted to get out and use the bathroom. In the worst case, you’d buy a hard-sided carrier from your airline — they would NOT take the soft-sided SturdiBag under the plane. But please tell me it did not come to that! And thank you, so much, for your really useful report from your Air Canada flights from Germany. I’m particularly struck by their asking you to demo that Benny fit — I’ve never heard of that happening before, and it seems like a valuable thing for a traveler to offer to do, if people find themselves banging heads with an airline agent. SO glad it worked for you guys. Argghhhh. Please forgive.

  • Katherine

    Forgive any typing errors, please. My dog is asleep on my lap, her head on my arm. Bitzy is a Chinese crested. I grew up with golden retrievers, and planned to try adult life with a little dog partly to make travel easier. I looked at poms, paps, and yes, King Charles Cavalier spaniels. Bitzy, however, chose me. She’s only 16 lbs, but long and lanky. 13″ at the shoulders, and 20″ nose to rump. I’m expecting to travel in August and again in December. I’d like to take her with, but despite reading loads of reviews, I’m still unsure of the reactions I’d get from the Southwest ticket agents (it’s highly unlikely I’ll fly any other airline). I’ve looked at the large Sturdibag, based on the dimensions she’d fit but I’d leave myself open for criticism on whether it would fit, with her in it, under the seat, and whether she’d be comfortable. I assure you that I wouldn’t do it if I thought she’d suffer. Comments from someone who’s flown (southwest?) with a longer lanky pup? I’m 5’4″ and haven’t had problems with leg room for myself.

  • Katherine

    Also, Bitzy is microchipped. Has that caused problems for anyone at the TSA screening?

  • Adam

    If I can get on a Southwest flight with an XL Sturdibag with a Cocker Spaniel inside, I would venture to guess that a large Sturdibag with a Chinese Crested will pose zero problems. Just my two cents!

  • Hi, Katherine — Another reader has a Chinese Crested, who, like yours, is slender but tall. If you do a search on the blog for “Kara,” I think you’ll find posts about her. She travels in a large SturdiBag, which works because she is so slender, and because she (like Chloe) spends her travel time curled up and either snoozing or pretending it’s just not happening. She’s even gone to Paris in it!

  • Katherine

    Thank you both. Adam, do you ever have trouble with the XL and Southwest staff? They’ve always seemed cheerful and helpful at both the ticket counter and gate but I know it just depends on the person. Also, I’ve been looking at the large Kobi with the expandable section. Have you used the Kobi and does it “smush” down as well as the sturdibag? Thanks again!

  • Chris

    Hey, I stumbled upon this site while browsing through about 1000 others researching sherpa bags, etc etc. My girlfriend and I just purchased a Boston Terrier pup from a breeder in Prague. We are flying Austrian Airlines and reserved an in-cabin spot for bringing our new 4 months old pup home (will be 4 months when bringing her back). THey have an 8kg/55x40x23 cm dimension restriction as most airlines do.

    My question is, do you think a size Large Sturdibag will do the trick? I’ve read a lot of good news about it, and I don’t think the pup will be that heavy at 4 months old (her mother is 7.5kg).

    I’m a bit nervous as I’ve never flown with a dog in-cabin before. Our hopes for the future were that we could bring her in-cabin back to NY when I visit home, but it’s looking tough for itnernational flight once this breed is full grown. I would have to strip this sturdibag down and rebuild it with fishing line or something, idk.

    thanks for any help it goes a long way 🙂

  • Chris

    PS- Love your site, the layout, the way it showcases the new topics, and how you stay on top of responses. Well done, and thank you!

  • Welcome to Dog Jaunt, Chris (and thank you, too, for the kind praise)! I’d take the risk on the large SturdiBag (your pup will likely fit in the Small, to be honest, but she’ll soon grow into the Large). It’s the lightest carrier I’ve encountered, and in a real pinch you could lighten it further by slipping a thick piece of cardboard in its base in place of the existing foam board (I would carry the cardboard separately and only swap it in if you really have to, because it won’t be as sturdy as the foam board). I’d also demonstrate how flexible the top is, if someone expressed concern. And like I say, I’d buy it in black, keep it out of sight until/unless I was asked for a viewing, and refrain from volunteering my concerns. Project an air of cheerful confidence, like you do this All The Time; make cooing noises at your pup, telling the world what a good little traveler she is — I trust and expect you’ll get on board. (Also, don’t give up on the U.S. travel — Boston Terriers are usually about Chloe’s size, and she travels comfortably on United.)

  • Chris

    Thanks so much for the advice! Much appreciated. I won’t give up on the Sweden-NYC flight either! Though it’s very interesting seeing how some airlines such as Canadian allow 10kg, then you have others at 6kg, and some that simply say NO. I hope things get better in the years to come as the shift is going towards “dog friendly” as a way to win business and promote an “up with the times” look for your brand.

    We will post pictures of course for future readers! Talk soon 🙂

    Chris

  • Christa

    So I have been reading all day on this subject and found this post very informative. I flew my dog from Canada to India 3 years ago with me, in Cargo had no issues (they actually bent the rules twice, just to make the process easier for us). I am finding the return trip considerably more difficult. I had to change tickets twice due to crazy rules (that were not shared upon purchasing tickets), such as I had to book through an agency for the cost of 300 dollars (British Airways). Yesterday I attempted to register my dog (Jug – Jack Russell Pug) as cargo and was told they already have a dog in cargo and there is a limit of 1, (Austrian Airways). So I am going to try and squeeze him into the cabin, as I have already lost several hundred dollars changing tickets and booking more expensive flights to accommodate dogs and have went extremely over budget alrady. Pugsley is 22 pounds and is paralyzed in his hind legs. So he’s on a diet and we are going on extra long walks, hoping to shed 3 or 4 pounds before flight (he is overweight anyways). So I am wondering if anyone has any experience with Austrian Airlines or the Delhi airport or special needs dogs? I also am wondering which soft sided pet carrier is the lightest weight? I realize this is an old post but any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • Hi, Christa — I’m so sorry for the delay in responding! I think making in-cabin travel work is your best option, given your pup’s limited mobility and his particular breathing structure — the cargo area is no place for a brachycephalic dog. The diet is a great idea, and the lightest carrier I know of is the SturdiBag that we use for Chloe. Your pup may fit in the Large size that she uses, which would be ideal (the XL is big enough that it’s tough to get on board, though several readers have succeeded — do a search on the blog for the XL SturdiBag for more about that). Hopefully someone will chime in about your other questions.

  • Mia

    Hello,
    I just happened to find this post while looking for solutions to my own flight troubles, and hopefully it might mean something to someone in the future.
    I’ve noticed everyone here travelled through North America, and wow, you’re flight rules are nice! Most companies in fact do not allow officially dogs over 8kg (17-ish lbs), so them letting those dogs fly is amazing!
    I live in Europe, and I noticed another person that commented had problems with British Airlines, was it? Here they always weigh your dog prior to letting them go in cabin. I have a really tiny cocker spaniel, and with the bag she’s 9kg…. 1kg over the allowed weight, and I always have so many problems I gave up trying to fly with her till I find a better solution.
    So: word of caution to anyone planning on flying to Europe, they don’t care how tiny you dog is, and where it can fit. If it’s over the allowed weight, only maybe puppy eyes might save you. Though that’s, at least for me, very risky as I’ve heard maaaany horror stories from my friends and all the horrible things that happened to their dogs in cargo.

  • Adriana

    Hello Everyone! I’ve been reading all the comments on this thread an many other posts to inform myself as I will soon be moving from California to NYC with my dog. He is a pembroke welsh corgi, that’s weighs about 26 lbs. My biggest concern is this length, he is about 25″ long, from nose to nub, and 15″ tall. I first looked into the sherpa bag, and went to a store to see how he would fit in it and his head did not fit in the bag. Upon further research, I discovered the sturdibag and am sure that it’s the best way for me to go. My only concern is whether I should get a large or extra large. I saw other posts about corgis, one who made a customized bag (unfortunately not in my budget) and another who was forced to put her dog underneath and later convinced them to bring the dog back up to the cabin. As I have never flown with him before, I am very nervous about being hassled and want to make this as easy as possible. I was also recently told by my therapist that he would qualify as an emotional support dog for me, so I’m wondering if that changes anything other than cost. Any insight would be helpful! Thank you!

  • Hello, Adriana — A pup your Corgi’s size is going to need the XL SturdiBag, which, as you’ve seen, is workable but requires luck and a persuasive tongue. As an ESA (and what a pleasure it is to hear your sincerity — I steer clear of folks who game the system), your pup would be able to travel on your lap or at your feet, in a carrier or not as you choose. It would certainly take away the anxiety of being told he was too large to fit under the seat.

  • Sabrina

    I have enjoyed reading all the posts from everyone who has traveled with their dogs, and I can relate to the stress involved in the process. I will share my story of my last experience which I though had cured me from trying to travel with my 21/22 lb. mixed breed until I read some of your stories of travels with larger dogs. Let me add, we have the most well behaved dog, completely layed back, doesn’t need a leash, stay’s right by our side.
    He looks like a mini Australian Shepard. We had flown twice previously on southwest. Both times we took our carrier, large sharpa, to the airport with our dog inside before we even got tickets. The first time, the supervisor said all was fine to travel, her exact words were, “I’ve seen people trying to fit small pony’s in those bags”, the first trip went with out a hitch, no one bothered us, dog was quite and fine, while in the airport we were sitting with top open and his head was out.
    The second time we were told it was going to be tricky. I think he had gained a pound or two. We shave him, he has very long shaggy hair and before the cut he really looks big.
    We bought the tickets, the vet gave us a sedative which did not work. He clearly didn’t like being stuffed in the bag this time so he was whinny and he was digging to get out and it was hot and I was stressed. I finally picked the bag up and put it on my lap and he was quite but I couldn’t move a muscle. We flew from Ft. Lauderdale to Albany, NY. Then we had to get back. At Albany Airport on the way home, I think we had the exact same ticket agent as the one described in one of the posts I read from Southwest. We had the bag open at check in and she looked at us and said “what is that”? Hello…. a dog! She said he was too big, couldn’t turn around. We were abusing him. She called her supervisor who said the person wasn’t doing their job when they let him on the flight and then while we were waiting there, he put a note in the airline computer system stating we could never fly with our dog again.. Black listed ! We did a lot of complaining of course and stated we’ve done it before and we needed to get home etc. The let us on but again, lots of stress, the entire flight, Marley did not behave well, he was stressed, he wanted out. Again, I had to keep the bag on my lap and at one time we didn’t hear any noise for a while and we got nervous so we unzipped the front of the bag, he pushed his way out and ended up on the floor and crawled under the seat and I heard the women behind me say, ” well hello there”… We stuffed him back in the bag on my lap, I don’t think the attendants even saw a thing but I was so worried that at one point I got up almost in tears and ratted myself out to the attendant telling him if you see a bag on my lap it’s because my dog is not behaving and I am stressed and I am leaving it on my lap because I have no choice. He felt sorry for me and just said, OK.
    I hope I haven’t ruined it for those of you attempting this. It does work, I think for one the bag was just too small and cramped the other is we have a spoiled dog who is used to getting his own way and sitting on our lap. He is definitely on the bigger side of small dogs able to travel! I hate leaving him home so I am always looking for a way. I just wish they would let us purchase a seat. It’s just sooo cramped on those planes.
    Anyway hope you enjoyed my story.

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