Southwest Airlines is known as one of the few airlines with a generous free baggage policy for all passengers. When planning to travel with checked baggage, Southwest is a good option compared to other "low-cost" airlines, as they allow 2 free checked bags on their flights. Other airlines may have a slightly lower base-fare, but end up costing much more when taking into account the price of checked bags. Southwest is our top pick for Baggage-Friendly US-based airlines in 2018.
View the 2018 Southwest Baggage Policies page for information about carry-on, checked, and excess baggage fees.
Traveling With Pets: General Information
Southwest Airlines accepts small vaccinated domestic cats and dogs. All in-cabin pets must be carried in an appropriate carrier, as indicated below and are subject to a USD75 pet fare each way per pet carrier. The pet carrier counts as either a carryon item or a personal item.
Reservations for small cats and dogs can only be booked by calling Southwest Airlines at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792). Pets will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity is reached. The pet fare must be collected at the ticket counter, is nonrefundable, and may not be applied toward future-date travel if unused. Customers traveling with a cat or dog must check the pet in at the airport ticket counter and pay the pet fare before going to the departure gate. Customers can still secure their boarding pass online, at curbside checkin, the airport kiosk, or the ticket counter.
We maintain the right to refuse acceptance of a cat or dog exhibiting aggressive behavior or any other characteristics that appear incompatible with air travel.
Southwest Airlines does not accept pets (cats or dogs) traveling without a Customer.
Pets are not permitted to travel with Unaccompanied Minors.
Note: These requirements do not apply to assistance animals or emotional support animals accompanying a person with a disability.
Note: When passing through security, Customers will be asked to hold the pet and walk through the screening device while the carrier is x-rayed.
All pet carriers are subject to being searched by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), other airport security authorities, as well as searches by airline personnel.
In-cabin Pet Kennels:
Get your official Southwest Airlines branded pet carrier for USD45 (tax included) at any Southwest Airport Ticket Counter or online (tax not included) at The Freedom Shop (not an affiliate of Southwest Airlines Co.). Pet carriers are nonrefundable.
Soft-sided and hard-sided carriers specifically designed as pet carriers are acceptable. The carriers must be leak-proof and well ventilated. The pet carrier must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of the Customer and be stowed in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.
Southwest Airlines allows only one pet carrier per ticketed Passenger.
The carrier may contain two (2) cats or dogs and must be of the same species per carrier.
The cat or dog must be completely inside the pet carrier and be able to stand up and move around the carrier with ease.
Pets must be secured in the pet carrier at all times while in the gate area, during boarding/deplaning, and they must remain in the carrier for the entire duration of the flight. Failure to follow this requirement may result in denial of transportation of the pet onboard Southwest Airlines.
The under-seat dimensions are as follows:
Window Seat: 19"L x 14"W x 8.25"H
Middle Seat: 19"L x 19"W x 8.25"H
Aisle Seat: 19"L x 14"W x 8.25"H
However, please keep in mind that some seats may be slightly smaller in width.
Please note: Pet carriers are considered either a personal item or a carryon item. A Customer may board the aircraft with either a pet carrier and a personal item or a pet carrier and a regular size carryon bag. A Customer may not board the aircraft with a pet carrier, a regular size carryon bag, and a personal item. The pet carrier must conform to all carryon baggage regulations.
In-cabin Pet Restrictions:
Customers traveling with a pet may not occupy an exit seat or a seat with no forward under-seat stowage.
Southwest Airlines will only carry pets in the cabin; pet carriers are not permitted as checked baggage.
Advanced pet arrangements must be made by contacting a Southwest Airlines Customer Representative at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792).
There will be no more than five (5) scheduled pet carriers per scheduled flight. However, from time to time, circumstances may allow for more (or fewer) than five (5) pet carriers per scheduled flight.
Cats and dogs must be at least eight (8) weeks old for travel.
The animals must be harmless, not disruptive, odorless, and require no attention during flight.
Cats and dogs must remain in the carrier (including head and tail) and the carrier must be stowed under the seat in front of the Customer (owner) for the entire duration of the flight.
Southwest Airlines will not be responsible if a Customer misses a flight due to the need to take the cat or dog to an outside relief area. Flight departures will not be delayed or held in order for connecting Customers to take a pet to an animal relief area.
If the pet becomes ill during the flight, oxygen or other first aid procedures will not be administered.
In the event of an emergency, an oxygen mask may not be available for the cat or dog.
Southwest Airlines assumes no liability for the health or wellbeing of carryon pets.
Southwest Airlines will not accept pet remains in the cabin of the aircraft.
*The Freedom Shop is not an affiliate of Southwest Airlines Co.
**Pet carriers are nonrefundable.
Trained Assistance Animals
Southwest Airlines welcomes trained assistance animals on all of our flights. Except when too large to be safely accommodated, a trained assistance animal traveling with and providing assistance to a Customer with a disability will be accommodated in the aircraft cabin. In accordance with federal safety regulations, the animal must be positioned so as not to obstruct Customers' expeditious evacuation in the unlikely event of an emergency.
Service Animal Relief Areas
Emotional Support Animals
Animals used for a Customer's emotional support are accepted in the cabin. In order for a Customer to travel with an emotional support animal, the Customer must provide to a Southwest Airlines Employee current documentation (not more than one year old) on letterhead from a mental health professional or medical doctor who is treating the Customer's mental health-related disability stating:
The Passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition (DSM IV)
The Passenger needs the emotional support of psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger's destination
The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional, and the Passenger is under his or her professional care AND
The date and type of mental health professional's or medical doctor's license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued
Assistance and emotional support animals must be trained to behave in a public setting. Customers traveling with an assistance animal or an emotional support animal cannot sit in an emergency exit seat.
Printable Instructions for Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal (PDF)
Airport Pet Relief Area
Will pets be allowed in cargo?
Under no circumstances will we accept pets in the cargo bin. Southwest only accepts cats and dogs in-cabin.
How many pets are allowed per aircraft?
Southwest's pet policy states that we will accept up to five (5) pet carriers per scheduled flight. However, from time to time, circumstances may allow for more than five pet carriers on a flight.
How many pet carriers is each Customer allowed?
Customers will be permitted to travel with no more than one (1) pet carrier per person. Each pet carrier can have no more than two (2) of the same species of small cats or dogs per pet carrier.
Do animals assisting Customers with disabilities count toward the maximum number of pets permitted onboard?
No, animals assisting Customers with disabilities will not count toward the maximum number of pets permitted onboard.
Can a Customer traveling with an assistance animal also bring a pet?
Yes. Both animals will need to fit under the seat in front of the Customer. If both animals don't fit under one seat, the Customer may purchase a second seat and place the pet and carrier under that seat.
What types of pet carriers can Customers bring?
Customers may bring a soft or hard-sided pet carrier that is leak proof and well ventilated. The pet carrier must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of the Customer and be stowed in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The dog or cat must be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier with ease.
How big can my pet carrier be?
Your pet carrier must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. The under-seat dimensions are as follows:
Window Seat: 19"L x 14"W x 8.25"H
Middle Seat: 19"L x 19"W x 8.25"H
Aisle Seat: 19"L x 14"W x 8.25"H
However, please keep in mind that some seats might be slightly smaller in width.
Will pet carriers count as a carryon bag or personal item?
The pet carrier will count either as the Customer's carryon bag or personal item.
Are reservations for the pet required?
Yes. To make reservations for the pet, the Customer will need to call Southwest Airlines at 800-I-FLY-SWA and the Customer Representative will gladly create a booking for the pet.
Can Pet Fares be purchased on southwest.com?
No, not at this time. After making a pet reservation at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA, Customers will need to go to the ticket counter to pay for their pet to travel.
What form of payment will be taken for a Pet Fare?
Customers can pay with accepted credit cards, cash, and the southwestgiftcard®. Southwest LUV Vouchers or unused travel funds will not be accepted for payment of a Pet Fare.
Can pets earn Rapid Rewards credits?
No, not at this time.
Do pets require any type of vaccinations or documentation?
Southwest does not require a health certificate or any other documentation from the Customer's veterinarian for pets to travel.
Can the Customer hold his/her pet instead of using a pet carrier?
No. Pets must be secured in the pet carrier at all times while in the gate area, during boarding/deplaning and they must remain in the carrier for the entire duration of the flight. Failure to follow this requirement may result in denial of transportation of the pet onboard Southwest Airlines.
What do I do with my pet when I get to the security check point?
When passing through security, Customers will be asked to hold the pet and walk through the screening device while the carrier is x-rayed.
Will Customers be able to preboard because they are traveling with a pet carrier?
Customers traveling with pets will board with their normal boarding group unless they qualify for preboarding.
Once onboard, can the Customer hold his/her pet?
No, pets must remain in the carrier. The pet carrier must be stowed under the Customer's seat for the entire duration of the flight. This policy will be strictly enforced.
Is there an area at the airport for pets to relieve themselves?
Yes, all airports have at least one designated "animal relief" area that Customers may take their pets to. Most are located outside of the security checkpoint, so a Customer on a connecting flight, with a pet, will need to enter through security to return to the departure gate. We will not "hold" a flight for a Customer to take a pet to an "animal relief" area.
Can Unaccompanied Minors travel with a pet?
No, Unaccompanied Minors cannot travel with a pet.
Is there a certain place on the aircraft designated for Customers with pets?
Southwest maintains an open seating policy; however, those traveling with pets may not occupy an Exit Seat or a seat with no under-seat stowage in front of them.
Will the Pet Fare be refundable if a Customer decides not to travel?
No, the fare is nonrefundable/nonreusable and cannot be applied toward future-date travel.
Does Southwest Airlines accept pet crates/strollers as checked baggage?
Customers traveling with a pet will be allowed to check a pet stroller/crate without a charge (this is in addition to the regular free baggage allowance).
Is Southwest Airlines liable for damage to pet strollers?
Southwest Airlines does not assume liability for damage to pet strollers.
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