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Southwest Airlines Pet Policy for Cats and Dogs [2024]

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Katie Seemann
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Katie Seemann

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Our pets are more than just pets — they are our family. So, it stands to reason you may need to take your furry family members on a flight from time to time. While it’s definitely possible to fly with your pet, each airline has different rules about what type of pets can fly and how much it costs.

In this post, we’ll go over Southwest Airlines’ pet policy so you know exactly what you need to do to ensure your beloved pet has a great flight.

Southwest Airlines Pet Policy

Southwest Airlines allows small vaccinated cats and dogs who are at least 8 weeks old to fly in the cabin under a seat on domestic itineraries. Of course, it’s not quite that simple as there are other regulations to follow and even a few exceptions to the rules.

Most Southwest flights will allow up to 6 pet carriers in the cabin, however, some circumstances may reduce or even increase this number. Each customer is allowed 1 pet carrier (with a maximum of 2 pets of the same species) per flight. Pet reservations are on a first come, first served basis.

If you’re traveling with a pet, you’ll need to check them in at the airport ticket counter before your flight.

Pets that are too big to fit under the seat won’t be able to fly on Southwest Airlines, as pets can’t travel as checked luggage.

Cat in a suitcase
Pets can only fly as carry-on luggage on Southwest Airlines. Pet crates and carriers can’t travel as checked luggage. Image Credit: Katie Seemann

Before flying, make sure your pet is comfortable in its carrier. Pets exhibiting disruptive behavior can be denied boarding. According to Southwest Airlines, this includes:

  • Biting
  • Excessive barking
  • Excessive whining
  • Growling
  • Lunging
  • Scratching
  • Urinating or defecating in the cabin or gate area

Additionally, pets are required to remain in their carriers for the entire flight and should be able to stand up and move around freely inside the carrier. If you’re traveling with a pet, you won’t be allowed to sit in an exit row or the bulkhead. Lastly, unaccompanied minors are not allowed to travel with a pet carrier.

Bottom Line: Southwest Airlines allows passengers to bring a cat or dog on domestic flights as a carry-on item. The pet must be vaccinated, at least 8 weeks old, and it must fit in a pet carrier that goes underneath the seat. Pets can’t travel as checked luggage.

Pet Carrier Requirements

You’ll need an approved pet carrier to bring your furry friends on a Southwest Airlines flight. Each carrier can contain up to 2 pets of the same species and each ticketed passenger is allowed to travel with 1 pet carrier.

Southwest Airlines pet carrier
Your cat or dog will need an approved pet carrier to travel on Southwest Airlines. Image Credit: Southwest The Store

Your pet carrier must conform to these specifications:

  • The maximum dimension the pet carrier can be is 18.5 inches long x 8.5 inches high x 13.5 inches wide so that it fits under a seat
  • Carriers can be either soft-sided or hard-sided
  • The carrier must be leakproof
  • The carrier must have ventilation

Your pet must be in a carrier in the gate area, during boarding and deplaning, and for the entire duration of the flight. It must also be able to stand up and move freely in the carrier.

The pet carrier counts toward your carry-on baggage allowance as either a personal item or carry-on bag. Refer to Southwest Airlines’ baggage requirements for specifics.

Hot Tip: Learn more about the best travel dog crates and carriers in our detailed guide, or check out Southwest’s branded pet carrier (shown above).

Hawaii Pet Regulations

Passengers can’t bring pets to or from Hawaii on a Southwest Airlines flight. Passengers traveling between Hawaiian Islands are permitted to bring a cat or dog as long as all of Southwest’s pet policies are followed.

Puerto Rico Pet Regulations

There are additional regulations regarding bringing animals into Puerto Rico. You may need to supply an official interstate health certificate from a USDA-approved veterinarian from your home state before entry is allowed. Pets traveling to Puerto Rico may also be subject to additional regulations.

Cremated Pet Remains

Cremated pet remains are allowed as a carry-on item as long as they are in a container that can be screened by TSA. It’s recommended that they be carried in a plastic or cardboard container as opposed to an urn or opaque container. If the container can’t be screened by x-ray, it will not be permitted through the TSA security checkpoints. Any urns or containers that can’t be screened will not be opened for a physical inspection. An approved temporary container will usually be provided by the crematorium.

Cremated pet remains can’t be transported in your checked luggage.

Trained Service Animals

Trained service animals aren’t considered pets and therefore aren’t bound by Southwest’s pet policy.

To travel with a trained service dog, you’ll need to provide a completed U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form at the ticket counter or gate on the day of travel. Trained service animals must be leashed or harnessed at all times and must be well-behaved. Any trained service animals that exhibit disruptive behavior (growling, biting, excessive barking, etc.) may be denied boarding.

Therapy animals, including emotional support pets, or other animals that do not meet the requirements of a trained service animal can fly as a pet.

Onboard the aircraft, service animals can’t occupy exit rows and can’t sit in a seat or in the aisle.

A customer traveling with a service animal may bring an additional animal as a pet, but an additional seat must be purchased if the service animal is “larger than a child under the age of 2,” according to Southwest, and the pet needs to travel underneath the seat in front of the extra seat.

Bottom Line: Trained service animals aren’t considered pets and aren’t subject to the pet policies on Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines Pet Fees

There’s a fee of $95 one-way for each pet carrier on Southwest Airlines. The good news is that pet fares are refundable, so if your plans change or your flight is canceled you’ll get your money back.

You’ll need to pay the pet fee with a credit card as you can’t use a Southwest gift card, flight credit, or LUV Voucher as payment for a pet fee.

To make a reservation for your pet on Southwest Airlines, call 800-I-FLY-SWA (800-435-9792).

Bottom Line: Each pet carrier brought on to a Southwest Airlines flight can contain up to 2 dogs or 2 cats. There is a $95 fee each way per pet carrier.

Final Thoughts

Traveling with a pet can add extra stress to a travel day. If you’re traveling on Southwest Airlines with your cat or dog, you’ll want to ensure the animal fits comfortably in a pet carrier that can easily slide under a seat on the plane.

Make sure your pet is well fed and has had access to a pet relief area as it will need to stay in the carrier for the entire flight.

Don’t forget to call Southwest to make a reservation for your pet as the number of pets allowed on each flight is limited. You’ll need to pay a $95 pet fee, which is thankfully refundable if your plans change.

Hopefully, the hassle of traveling with your pet will be worth it when you get to have your furry friend with you at your destination.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size dogs can fly on Southwest Airlines?

Small dogs that can fit in a pet carrier measuring 18.5 inches long x 8.5 inches high x 13.5 inches wide can fly on Southwest Airlines. The dog needs to be small enough to be able to stand and move around in the carrier.

Can my dog sit on my lap on a Southwest Airlines flight?

No, your dog or cat can’t sit on your lap during a Southwest Airlines flight. Dogs and cats need to remain in their carriers under the seat in front of you during the entire flight.

What is the weight limit for pets on Southwest Airlines?

Southwest Airlines doesn’t list a specific weight limit for pets, rather it limits the size based on the carrier size. The dog or cat flying needs to fit comfortably in a pet carrier measuring 18.5 inches long x 8.5 inches high x 13.5 inches wide. The animal should be able to fully stand up and move around in the carrier.

How much does it cost to take your dog on Southwest Airlines?

The pet carrier fee on Southwest Airlines is $95 one-way. Each carrier can hold up to 2 dogs or 2 cats as long as the animals fit comfortably and can move around. The pet carrier must be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

Do emotional support dogs fly for free on Southwest Airlines?

No, emotional support dogs do not fly free on Southwest Airlines. They are treated as pets and are subject to the $95 pet fee. However, fully trained and certified service animals are allowed to fly free of charge.

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About Katie Seemann

Katie has been in the points and miles game since 2015 and started her own blog in 2016. She’s been freelance writing since then and her work has been featured in publications like Travel + Leisure, Forbes Advisor, and Fortune Recommends.

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