Southwest Airlines Pet Policy: Fly with Your Cat or Dog Safely

Adaeze Nwakaeze Adaeze Nwakaeze · Updated February 14, 2024

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Two airplanes on a runway following Southwest Airlines' pet policy.

It’s hard to look when those big, sad eyes stare as you pack your bags and head out the door for a trip. Leaving your furry friend behind can be tough as a pet parent, but what if we told you you could bring them along for the ride? With Southwest Airlines’ pet policy, you can transport a pet on your travels without the stress of separation. But before you pack your bags and your furry friend’s favorite toy, it’s essential to know the ins and outs of Southwest Airlines’ pet policy to avoid any confusion or last-minute hiccups.

We’ll break down all the essential information you need to know to fly with your pet safely and comfortably. So, sit back, relax, and let’s get started on your next adventure with your furry companion by your side!

Overview of Southwest Airlines’ Pet Policy for Pets and Service Animals

Southwest Airlines is committed to ensuring that both pets and service animals travel safely and comfortably. They recognize that pets are an important part of many families, and service animals provide vital assistance to those with disabilities.

Pets Allowed on Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines allows small domestic dogs and cats to travel in the cabin with their owners, as well as trained service animals. Only small dogs and cats that can comfortably fit in a carrier under the seat in front of you are allowed in the cabin. Your pet also has to be at least 8 weeks old in order to travel. And it doesn’t accept pets as cargo or checked baggage. Note that Southwest Airlines does not allow other types of pets, such as rabbits, birds, or rodents, to travel in the cabin.

Service Animals Allowed on Southwest Airlines

Dogs are the only trained service animals (highly trained animals that assist people with disabilities, such as guide dogs, signal dogs, psychiatric service animals, and emotional support animals) recognized by Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines acknowledges the significant role that law enforcement dogs and search-and-rescue dogs play in keeping our communities safe. As such, they welcome these fully trained dogs for transportation at no charge as long as their respective handlers accompany them on official business.

To ensure compliance with federal safety regulations, these dogs must be positioned in a way that does not block the exit in case of an emergency. They are not allowed to sit in an emergency exit row or occupy a seat. Kindly present a letter of mission and a copy of the animal’s certification to a Southwest Customer Service Agent at the airport when traveling with your law enforcement or search-and-rescue dog.

Documentation Required

Southwest Airlines requires specific documentation for pets and service animals traveling on their flights. This documentation must be submitted at least 48 hours before the scheduled departure time to allow the airline to make necessary arrangements.

Regular Pets

Your pet must be vaccinated, but documentation is not required. You won’t be asked to present any document before you board with your pet.

Service Animals

If you’re traveling with a service animal, it’s crucial to present a completed Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation form at either the ticket counter or gate on the day of your travel. Ensure the form is dated on or after the date you purchased your ticket to avoid any issues. It’s worth noting that an animal vest, harness, ID card, or registration alone won’t suffice as proof of a trained service animal – the completed form is mandatory. In the event that an animal doesn’t meet the qualifications for trained service animals, it may still be able to travel as a pet for a fee.

Requirements and Restrictions: Southwest Airlines Pet Policy

There are specific requirements and restrictions that all pet owners must follow to ensure a safe and comfortable flight for everyone on board.

Leak-Proof and Well-Ventilated Pet Carrier Required

Your pet carrier must be leak-proof and well-ventilated. This is not only for the comfort of your pet but also for the safety and cleanliness of the aircraft. So, ensure your carrier is sturdy and secure to prevent accidents or escape attempts.

Pets Not Allowed in Cargo Except Service Animals

If you plan to travel with your pet on Southwest Airlines, knowing that pets are not allowed in the cargo hold is essential. This means that your furry friend will have to travel in the cabin with you. This policy is in place to ensure the safety and well-being of your pet during the flight. Cargo holds can be stressful and uncomfortable for pets, and there have been cases of pets getting lost, injured, or even dying during air travel.

By requiring pets to travel in the cabin, Southwest Airlines can better monitor their safety and comfort throughout the flight. The only exception to this rule is for service animals. Service animals are specially trained to assist people with disabilities, and they are also allowed to travel in the cabin or as checked baggage, depending on their size and type.

Reservation Required Due To Limit of Six Pets Per Flight

The airline limits the number of pets allowed on each flight to six, ensuring that all pets on board are safe and comfortable during the flight. Because of this limit, it’s essential to make a reservation for your pet in advance. This will help ensure availability for your pet on the flight you plan to take. You can make a reservation for your pet while you book your ticket or call Southwest Airlines’ customer service to add your pet to an existing reservation.

It’s important to note that Southwest Airlines does not allow standby travel for pets, so if you do not have a reservation, they will not be able to travel with you on the flight. When making a reservation for your pet, you must provide some information about it, including its breed and weight. This is to ensure that your pet is the appropriate size to travel in the plane’s cabin and that their carrier can fit under the seat in front of you.

Pet Fare Required For Each Way Of Traveling With A Pet

The pet fare for Southwest Airlines is $95 each way. You can pay the pet fare when you make your reservation or at the airport when you check in for your flight. The pet fare is a separate fee from your ticket and is charged per pet carrier. Southwest Airlines understands that plans, even those involving our furry friends, can change unexpectedly. That’s why we offer a refundable Pet Fare if you need to cancel your reservation or your flight is canceled, and you don’t rebook. To request a refund, call 1-800-I-FLY-SWA or visit the ticket counter.

Pet Carrier Must Be Stowed Under Seat During Flight

Your pet carrier must be stowed under the seat in front of you during the flight. This is for the safety and comfort of your pet and the other passengers on the flight. Southwest Airlines recommends using a soft-sided carrier that can be easily stowed under the seat. Your pet must remain in its carrier for the flight and cannot be taken out of the carrier while the plane is in flight. This is for the safety of your pet and the other passengers on the flight.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to acclimate your pet to their carrier before your flight so they feel more comfortable and relaxed during the journey. You can do this by leaving the carrier in your home and letting your pet explore it independently. You can also try taking short trips in the car with your pet in their carrier to get them used to traveling in the carrier.

Breed Restrictions

Southwest Airlines has no specific breed restrictions for pets traveling in the cabin. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when traveling with certain breeds. First, some breeds are more prone to respiratory problems and may not be able to tolerate the stress of air travel as well as others. These breeds include brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers. Second, some breeds are known for being more aggressive or difficult to handle. While Southwest Airlines does not have any breed-specific policies, they reserve the right to refuse transport to any animal that threatens the safety or health of other passengers or employees.

Consider Ground Transportation as an Alternative to Southwest Airlines

With many restrictions around pet air travel, ground transportation is often a better solution. If your pet has to fly in the cargo area, you must choose ground transport – you wouldn’t put your children in the cargo area, don’t do it with your pets either! It’s the safest, most humane way to send a pet long distances.

One Pet Carrier Per Person: Southwest Airlines Pet Policy

Southwest Airlines allows only one pet carrier per person to be brought on board. And one pet carrier can only contain a maximum of two small pets. Please note that your pet carrier will be considered as your carry-on item.

Pet Carrier Dimensions

When traveling with your pet on Southwest Airlines, the size of the pet carrier is an important consideration. To bring your pet on board, their carrier must be able to fit under the seat in front of you and be no larger than 18.5″ long, 9.5″ high, and 13.5″ wide. It’s important to note that these dimensions are for the pet carrier itself and not the size of your pet. Your pet should have enough room to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably inside the carrier. If you have any doubts about whether your pet will be comfortable in the carrier, it’s a good idea to test it out at home before your flight.

Small Dogs and Cats Only

If you’re planning to travel with your furry companion on Southwest Airlines, it’s important to note that the airline only allows small dogs and cats to travel in the cabin with their owners. Larger dogs and other pets must be transported as cargo, which involves different requirements and procedures.

To be considered a small dog or cat, your pet must fit comfortably in a carrier that meets the airline’s size requirements (see previous section). Additionally, Southwest Airlines has a weight limit of 20 pounds per pet, including the carrier. If your pet and their carrier weigh more than 20 pounds, they will not be allowed to travel in the cabin and must be transported as cargo instead.

Reserve Your Pet’s Spot in Advance

Southwest Airlines limits the number of pets they can accommodate on their flights, so you need to make a reservation in advance by calling 1-800-I-FLY-SWA. This way, you can ensure that there is space available for your pet. Southwest Airlines accepts pets on a first-come, first-served basis until they reach their six-carrier capacity, but sometimes they might make exceptions and allow for more (or fewer) carriers. So, if you plan on traveling with your pet, remember to call ahead and reserve their spot on the flight. Making a reservation for your pet in advance guarantees their flight spot and helps the airline prepare for your pet’s arrival. Southwest Airlines wants to ensure that your pet has a comfortable and safe flight, and having advance notice allows them to make any necessary preparations.


Traveling with pets can be stressful, but with Southwest Airlines, you can rest easy knowing that your pet’s safety and comfort are a top priority. Just remember to plan, follow the guidelines for documentation, carrier requirements, and reservation procedures, and keep in mind the size restrictions. With these tips in mind, you and your furry companion can take to the skies with ease.