01/07/2010 at 05:00 PM EST
My tabby Lucy has happily traveled across the country by car, ridden the bus and even crouched under the (little) weight of her leash to go to the neighborhood park – but until two weeks ago, she'd never braved a plane. And that floppy carrier she'd had to endure for visits to the vet was just not going to cut it for a five-hour flight from N.Y.C. to Green Bay, Wis., for the holidays.
Luckily, it was love at first site when Lucy met her new Sleepypod Air carrier
. Worried that she would react to it with the same claw-and-yowl she reserved for her old tote, we followed brand recommendations and introduced pet and 'pod well before traveling. Its clip-up flap turns it into the ideal cat cavern while it's on the ground and in the home, and Lucy liked it so much that she hopped in and refused to leave for nearly six hours. No litter-box breaks, nothing. Not even Brussels sprout leaves (her bizarre favorite) could tempt her away.
When it came time to head to the airport a week later, Lucy had already happily set-up house in her 'pod, so we just zipped her in and headed out. Looking like a designer sports bag, the Sleepypod went virtually unrecognized as a pet carrier from check-in, through a plane change and onto our final destination. The bag's cross-body strap makes it comfortable to carry, and the soft-body construction is lightweight but has an interior framework that is extremely sturdy. What really sets the Sleepypod apart, however, is a unique design trick: Stiff, foldable ends ingeniously tuck in on themselves to allow for compact 16-in. under-seat storage during take-off, and then flip back to 22 inches to give pets a little extra legroom for the duration of the flight. And stretch out her little legs she did, relaxing, if not sleeping, with her favorite blanket throughout much of the voyage.
At $150, Sleepypod Air doesn't come cheap – but with the first-class price-tag come first-class perks. Traveling by car? Strap in your pet using the special seatbelt attachment. Rushing to make your flight? Roll to your gate with the carrier secured tight to the top of your upright suitcase. There are plenty of pockets to carry foldable bowls, food and an emergency litter stash. An interior collar clip kept Lucy secured, but not tangled. The case even folds down flat for easy storage when not in use. And, as you should expect for the price, the Sleepypod Air is as well constructed, with high-end detailing, heavy-gauge mesh and a plush interior.
As satisfied as we – and Lucy – were with the Sleepypod Air, it wasn't without some flaws, though minor. The zipper, which has a great all-access, looped design, is slightly sticky on the turns that wrap the bag. And while the space-saving, fold-in ends certainly are close to design genius, they are so different from anything else on the market that the first time I squeezed them I had to use a firm hand and worried that I was breaking the case. The main problem, however, came from Lucy herself, who by the end of the trip was so accustomed to luxe travel that she was demanding in-flight caviar and her own tiny glass of champagne.See more reviews on PEOPLEPets.com:REVIEW: Doog Walkie Belt Brings Back the Fanny PackREVIEW: Flydog's Spill-Proof Bowl Works, but Isn't for Every Dog