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Southwest Airlines' pet travel policy: Here's how to fly with your cat or dog on Southwest

June 19, 2022
5 min read
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Many pet owners view their pets as family. And leaving your pet at home while traveling isn't always an option. So, you may be researching the Southwest Airlines pet policy, including approved Southwest pet carriers and the Southwest dog policy.

Fortunately, flying with a dog on Southwest is possible if your pet, route and carrier meet specific requirements. Likewise, it's also possible to fly with a cat on Southwest. But before you plan on bringing your pet with you, you'll want to ensure your pet will be allowed on board.

So, before you bring your pet to the airport, here's everything you'll need to know when flying with a dog or cat on Southwest.

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Southwest pet policy

(Photo by vasiliki/Getty Images)

With the Southwest pet policy, small domestic cats and dogs of at least 8 weeks old can travel with you in the cabin. In particular, your cat or dog can fly under the seat in front of you.

Pet carriers are only allowed to travel with a paid customer and unaccompanied minors aren't allowed to bring a pet on board. While only one pet carrier is allowed per ticketed passenger, you can carry up to two pets of the same species in your carrier.

Your pet must stay within its carrier at the gate area, during boarding and deplaning and throughout the entire flight. Additionally, if your pet presents disruptive behavior — such as scratching, excessive whining or barking, growling, biting, lunging or urinating — Southwest may not allow you to board with your pet.

Related: What you need to know about traveling with dogs on a plane, including where they can sit and how much it costs

Unfortunately, you can't bring your pet on international Southwest flights. Additionally, when traveling to or from Hawaii, you can't bring a pet with you. However, Southwest will allow you to bring your pet on flights between Hawaiian islands.

Additionally, even though Southwest has an open seating policy, customers can't occupy an exit row seat or a seat with no under-seat space in front of it (typically the first row).

Booking your pet on your Southwest flight

(Photo by Capuski/Getty Images)

For flights within the U.S., you must add your pet to your reservation in advance by calling Southwest directly.

Then, passengers traveling with a pet must check in on the day of travel with their pet at the ticket counter. By doing so, Southwest personnel can approve the pet and pet carrier.

Southwest charges a fee of $95 per pet carrier each way, but this fee is fully refundable if you end up not traveling.

You'll want to book your pet as soon as possible before each flight since only six pets are allowed per flight. And pet reservations are taken on a first-come, first-served basis. However, Southwest makes it clear that there might be special circumstances where more or fewer than six pet carriers will be allowed on a flight. For example, Southwest will sometimes waive this cap on flights out of a region expecting a hurricane.

Now, if you also are bringing a trained service dog with you on your Southwest flight — along with a pet in their carrier — and your trained service dog is larger than a child under the age of 2, you must purchase an additional seat on your Southwest flight. Then, you'll need to place the carrier under the seat in front of the extra purchased seat.

Related: 8 things to consider before flying with your pet

Southwest pet carrier requirements

When flying Southwest, you must carry your pet in a carrier no larger than 18 1/2 inches long by 8 1/2 inches high by 13 1/2 inches wide. The pet carrier must be leakproof and well ventilated, although both hard-sided and soft-sided carriers are allowed. All pets must be able to fit completely inside the carrier and also be able to stand up and move around.

You can also purchase a Southwest pet carrier at the ticket counter or online. This Southwest-branded pet carrier is 17 inches long by 9 1/2 inches high by 10 inches wide — which is slightly smaller than the maximum size allowed.

Remember, even though Southwest has an incredibly generous baggage policy, pet carriers count as your one personal item. When bringing a pet carrier on board, you are still allowed to bring another personal item or a regular-size carry-on bag.

Related: How to change or cancel a Southwest Airlines flight

Southwest cargo pet policy

(Photo by Tobias Titz/Getty Images)

Southwest Airlines doesn't carry any pets — including cats and dogs — as cargo. So, the only way to take your cat or dog with you on a Southwest flight is in the cabin in a pet carrier.

Bottom line

With the Southwest pet policy, dogs and cats are allowed to fly in the cabin as long as they fit in a carrier of the aforementioned size. Of course, this doesn't help if you have another type of pet — or a larger cat or dog — since Southwest doesn't allow any animals to fly as cargo.

But if your pet fits the requirements, you can bring your beloved cat or dog with you on your next vacation. Best of all, flying with a dog or cat on Southwest is relatively inexpensive.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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