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If you plan to travel with a carry-on, you’ll need to be up to speed with airline carry-on policies.
While Southwest is technically a low-cost carrier, they’re much better about “a la carte” fees and won’t nickel and dime you on every little item as Spirit and Frontier will. Actually, when it comes to fees and checked baggage, they are better than the full-service domestic airlines, including Delta, United, and American.
That said, you’ll still want to be aware of Southwest’s policy for what you can and can’t bring on the plane.
In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about Southwest’s carry-on policy. This includes Southwest carry-on size, liquid policy, pets, and other rules and restrictions you should know before boarding your flight.
Southwest Airlines Carry-On Policy
Southwest has the best overall baggage policy. They allow 2 checked bags at no charge as well as a carry-on bag and personal item. That’s a lot of baggage to transport for free!
Southwest Airlines Carry-On Size (Dimensions)
Southwest Airlines’ carry-on dimensions are a little more than most domestic airlines at 24″ x 16″ x 10″. These dimensions include the wheels and handles, so make sure to keep that in mind when you measure your carry-on. If it’s bigger than those dimensions, it will need to be checked.
Use the Southwest Carry-on Bag Sizer
If you aren’t sure if your carry-on will fit, use the Southwest carry on bag sizer located at their ticketing counters and departure gates. If your bag fits in the sizer, you can bring it on board with you. If it does not, you may have to check it.
If your bag is too big, you will have to check it, so it’s better always to know your bag size and the airline size restrictions in advance.
Southwest Airlines Carry-On Weight Limit
As a rule, Southwest Airlines does not impose weight restrictions on carry-on bags. However, when checking a bag, the weight limit is 50 pounds per bag.
Recommended Southwest Carry-On Bag
If you are looking for a great carry-on bag when flying Southwest, I recommend the Travelpro Maxlite 5 Expandable Spinner. I have used this carry-on for years. It’s durable, reasonably priced, and holds everything I need for shorter trips. Plus the spinner wheels make it very easy to get through the airport quickly and effortlessly.
4-wheel spinners rotate 360°.
- H: 21 in. W: 14 in. D: 9 in.
- Weight: 5.4 lbs.
This carry-on bag has been sizer bin tested to accommodate overhead bin space on most major US airlines. Fully expanded Carry-On may not meet airline restrictions.
Southwest Airlines Personal Item Size
In addition to a carry-on bag, Southwest allows each passenger to bring one personal item onboard. Personal items include purses, briefcases, cameras, food containers, or laptops (case included).
Southwest personal carry-on items must be no larger than 16.25” (L) + 13.5” (W) + 8” (H).
Your personal item must be stored under the seat in front of you. If it doesn’t fit or if there’s no seat in front of you, we’ll ask you to place it in an overhead bin.
The following items can be brought on board with you and will not count as a carry on:
- A child restraint system.
- Assistive/mobility devices for individuals with a disability. There is no limit to the number of assistive/mobility devices you can bring onboard.
- Outer garments or other wearable articles of clothing.
- Food in disposable packaging.
- Walking canes or umbrellas.
Southwest Baggage Fees
Southwest has the best baggage fee policy of any airline in the United States.
With Southwest, there is no charge for your carry-on and personal item, plus, your first two checked bags are free (weight and size limits apply).
Skis and golf bags may also fly free, and surfboards fly free in Hawaii. Each additional bag and any oversized bag (more than 50 pounds or larger than 62 inches) is $75 per item, one-way.
Here is a table with the added fees for checked items:
|Optional Travel Charge||Fee (One Way)|
|1st Checked Bag||$0|
|2nd Checked Bag||$0|
|3rd Checked Bag (plus any more)||$75 per bag|
|Large Media Camera Equipment||$75 per item|
|Overweight Checked Bag (50-100 lbs.)||$75 per bag|
|Oversized Checked Bag (62 to 80 inches)||$75 per bag|
|Checked Baggage||$75 per bag|
|Early Bird Check-In||$15-$25 one-way, per Customer|
|Unaccompanied Minor||$50 per Minor (ages 5 – 11)|
Southwest Airlines Liquids Policy
The rules for carry-on liquids are set by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), not by the airline. Southwest doesn’t have its own specific Liquids Policy, they just enforce the rules and policies of the TSA.
Liquids in a carry-on bag must be 3.4 ounces or smaller and fit in a 1 quart-sized container. Anything larger must be placed in your checked luggage.
The TSA 3-1-1 Rule
Any liquid that does not meet the TSA 3-1-1 rule will either have to be checked with your luggage or will be thrown away at the security checkpoint.
Here is a little video to help illustrate this:
Southwest Airlines Food Policy
Here’s a link to the TSA website advising what food can be brought with you on your Southwest Airlines flight. This applies to food you are bringing from home through security. However, once you are through security, you can bring just about any food on the plane that you buy at the airport.
Southwest Airlines Carry-On Pet Policy
Southwest Airlines allows small vaccinated domestic cats and dogs to travel with you in the cabin under the seat in front of you. All pets must be carried in an appropriate carrier as noted below. The pet carrier counts as either a carry-on item or a personal item.
Soft-sided and hard-sided carriers specifically designed as pet carriers are acceptable with maximum dimensions of 18.5” long x 8.5” high x 13.5” wide.
Does Southwest Airlines Charge to Bring a Pet on Board with You?
Yes. There is a charge to bring a pet on board with you. Below is a chart showing the pet fees Southwest Airlines charges each way. Double them for a round-trip flight.
|To/From Destination||Pet Fee Each Way|
|One Way Flights||$ 95.00|
|One-Way Flights between Hawaiian Islands||$ 35.00|
Emotional Support and Service animals have some separate guidelines. Here’s a link to Southwest Airlines’ emotional support animal rules.
TSA-Approved Pet Carrier for Southwest Airlines
Features mesh panels so your pet can breathe easily, a non-slip shoulder strap, locking zippers, and a rear storage pocket for treats and other goodies.
Approved for use on most major airlines and the small and medium sizes are included in Sherpa's exclusive Guaranteed on Board program.
Prohibited or Restricted Items
There are certain items that are considered dangerous and classified as a hazardous materials. Dangerous goods are prohibited from both your carry-on and checked bag on all flights. These rules are mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Summary: Southwest Airlines Carry-On Policy
In conclusion, Southwest Airlines’ carry-on and checked baggage policy is the best in the industry. Their generous size limits and lack of fees make Southwest a great choice for travelers who want to have the flexibility to either carry on or check a bag without having to worry about added fees.
Here is a link to Southwest’s Carry-On page to make sure you have the most up-to-date information.