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Reader’s report: Update on traveling with a large small dog, in an XL SturdiBag carrier

Once you get the routine down, it’s easy for those of us with small dogs (say, under 10 lbs.) to fly together in-cabin. Heck, it’s pretty straightforward to fly with a biggish small dog like Chloe, who weighs between 13 and 15 lbs. and measures 12″ tall at her shoulders — though on a number of occasions I’ve had to be a vigorous advocate for the large SturdiBag carrier. But what about those of us who fly with even bigger small dogs?

When I get messages asking about flying with pups who weigh more than 15 lbs., or who are taller and longer than Chloe, I point them to two Dog Jaunt posts: The first is based on reader Joanna’s report about traveling with her 26 lb. Corgi, and the second is about a photo sent by reader Adam of his XL SturdiBag carrier in use. A goodly part of the usefulness of the first post are the comments on it that other readers have posted, including some that Adam posted about transporting Oliver, his Cocker Spaniel, in an XL SturdiBag. As you’ll see if you scroll through the comments, he met with some resistance from the United ticketing agent in Paris — and the way he handled it was instructive to me, and helpful to other travelers with “too large” pets.

I was delighted, therefore, to hear again from Adam after a recent round of flights on Southwest Airlines with Oliver, still using the XL SturdiBag. In one direction (their return flight), they had no issues whatever. They checked in, they boarded the plane, they flew, end of story. Their trip from NYC’s LaGuardia airport to the Midwest, however, was a whole different story — and really demonstrates how your traveling experience will vary depending on the individuals you encounter. [The important thing to know as you read this is that Adam has traveled before with Oliver in the XL SturdiBag, and is comfortable in his mind that Oliver is comfortable during their flights. Adam is a concerned and careful owner, and would not squash his pup into a spot that doesn’t work for him.]

This was holiday travel, Adam reminded me, so “LaGuardia was a zoo…and the ticket agent didn’t even look at my carrier!  The gate agent was another story altogether, following me onto the plane and telling the flight attendant, ‘This man’s bag is too large. If you’re doing your job, do NOT let him on.’ Man, it is so hard to keep your cool in those situations, with your heart beating a million miles a minute.”

However, “The flight attendant was so very friendly and told the gate agent, ‘I’m certain this passenger knows his dog better than you do.’ The agent left in a huff, and the flight attendant said, ‘Do what you gotta do buddy,’ with a wink.”

Wait a second, I wrote to Adam — back it up, there! How on Earth did you get past the gate agent, to the point where you could interact with the flight attendant? It turns out he had anticipated an issue (“The gate agent announced that it was a full flight, and we should be prepared to gate check items that were larger — he was scrutinizing each and every individual, looking at their bag to verify it was small”), had handed over his boarding pass, and was already past the gate agent when the interaction began:

“When I went through, he called and said, ‘STOP SIR!’

At this point, I was already in the gangway. I calmly said, ‘Yes?’ ‘What is this bag?’ he asked me. ‘Oh, it’s just my travel bag.’

‘What’s inside though?’ he asked.

‘Oh, it’s my pet bag,’ I said nonchalantly. ‘I know it looks a little big, but the roof flexes, see?’ I added, demonstrating accordingly.

He went on to ask me how big the dog was, told me I couldn’t just ‘smoosh’ him under the seat, yada yada yada. He went on for a while, and said, ‘You know if the flight attendant has an issue, you won’t be allowed to board.’

I just said, ‘Yes sir, I understand completely.’ I may have fudged the details and told him I had flown on Southwest recently, and whipped out the picture of Oliver under an airplane seat last year.

At this point, the man wasn’t really budging…so I simply told him firmly not to worry, and walked away from him down the gangway! That is why he ultimately followed me onto the plane, although I didn’t realize he had chosen to chase me down. It’s kind of funny, as I’m generally very meek when in everyday life, and I don’t like to push back against customer service professionals…in this instance, I simply realized that I had no real choice. The flight attendant ultimately took my side, and that was the end of it.”

There are many reasons why this worked. Southwest Airlines’ under-seat spaces are generous. Adam knew that his carrier would flex to fit, and that Oliver would be comfortable in the resulting space. He was confident and resolute, but polite. He made sure that he got to the right arbiter — the flight attendant, who knows the airplane best. He had a photo of the XL SturdiBag in action on another flight.

If you’re a first-time flyer, how do you get that fundamentally important confidence that your larger pup will in fact fit on the plane, and will be comfortable in the space available to her? Look at the measurements that are available — by now, Dog Jaunt has a pretty good list going — and mock up a space that size. Buy a carrier that flexes — I don’t know of any more flexible carrier than the SturdiBag (and I assure you that I’m still not on retainer by SturdiProducts — when, oh, when will they call me?!). Insert your pup, and try fitting the loaded carrier in the available space. Keep in mind that she’ll need to be entirely under the seat in front of you only during takeoff and landing — during the rest of the flight, you can pull her carrier out a bit, into your foot area.

Bookmark pictures of an XL SturdiBag in action — there’s one in the second post I mentioned above, from a past flight by Adam, and Adam attached two more to his current report, which I’m providing below. Take a picture of your own, once you’re on your flight, and keep it on your phone for quick reference in the future.

And good luck! Adam and I agreed “that no particular airline or its employees are more ‘pet friendly’ than the others. My ticketing agent was friendly and wonderful…the gate agent was really rough with me…but the flight attendant was as kind as could be. I have learned that it is simply a question of pushing back as politely as possible and hoping for the best.”

Here are the pictures Adam sent me:

From one angle, with Oliver visible.

From another angle. The surprising thing to me, in both these pictures, is how little of the bag is poking out into the foot area -- it looks way better on Southwest than it did on the United flight Adam and Oliver took together.

As you might already have figured out, he chose the middle seat, “as I knew the width was the largest on the 737-700 plane…in all honesty, I think Oliver’s bag would likely have fit under any of the three seats.” His verdict? “It was actually a pretty comfortable fit (well, as comfortable as the XL gets, anyway.) I can’t have seen even the fussiest flight attendant having taken issue with the bag in its place.”

Thank you, Adam!! The people with the larger small dogs are the most anxious about travel, I’ve learned, and the more information I can get into their hands, the better. Reports like this are priceless. Thank you, too, for setting such an excellent example of politeness and perseverance under stress.


  • Andrea

    Thanks for posting! I know this might be a bit off topic, but I wanted to share my experience with the Sturdibag. Previously, my 10 lb yorkie would turn into a demon on the plane. I had another trip coming up this winter and was dreading it, so on the advice of another “Jaunt-er” (and after headache-inducing amounts of research), I finally ditched my rolling bag for a large SturdiBag. I was a little worried about the size (plus the fact that it was bright red), and what the gate agents would say, but I just rolled right on through, and – wait for it… Daisy was *silent* the entire flight. There and back. Unbelievable. Best bag ever!

  • CK

    This is great to hear! Our dog is also a “big small dog” and at 25 lbs we were worried he wouldn’t be allowed to travel with us in-cabin. Because of this, we ended up asking our physician for an ESA certificate so we could fly with him. Quite honestly, I felt horrible abusing the system (and would have also gladly paid the airline pet fee), but after so many reports of dogs dying in cargo & the trauma it causes, our dog’s well-being was worth it to me.

    Our dog slept the entire cross-country flight & didn’t make a peep. In fact, both times the people sitting around us had no idea a dog was even there until we de-boarded. Additionally, at both airports the TSA & gate agents came over to pet our dog & compliment us — we didn’t get questioned once!

    Of course, I’m not saying every dog is well-behaved or calm in these types of situations, but a direction I’d like to see airlines take is instead of enforcing a bag/weight limit, there should be a test that dogs are administered to get a pass on whether they can fly or not. For example: if your dog can sit for a long period of time or doesn’t get anxious in crowded settings, etc. Your Vet could administer it just like they do when you get a bill of health for your pet before you fly. That way, airlines still make money through charging a fee & there would still be mechanisms in place to ensure people traveling with pets are being responsible. Adding in a checkbox when booking (Are you open to sitting near a trained animal, yes/no) would also help ensure those with allergies or aversions weren’t seated in the same row.

    I know something like that is an uphill battle with many challenges, but dogs are part of our families. Figuring out how owners can transport their larger animals responsibly outside of just sticking them in cargo or bucking the system is something I’d welcome — and would make me a very loyal customer of that airline, too.

  • Reader Veronica kindly agreed that I could post her message on Dog Jaunt’s FB page here as a comment: “I wanted to update everyone on our flight using the XL sturdibag on a Southwest flight. We checked in at ATL and the attendant there gave us a really hard time so we opted for the large as we had it as backup. We used the XL coming home and we were never questioned. As we were getting off the plane a few of the flight attendants and the lady sitting next to us said they had no idea we had a dog on board. I sat in the middle seat with McKenzie and I had it pulled out a bit. When put under the seat completely it only sticks out an inch or so. Plus our girl was much more comfortable.” Here’s the picture she posted of the XL SturdiBag in place on their Southwest flight:

  • Judy Boxer

    Has anyone done this on International flights? I’d really like to take my “large” small dog (28 pounds) on the plane with me. I’m willing to fly business class if that will make it more likely to work. If you’ve done it – what airline was it? Thanks!

  • Hari

    I think I’ve also been scrutinized by that guy in LaGuardia… Certain airports are certainly more difficult than others. On the same note, I always try to fly Southwest (and not out of LaGuardia), their employees generally seem more empowered. I like to think that I am a flight attendant’s worst nightmare – I generally fly with a viola in addition to a very leggy, 18-pound miniature poodle. I have been squeezing him into a Sturdibag L, though after seeing these posts, I am feeling a bit braver about going for the XL. Thanks!

  • Beth

    Hi Mary-Alice,
    I am so thankful I found this blog; It’s been very helpful. I am traveling soon with my 19lb mini-Aussie. He is a special needs reuse dog who is very we’ll behave when around me ( he has separation anxiety); so, I am hoping he successfully makes the trip with me from SLC to ALB (southwest) with one lay over. He is pretty tight in the large Sturdibag, so I ordered an XL (plan to shorten base) in hopes that he has enough room and looks more comfortable. I have pictures on my phone of sturdibags in use to show as examples. Is there anything else I can do to be more prepared?

    Would you suggest arriving with him in L or XL bag? I called southwest and she couldn’t help. Im not sure if it’s better to have him tightly in large, or roomy in the XL bag that looks gigantic?

    Are there more pictures of the XL bag in use besides Adams?

    Thanks a bunch!!

  • I only recall Adam’s pictures, Beth — please send me yours when this is behind you, and that’ll improve things for the next person in your shoes! In the meantime, I think I’d arrive with him in the XL (good idea to bring the large along as a back-up). I’d keep him out of sight as much as possible, until the moment they ask for him to put the tag on his carrier. Lift him up like he’s light, and DO NOT VOLUNTEER that you are concerned about his size. Try to convey the impression that you have done this before oh, so many times. And the fact is, a 19 lb. pup is really not that massive, and that carrier’s top is super-flexible. He and it should be absolutely fine. Keep that in mind, and it’ll be easier to be comfortable and here-we-go-again about the process. Given any opportunity, coo besottedly at him, and tell the ticket agent what a good little traveler he is. Once you have that tag on your carrier, keep it on even after you get home, so it’s still on his carrier the next time you arrive at a ticketing counter (indicating that he’s traveled before in it). Safe travels, and do please let us know how it goes!

  • Lydia

    I will be traveling to Oslo Norway in December with an 18lb male Westie. I fly United from Denver to Newark and on to Oslo. Then SAS to Narvik. Will my dog be comfortable in a large Sturdi bag? SAS has tight restriction so I would not try the XL Sturdi. Thanks!

  • Hi, Lydia — He might, if he’s all muscle. The best thing to do is try it out — if you don’t want to order the large SturdiBag without knowing, you might go to your local pet store and try him in the Medium Ultimate Sherpa (or the Delta Deluxe Sherpa — they’re the same size) — a pup who fits in that will also fit in the large SturdiBag.

  • Patti

    My son was coming home for Christmas Break yesterday 12/21/13 leaving from Orlando Airport with his 30 lbs corgi. We purchased the x large sturdibag and armed him with the above pictures as proof it fits. Thank God his flight was delayed 2 1/2 hour because it took that long to get him on the flight. The ticket agent said no right away, then the supervisor said no, he asked for a manager and he said no as well. While trying to find another flight out which would allow his dog to go in cargo. I spoke with the manager, told him we researched this for months prior to booking the flight, how we had proof from other travelers that it fits under a SW seat and had pictures. I guess listening to a mother beg and cry that she wants her son home for the holiday, they walked him to the plane, let him be the first one on and prove that it fits. He was able to stay on the plane and come home. I don’t know if it was from being in the bag so long, but Py was clawing at the mesh and almost ripped it open. My son wants me to find a different flight back to Fl so we don’t have to go through this again, but I am wondering since we have the tags on it from his flight coming in, do you think we should be alright on the return? Also has anyone used this bag leaving Philadelphia International Airport?

  • Hi, Patti — Thanks so much for the report! It sounds like a traumatic time, but it really is miraculous to get a 30-lb. pup in-cabin. Now you have the tag (which does have some psychological clout), and hopefully pictures of your own — and most important, YOU know it works for your pup and he’s comfortable. That’ll give you a lot more confidence next time. About your pup’s unhappiness — remember to give him a good long walk before traveling, and, too, next time if there’s less trauma for you, he might also be happier. SW is a good choice for you guys, because they do typically have generous under seat space, especially in those middle seats. I hear you — a horribly hard day — but dang, you got on….

  • Patti

    Thanks Mary-Alice, my son did not take pictures because his phone died right after he texted me that he was allowed to stay on the plane. It was just too much trauma for everyone. I have a huge yard for the dog to run around in and get tired before they leave to go back. I wanted to take the bag and the dog down to the ticket window when they got in last night, but everyone was so stressed they just wanted to get home.
    Since I have the dog here now I was going to take him to the pet store and see what other approved bags he may fit in. My worry is if a bag that says up to 25 lbs if it could handle the 5 extra lbs.

  • MR

    This post is so helpful! I’m trying to plan a way to get my 30lb Frenchie from New York to Texas. We have a Snoozer that he fits into, but it seems like the Sturdibag is a better option for its flexible height. Also judging from these comments, it seems best to keep him zipped in at the check-in counter. Has anyone had problems with TSA agents when you have to take your dog out of the carrier? I hope it works for us. I have previously had a ground pet transport drive him from Texas up here. While the service was great, it is just too much time for him to be cooped up in a kennel.

  • Hello, MR! A 30-lb. pup is pushing the limits on in-cabin travel, but it might work if your Frenchie is all muscle. You’d want to mock up the available space and see if your pup can fit comfortably in it. The SturdiBag is a good choice in a situation like this where every fraction of an inch counts…. Re the TSA — no, they don’t express an opinion about your pup’s size, so there’s no hurdle there to get past. They will meet you and your pup-in-arms as you go through the metal detector, and have you wait while a colleague comes over to swab your hands. If your pup is likely to resent that, ask to put him back in his carrier before the swabbing.

  • MR

    Thanks so much. So our trip is next week. We have been practicing at home getting into the Large Snoozer, but I am worried it is going to be too big. I also bought a Large and XL Sturdibag to test out. I am wondering if I should try the trip with the XL Sturdibag. He has a hard time getting into the Large Sturdibag comfortably. Would you recommend buying the extra legroom on the Delta 737-800?

  • MR

    I have to say also that the Large Snoozer is smaller than the XL Sturdibag, so now I’m wondering if I should just use the Snoozer the whole time. 🙂

  • Hey there, MR! No matter what, I do recommend buying the extra legroom, whenever it’s available — if nothing else, it makes it so much easier to reach down and pat your dog, or give him treats and water. About the carrier — it takes a certain amount of moxie to travel with the XL SturdiBag. I don’t have it, but as you can see, other Dog Jaunt folks do. From the picture another reader sent, of their large SturdiBag under at Delta 737-800 seat, it looks like they weren’t at all cramped — so there’s a good chance that the XL would fit with some modest flexing. I’m looking at your second comment, about the Snoozer, and I’m wondering which Snoozer carrier you’re considering? The ones I’ve clicked on seem to be one-size, except for the Roll-Around, which is indeed smaller in a couple of dimensions than the XL SturdiBag, but it’s much longer, so would stick out farther into your foot area. It’s doable, and you’re right, the two dimensions it’s smaller in will make a difference, but again, you’ll have to go into it prepared to advocate, if necessary. In a pinch, I’d press (gently and politely but firmly) for the opportunity to let the flight attendants make the call. I’d also buy it in black, and I’d do my best to convey the impression that this is old hat for you guys — oh, heavens, you do this all the time. Every good wish, and please let us know how it goes!

  • MR

    Thanks so much! I think we are going to go with the Large Snoozer rollaround. He is used to getting into it now, and it is really easy to wheel him around. Mine is 19L, 12H, and 15W. It seems about the same as the Large Sturdibag except in width. There does seem to be some room for it to give on the sides, so I think we should be OK. Fingers crossed. I will report back.

  • Well, that’s a FINE size — their website says the large is 23″ long, which would be challenging. I suppose you could have what they call the medium, but then their other two dimensions don’t match yours. Perhaps they need to edit their website…. I too think you’ll be okay — looking forward to the report!

  • kat

    i have a cat he is about 13lbs and from paw to head is about 16inches tall.. hes all muscle really.. do you think i will have a problem bringing him in cabin with me on a united flight? should i get abigger flex bag then they allow and just explain that it flexes down or get one in their dimensions and hope they dont want to make sure he stands up? any suggestions?

  • Melanie

    I have a 90 lb Labrador retriever that I would like to take with me to France from the USA. Are there any International airlines that accept LARGE dogs?

  • Hi, Kat — We’ve traveled with two separate cats in-cabin — one 16 lbs. (a big, chunky male) and the other about 13 lbs. (a completely round female) — and the large SturdiBag worked well for the male. We would have used it for the female too, but didn’t know we’d be bringing her home, so I dashed to the nearest Petco or PetSmart and bought the Delta Deluxe Sherpa bag (which is just about the same size as the large SturdiBag). It’s not my favorite carrier by a long shot, but size-wise, it worked fine. That’s a long preamble to say that I believe the large SturdiBag will work beautifully for your boy. Safe travels, and let us know how it goes!

  • Juno

    MR, we are also thinking of traveling cross-country with the large Snoozer! We tried the large Sturdibag for our 19-pound terrier, but it was tricky to get him into a tunnel-shaped bag with a front-end opening, whereas we can place him in the Snoozer sitting up, zip the top and then slowly lower it (and him) down. It squashes down quite flat, but it definitely looks large, especially when it’s upright. I’d love to know how your flight went! We’re actually moving cross-country, so it’s the large Snoozer or…driving. Or the extra-large Sturdibag, I guess, but I feel like that looks as big as the large Snoozer! This is an amazing website, BTW.

  • MR

    Hi Juno, sorry for the delay in replying. I meant to report back sooner! The large Snoozer ended up working fine. I also had the problem of getting my Frenchie to go into the tunnel-shape of the Sturdibag, but he will go into the Snoozer when it is flat, and he can turn around more easily in it than in the Sturdibag. The large Snoozer fit comfortably under the middle seat of the Delta 737-8oo. He sort of has to lay flat the whole time, but I think being a little cramped for a few hours is far preferable to the other options. I did pay for extra legroom, which I found nice to be able to stick my hand in the bag to pet him or give him ice cubes. I have a picture I will post when I have a better internet connection.

  • Ellina


    I am traveling with my corgi in a week and am starting to stress out a bit! He is still a puppy, seven months old, and weighs about 20 pounds or so. He is pretty short being that he’s a corgi. Probably not more than 13 inches or so tall(from his feet to the top of his ears!) I haven’t measured him yet and am currently writing this comment at 3 in the morning while I worry and can’t sleep so I will most likely measure him in the morning 🙂 and for length..probably 15-17inches. I am flying southwest and bought the southwest carried and he fits fine when he lays down curled up and can turn around fine also. But I’m worried that they might not let him board because he is so long and his ears make him
    Look bigger than he actually is! Do any of you think I’ll be okay and that they’ll let me on? I’m moving to San Diego from md so luckily it’ll only be one way but I super worried!! Any advice/comments will help!

    Thank You 🙂

  • Mary

    Hi All, your blog is amazing. I just adopted a spaniel mix. She is fantastic! I’m lacking information on the size of the dogs. I see a log of comments on “large small dogs” which is what our dog is. How long of a dog will fit in a xl sturdibag? I see some of the dogs are taller than the actual bag. I travel by train with our dog and she immediately goes under the seat to lie down and spread so I want to make sure she is comfortable both standing and on the floor inside the bag. Any tips would be idea. Thanks!!!

  • Hi, Mary — The first dimension to consider, looking at a carrier, is your pup’s height. Measure her from floor to shoulder, not floor to top-of-head. That dimension should be the same or less than the height of the carrier (which in the case of the XL SturdiBag is 16″ tall). Body length also counts (and it’s measured from nape of neck to base of tail), but the carrier designers had dog proportions in mind when they made their carriers, so typically a carrier that fits your dog’s height will fit her length. Hope that helps. What trains do you travel on with her?

  • Hi, Ellina — How did I miss this comment?? It’s way, way too late now (I’m so sorry!), but your pup should be just fine in the Southwest carrier. The crucial measurement is floor to shoulders, not to top of head, so while his beautiful big ears are eye-catching, they don’t count towards his height. His whole head doesn’t count, in fact, because all he needs to be able to do is turn around, and he can do that with his head lowered. Pups typically spend their travel time lying down — sleeping or pretending it’s not happening to them — so they don’t need a carrier that clears the top of their head.

  • Gail

    Help! My bichon is 16 lbs and 10 ” at shoulder. Have Sherpa ultimate medium and used it before on regional jest. He is comfy and snoozes and curls up and can turn around easily a little hunched over. But last time gatekeepers made me cancel my trip because he couldn’t stand erect. It has me petrified because upcoming trip has one short leg(the check- in return leg unfortunately) on Canadair CRJ regional 200. I don’t want to be denied on the way back–what then??Will that work at all or do I have to change that flight if I can. It is so hit and miss. Sherpa says they have a guarantee that medium ultimate(wheeled) fits all delta aircraft. Delta res.agent said 10 ” H and 10″ W but the carrier is 10.5 H and 11 W?? Thank you so much for any advice. I don’t want to leave poor Kirby home for two weeks.

  • Hi, Gail — That baffles me, because the regional jets typically work just fine — the paired seats have a shared under-seat space, and the ones we’ve been on have been surprisingly roomy under there. And the ultimate medium Sherpa is about the same size as our large SturdiBag (we’ve even used the ultimate medium Sherpa ourselves and it’s comparable to the Sturdi, though less flexible). My suspicion is that you encountered a singular, “bad” gate agent, and that your carrier would, in fact, have worked. Indeed, turning around is the goal, not standing erect (which is why the important measurement is shoulder height, not erect head height). I would proceed, if I were you, but with a steely determination to get on board, cloaked, of course, in cheerful goodwill. Your carrier is so close to the demanded dimensions that that part really is fine. Re your dog’s comfort, I’d insist, if you’re challenged (and you really shouldn’t be), that you travel with it all the time, you’ve never had a problem, he can turn around comfortably (which is, in fact, what’s required) because his SHOULDER height is the same height as the bag. In a pinch, I’d insist (always smiling, always politely) on talking to the flight attendant, because they know their planes and the logistics of pet travel better than the gate agents. I suspect if you project a breezy, cheerful, we-do-this-all-the-time confidence and determination, you’ll get through. If you’re really concerned, you might buy either the large SturdiBag we have (which is a little taller, so giving him more room during flight, but with extremely flexible top and sides, so it’ll fit during takeoff and landing) OR the Delta-branded medium Sherpa carrier (because it would be very hard indeed for a Delta or Delta-affiliate flight to turn THAT away). I know yours is the same size as the one with “Delta” written on the side, but that logo might make the difference:

  • Gail

    Hi again, Thanks for your response Mary-Alice. I am confirmed on Delta and they know the carrier dimension–the Sherpa ultimate medium. They actually called to ask. I still fear the right hand not knowing the left hand may be in operation. Most of my trip will be on the new refurbished 717s–in first class. Have no idea about underseat room and have fingers crossed. Has anyone flown with a pet in these new/old planes yet? Gail

  • Casey

    Hey there – Thanks so much for all the good info! I’d love some advice on my situation.

    I’m traveling on delta from Kansas City to West Palm beach for Christmas. I’m planning to take my 27 lb french bulldog with me. I have purchased a large sherpa bag and he fits in it just fine. He can almost stand up in it with no problem and he can turn around. I have called delta and added him to our reservations and I told them which carrier I have. The lady said it should be fine. I also printed off the guaranteed certificate on the sherpa website. I have his certificate of good health and the vet even said I could give him something to calm him down and make him sleep easier. All in All our flights are fairly short. etc.

    So I feel like everything will hopefully be okay but I am still worried sick. I’ve never flown for a pet. I’m worried we’ll get there and they’ll just say “no, sorry. he just can’t fly.” I mean if he fits fine and the carrier size is okay and hes asleep, I just hope hope hope if they have a problem at all they’ll be nice and just let us go. If not, I can have tears ready haha. I mean my husbands carry on (which he always flys with) is much bigger than the pet carrier….so it should be okay….right??? haha

    Thanks so much.

  • Aleena

    Hi All! I am flying from San Francisco to NY Laguardia in just over a week with my terrier cross (about 18 lbs, but he is tall at 14″ and about 16″ long), and am freaking out! I purchased a teafco argo carrier size L, but realized that he is just slightly too tall for this bag (which is really frustrating, I was sure this would be great!), and I think he would prefer a front loading carrier. He is super chill, and I’m not concerned at all about him flying (he’s flown from Hong Kong to SFO before), but I don’t want to risk him hitting the top when trying to show he can turn around. I’ve been searching the internet for weeks for a sturdibag XL, so that he can stand up with ease, but they are out of stock until Feb 1 (which is 2 weeks after I return!!!)!!!!

    I am contemplating ordering the snoozer roll away, but am a bit concerned about that fitting under the seat. US Airways is very generous with 20 x 9 x 14, but I’m paranoid that I will get to the airport and they won’t allow him to fly. Does anyone have any experience flying US Airways? OR does anyone have an XL sturdibag they are not using (MR, I believe I saw you purchased one but decided to go with the snoozer in the end) that I can purchase off of you??? Thank you all SOSOSO much in advance!!!!!!

  • Hey there, Aleena — Also consider the Teafco Argo Petagon that Julianne Hough was carrying in that picture I posted on Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page about a month ago. I’ve used it since, and need to write my review (it’s pretty good, but I still like the SturdiBag better) — but it might be a great choice for you since it’s a little roomier than the large Sturdi but not so huge as the XL.

  • Aleena

    Hi Mary-Alice, Thanks for the quick response!!!! I apologize, my initial comment was a bit vague. That’s the one I purchased. It’s odd, because when he is next to it, it looks perfect, and then when I put him inside (reluctantly), he seems like he is waaaay too large. Not sure if I could get away with it. I have found the only vendor with any XLs left at the moment, and am praying that the bag gets to me in time for our flight, with enough time to get Martin used to it first. You guys have been SO helpful and I’ve really enjoyed reading your website!!! I will update you after the flight!!!

  • Nicole

    Hi Mary-Alice!

    Thank you so much for this blog! It has been so helpful for my research. I’ll be traveling from the Philippines to NYC via Delta Airlines. I bought the Teafco Argo Petagon size Large for my dog Chelsea. She’s around 16 lbs, and a bit large for a “small dog”. I bought the bag because I think this was what she would be comfortable to travel in and I was also banking on the “Airline Approved” tag.

    This will be my first time traveling with her, and I’m a bit anxious about it. I was wondering if the airlines would have something to say against the bag’s large size even if I show the “Airline Approved” tag?


  • Wei

    Hi Mary-Alice! I recently adopted a 5 year old Cavalier named Jay Gatsby here in Singapore while I’m home on medical leave but I’m planning to return back to college in the States this August. He is my ESA (actually, for mental health issues, not gaming the system or anything here) and even if he wasn’t, I’d feel extremely uneasy flying such a long international flight (into New York JFK) with him in cargo. He’s a bit on the big side for a Cavalier (much bigger than Chloe, I was surprised) – about 20 lb at 15″ tall and 18″ long (these are very good measured guesstimates, Jay is not cooperative when I break the measuring tape out). So my hopes of using either the Sleepypod Air or the Large Sturdibag are dashed. Do you think he’ll fit comfortably into a XL Sturdibag? And – even though I think this will be less of an issue because he is my legitimate ESA but I’m paranoid – will the airlines let him on in his XL Sturdibag? I’m ordering all of his gear ahead of time to coincide with family friends coming this way from the States (international shipping fees are exorbitant), so I don’t really have the option of returning if it doesn’t work out or going into a local pet shop to try one out. He tends to sleep either curled up into a ball or flat out sprawled (what I call the “suckling pig” pose) so I’m thinking he’ll fit comfortably enough. He’s very well-behaved so I’m not worried about him barking or disturbing anyone on the plane but he has issues being away from me for extended periods of time and vice versa for me since he forms a very large part of my emotional and mental stability. I’ve done a lot of research into flying with him and am choosing to forgo our usual airline choice (China Eastern, not very pet-friendly) and will fly Delta from Singapore to JFK with a 90 min layover in Tokyo Narita, where my goal is to get him to an outside pet-relief area. The problem is that Asia is still not very pet-friendly, and I can’t find any information on whether or not that even exists at Narita (I know it doesn’t at Changi, which makes me sad). I’m a first-time owner and really want to take very good care of him and am frankly terrified at the 20+ hours flight. Your blog has been an absolute godsend! He’s getting a nice Clickit Sport Harness (because Jay loves to ride in the car and gives me heart attacks when I have to emergency brake) and your list of pet clothing is super helpful since Jay Gatsby will be seeing snow for the first time when we arrive back in MA! Thank you so much in advance! I know you’re very busy with Chloe on your road trip (:

    Sorry, I re-measured him today – he’s about 12″ tall, 18″ long and 20 lb. So would the large Sturdibag still be too small for my Jay?

  • Jessica

    This blog has been very helpful, but I have been going crazy trying to find an airline that will accept my cocker spaniel to be in cabin with me. She is probably around 26 lbs and the XL sturdibag is said to be 3.9 lbs..everywhere is saying max weight of 20 lbs! :(..I refuse to check my dog and have her fly without me or my husband. I think my dog and I both would have major anxiety over the situation. Southwest I had hope for since I saw a couple people say it worked for them, but when I called they made a fuss about the size of the carrier not necessarily the weight this time. Its like I can’t win!! How can I go about this?? Showing them that there have been people flying with the same carrier and same dog as me? Im tempted to go to the airport ahead of time and showing them in person my dog and my carrier, lol! I can’t risk not being able to take her.

  • Bettyjo Estabrooks

    Hi, I have a long tweenie dachshaund named Odie. We live in Labrador NL, Canada. Last year he had to have spinal surgery. Because it was an emergency and he had to be in Montreal with in 24hrs we had no time to buy a suitable carrier for him. He had to travel in the cargo area. It was the most horrible experience ever!! Even though his back end was paralyzed it did not stop him from crying and howling every time we landed for a stop. The whole ordeal has changed him. He is very needy now and is very very attatched. He can now walk pretty good. But I have promised him I would never do that to him again. I have been looking for a carrie on bag for him. Your x-large Sturdibag seems to fit the bill. What do you think?
    Looking forward to hearing from you1
    Bettyjo and Odie.

  • Argh, Bettyjo, how awful!! I used to recommend the Sleepypod Air to doxie owners, because it’s quite long and low — recently, however, a reader with a Dachshund got back to me about the Air versus the large SturdiBag we typically use for Chloe, and reported that the Sturdi had worked better for her pup. I don’t think you’d need the XL, just the L — and if so, you’ll be sparing yourself the potential for pushback from airline agents.

  • Here’s the thing, Jessica — If you go to the airport ahead of time, there’s every chance in the world that the airline agents will tell you it’s not possible. Like the folks on the phone, they have to tell you what’s written in their official rules. With a borderline (well, somewhat over the borderline) pup like yours, your best bet is to buy the XL in black, put it over your shoulder, and follow Adam’s lead: Do not volunteer your concerns, and if challenged, politely tell the airline folks that you do this all the time, your pet is comfortable (mind you, that only works if you truly believe your pet will be comfortable, but you do have Adam’s example for that), and the carrier is flexible enough to fit in the available space. Ask to talk to the in-cabin crew, if the gate agent is the issue. The pictures you mention would also be helpful. Re weight — it is very rare for a pet carrier to be weighed.

  • Makayla

    Hi Mary-Alice,
    First of all, I can’t thank you enough for your comprehensive blog posts – you’re awesome! A couple quick questions… If your “large small dog” (I have a 15″ tall puggle) is an ESA…does that carry any weight when airline workers object to the XL sturdibag? AA website says that as long as carrier fits under seat or that the pet can fit in foot space without being in someone else’s space. I am beyond anxious about how this will work out so any tid bits regarding this circumstance would be very helpful. Also, I really like what I have read about the sturdibag in regards to how efficient it for the pet/space….but I am hesitant that there are no wheels. Have you heard much as far as major shoulder discomfort? Thank you again!!

  • Hello, Makayla! If your pup is an ESA, you should be able to get a letter from your doctor saying so, and in that case, she needn’t be in a carrier at all — she can travel on your lap, if you like. However, if you prefer to have her in a carrier, let me know more about her — is she 15″ tall at her shoulder, or at the top of her head? (Shoulder height is what counts, when you’re choosing an in-cabin carrier.) As regards weight, it all depends on how much your pup weighs — the carrier will weigh about 3 lbs (they’re pretty light). Chloe weighs about 13 lbs, and her carrier weighs just shy of 3 lbs, and usually I have no issue at all with carrying 16 lbs over one shoulder. Now mind you, in a really big airport like Dallas or Denver, she seems to gain weight with every step….

  • Hello, Wei — I’m terribly late in responding, but I think a pup that size would indeed be happier in the SturdiBag XL — or you might try the Teafco Argo Petagon, which is another carrier for a larger small dog, but not quite as LARGE as the XL SturdiBag. However, that said, if your pup is an ESA, you should have much more leeway (indeed, you should be able to travel with him on your lap). You’ll need to get a letter from your doctor, I believe, and you’ll want to call your airlines for details about their ESA policies. I’m so sorry not to be more help there — I don’t know anything beyond the bare minimum about ESAs. On the pet relief front, I wouldn’t worry too much about getting all the way outside — pack a small pile of pee-pads, and bring your pup into a restroom stall instead. You can totally do this — I’m cheering you on from Seattle!

  • Hello, Nicole — There’s always that risk (and the maker’s “Airline Approved” tag may not cut any ice with a tape-measure-wielding ticketing agent). But airline agents typically don’t wield tape measures, and if you approach the ticketing counter with calm confidence, not volunteering that you’re worried but rather projecting the impression that you do this all the time, and your pup is SUCH a great little traveler, you should be fine. That’s a good carrier for a pup your Chelsea’s size (and congrats on getting it, because it’s currently sold out!).

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