Expert Tips for Shipping Your Pet Long-Distance with Southwest Airlines

Rochdi Rais Rochdi Rais · Updated May 31, 2023

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Traveling with your pet can be a challenging experience, but with the right preparation and guidance, you can ensure a smooth and comfortable journey for both you and your furry companion. In this article, we’ll explore expert tips for shipping your furry companion long-distance with Southwest Airlines, one of the most popular airlines in the United States.

Understanding Southwest Airlines Pet Policy

Before booking your flight, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the Southwest Airlines pet policy. Southwest Airlines allows small vaccinated domestic cats and dogs to travel with their owners in the cabin, but not as cargo. Your furry friend must be in an appropriate carrier that fits under the seat before you. The airline also requires a pet reservation, so make sure to reserve your pet’s spot in advance.

Choosing the Right Carrier

Choosing the right carrier is the key to a comfortable journey for your companion. Southwest Airlines has specific carrier size requirements, which are 18.5″ long x 8.5″ high x 13.5″ wide. The carrier must be leak-proof, well-ventilated and large enough for your animal to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Soft-sided carriers are recommended, as they are more likely to fit under the seat.

Preparing Your Furry Friend for Travel

To ensure a stress-free experience for your companion, gradually introduce them to the carrier well in advance of your travel date. Place familiar items inside the carrier, such as toys or bedding, to make it more appealing. You may also want to practice short car rides with your pet in the carrier to help them acclimate to the travel experience.

At the Airport

Arrive at the airport early, as a limited number of pets are allowed per flight. Ensure your companions’ health certificates and vaccination records are handy, as they may be required during check-in. Use a pet relief area before going through security to give your pet the opportunity to relieve themselves.

In-Flight Tips

Keep your pet’s carrier under the seat before you during the flight, and avoid opening it. This will help prevent your furry friend from becoming stressed or escaping. If possible, provide a small amount of water for your beloved animal to drink during the flight. However, avoid offering food, as this may cause motion sickness.

Alternative Options for Long-Distance Shipping

If your pet does not meet the requirements for in-cabin travel with Southwest Airlines, or if you are concerned about their comfort during a long flight, consider alternative pet shipping options. One such alternative is ground transportation, where professional pet transporters can drive your pet to its destination. This option can provide a more personalized and stress-free experience for your pet.

Planning for Layovers and Connecting Flights

If your travel itinerary includes layovers or connecting flights, planning carefully to ensure your pet’s well-being is essential. During layovers, take advantage of pet relief areas available at the airport to let your pet stretch and relieve themselves. Keep a close eye on your pet and their carrier, as some airports may require you to pass through security again when switching flights. When booking connecting flights, try to minimize the layover time to reduce the stress on your pet. However, avoid extremely tight connections, as this may cause additional anxiety for both you and your pet.

Preparing for Arrival at Your Destination

Upon arrival at your destination, promptly retrieve your pet from the cabin and find a designated pet relief area for them to stretch their legs and relieve themselves. Check your pet for any signs of distress or illness and provide them with fresh water and a small meal. Once you reach your final destination, give your pet ample time to adjust to their new environment. Maintain a consistent routine, and provide familiar toys and bedding to help them feel more at ease.


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

Southwest Airlines charges a $95 pet fare each way per pet carrier. This fee is non-refundable and must be paid at the airport during check-in.

Are there any breed restrictions for pets flying with Southwest Airlines?

Southwest Airlines does not have specific breed restrictions. However, only small domestic cats and dogs are allowed to travel in the cabin. Pets must be able to fit comfortably in an airline-approved carrier that meets size requirements.

Can my pet travel as cargo with Southwest Airlines?

No, Southwest Airlines does not accept pets as cargo. Pets are only allowed to travel in the cabin with their owners as long as they meet the airline’s requirements.

What documents do I need to bring when flying with a pet on Southwest Airlines?

You should bring a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian within ten days of travel and up-to-date vaccination records. Some destinations may have additional requirements, so it’s essential to research and prepare the necessary documents before your trip.

How many pets are allowed per flight on Southwest Airlines?

Southwest Airlines allows a maximum of six carriers per flight, with a limit of one carrier per passenger. It’s essential to reserve your pet’s spot in advance, as reservations are made on a first-come, first-served basis.

Final Thoughts: Shipping Your Pet Long-Distance With Southwest Airlines

Shipping your furry companion long-distance with Southwest Airlines can be a positive experience when you follow expert tips and guidelines. By understanding the airline’s pet policy, choosing the right carrier, preparing your companion for travel, and planning for layovers and arrival, you can ensure a comfortable and stress-free journey for your beloved companion. Consider alternative options, such as ground transportation by CitizenShipper, if in-cabin travel is unsuitable for your needs.