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Traveling with pets might be complicated if you travel on a commercial flight. All commercial airlines impose strict rules and regulations for traveling with pets.

Southwest Airlines is the largest budget airline that serves flights to various destinations worldwide. Southwest also has its own pet travel policy which you have to follow to carry your pets on the flight strictly.

We have prepared this detailed article to assist you in familiarizing yourself with the Southwest Pet Policies, and Requirements.

How strict is Southwest with Pet Policy?

If you are flying on Southwest-operated flights, you have only one option which is to travel with your pet as a carry-on. Southwest Airlines allows passengers to travel with small vaccinated domestic pets (cats, and dogs) in the cabin on most flights but not on international flights.

Here are the major policies, and guidelines you need to follow for safe travel with your pets.

Pet Carriers Requirement

Southwest Airlines accepts both hard-sided, and soft-sided carriers that are leak-proof, and well-ventilated. The carrier must fit under the seat in front of the passenger.

Only one pet carrier is allowed per ticketed passenger however, you can carry up to 2 pets of the same species per carrier. The carrier must be comfortable enough for pets to stand up, and move around with ease.

Dimension Requirements

Customers can purchase Southwest Airlines branded pet carriers for a price of US$58 inclusive of tax at any Southwest Airport Ticket counter or online.

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Southwest Branded Pet Carrier (How strict is Southwest with Pet Policy?)

The dimension of the Southwest Airlines branded Pet Carrier is 17in x 9.5in x 10in (L x H x W). If you bring your own pet carrier, it must not exceed the maximum allowed dimension of 18.5in x 8.5in x 13.5in (L x H x W).

pet carrier dimension how strict is southwest with pet policy aviatechchannel
Pet Carrier Dimension Requirement (How strict is Southwest with Pet Policy?)
Important 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.

Guidelines at the airport

A total of 6 pets are allowed per flight with a limit of one pet carrier per paying passenger on the same flight. So, the pet travel service is based on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Once your pet is booked, it needs to be checked in at airport ticket counter, and it needs to be secured in the pet carrier at all times while at the gate area, and during boarding/deplaning. Pets with disruptive behaviors such as scratching, growling, barking, biting, urinating, excessive whining, and so on are denied boarding.

You can find pet relief areas at every Southwest location. As per airline policy, a flight will not be held for you to take your pet to a relief area.

There are specific pet travel policies while you’re traveling to Puerto Rico. So, ensure you’re ok with the specific requirements. Furthermore, Southwest doesn’t accept pets on flights to or from Hawaii.

TSA Screening (How strict is Southwest with Pet Policy?)

The pet carrier must be screened with the x-ray machine. The airport security officer will ask you to hold the pet while they screen the carrier. Also, all pet carriers may be inspected thoroughly by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), airport security authorities, or airline personnel.

Guidelines inside the aircraft

Your pets must always be secured in the pet carrier during the entire flight. Pet carriers are considered either personal item or a carry-on item, and it needs to be kept or stowed under the seat in front of you at all times during the entire flight.

Pet Travel Restrictions

  • Pets are not accepted without a passenger traveling in the same flight.
  • Unaccompanied Minors are not allowed to travel with their pets.
  • Pets are not permitted on international flights.
  • Customers traveling with a pet may not occupy an exit row or a seat with no forward under-seat stowage.
  • Pets are only allowed as carry-on with Southwest-operated flights. Pets as checked baggage, or transporting via cargo service is not allowed.
  • There will be no more than six (6) scheduled pet carriers per scheduled flight. However, the airline can allow a few more pet carriers depending on the situation.
  • The minimum age requirement for pets including Cats and dogs is at least eight (8) weeks old.
  • Pets with unruly, and disruptive behavior are not allowed on Southwest flights.
  • 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) throughout the entire flight.
  • A pet may not share a carrier with a trained service animal.
  • The purchase of a non-refundable additional seat may be required to accommodate the pet when traveling with a portable oxygen concentrator or trained service animal.
  • The airline doesn’t take responsibility if a passenger misses a flight due to the need to take the cat or dog to an outside 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 carry-on pets.

Conclusion on ‘How strict is Southwest with Pet Policy?’

We explored Southwest Airlines Pet Travel policy, and found out the airline only accepts pets as carry-on. Pets as checked baggage, or transporting it with cargo service is not allowed by Southwest.

southwest pet policy checklist aviatechchannel
Pet Policy Checklist (How strict is Southwest with Pet Policy?)

Let’s conclude with the important checklist for traveling with your pets on Southwest flights.

  • Southwest Airlines allows small vaccinated domestic cats, and dogs to travel with their owners in-cabin on domestic flights only.
  • A total of 6 pets (sometimes a few more than 6) are allowed per flight so, you need to book as early as possible.
  • Pets must be checked-in at the ticket counter, and the pet carrier will go through an x-ray screening while you hold your pet.
  • Southwest doesn’t require vaccine documentation however, it is recommended your pet is vaccinated.
  • Pets with unruly or disruptive behavior are not accepted for travel.
  • Southwest doesn’t accept pet travel for flights to/from Hawaii. Besides, there are specific requirements for Puerto Rico flights.
  • A one-way fare of $95 is applicable per pet carrier.
  • Pet Carriers can be purchased from the Southwest Airport Ticket Counter at a price of $58. (Passengers can bring their own pet carrier).
  • Your pets must be kept in the pet carrier at all times during check-in, boarding/deplaning, and throughout the entire flight.

FAQs on ‘ How strict is Southwest with Pet Policy?’

Can I bring my dog with me on Southwest flights?

Southwest Airlines allows its passengers to travel with their pets as carry-on on most domestic flights. You can pay a one-way fee of $95, and travel with your pets in a pet carrier.

What is the weight limit for dogs on Southwest?

There is no specific weight limit for your pets while traveling on Southwest-operated flights. However, the dimension of the pet carrier must not exceed 18.5 inches long x 8.5 inches high x 13.5 inches wide.

How much does it cost to take a pet on Southwest Airlines?

The cost of traveling with a pet as a carry-on on Southwest Airlines is US$95 each way.

How strict is Southwest about pet carrier size?

Almost all airlines are pretty strict with the pet carrier size requirements because the carrier needs to be small enough to fit under the seat in front of the passenger. On Southwest flights, your pet carrier must not exceed a dimension of 18.5in x 8.5in x 13.5in (L x H x W).

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Suman Karki
Suman Karki is the founder of the AviaTech Channel blog and YouTube Channel. He is a passionate aviation enthusiast and holds experience working as a Ground Operations Officer for Swissport International. He is currently serving as a Flight Data Feeder for FlightAware (a US-based company for Flight Tracking). Besides, he has worked as an aviation content editor for various aviation media.


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