The Pros and Cons of Using Southwest Airlines for Pet Shipping

Rochdi Rais Rochdi Rais · Updated May 31, 2023

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When it comes to pet shipping, choosing the right airline is crucial for a stress-free and comfortable journey for your furry companion. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of using Southwest Airlines for pet shipping to help you make an informed decision when booking your animal’s travel.

1. The Pros: What Makes Southwest Airlines a Good Option for Pet Shipping?

Affordable Pricing

One of the most significant advantages of using Southwest Airlines for pet shipping is its affordable pricing. Compared to other major airlines, Southwest’s pet fees are generally lower, making it a cost-effective option for pet owners on a budget.

Excellent Customer Service

Southwest Airlines is known for its friendly and helpful customer service, which can be especially reassuring when shipping your pet. Their staff are typically well-trained in handling furry friends and can provide valuable assistance and support throughout the travel process.

Straightforward Southwest Airlines Pet Policy

Southwest Airlines pet policy is clear and easy to understand, simplifying shipping your pet. Their guidelines outline specific requirements for pet carriers, documentation, and breed restrictions, helping you ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience.

2. The Cons: What Are the Limitations of Using Southwest Airlines for Pet Shipping?

In-Cabin Travel Only

One of the most notable drawbacks of using Southwest Airlines for animal shipping is that they only allow pets to travel in the cabin. This means that larger cats and dogs, which require a bigger carrier than the allowed in-cabin size, cannot be transported as cargo. Owners with larger pets may need to explore other airline options or consider ground transportation services.

Limited Availability

Southwest Airlines has limited spots on each flight, making securing a reservation for your pet during peak travel seasons challenging. Additionally, certain routes or destinations may not accommodate pet travel, requiring alternative travel arrangements.

Breed Restrictions

While Southwest Airlines allows many dog and cat breeds to travel in the cabin, they do have some breed restrictions. Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, such as Pugs and Bulldogs, are not permitted due to their increased risk of respiratory issues during air travel. This may require owners of these breeds to seek alternative cats and dogs shipping options.

3. Making the Decision: Is Southwest Airlines the Right Choice for Pet Shipping?

The pros and cons of using Southwest Airlines for pet shipping largely depend on your specific pet and travel needs. Southwest Airlines can be an affordable and reliable option for smaller pets that can comfortably fit in an in-cabin carrier. However, pet owners with larger pets or those with breed restrictions may need to explore other transportation methods, such as CitizenShipper.

4. Tips for a Successful Southwest Airlines Pet Shipping Experience

To ensure a smooth and positive pet shipping experience with Southwest Airlines, consider the following tips:

Book Early

Due to limited spots on each flight, booking your reservation as early as possible is essential. This will increase your chances of securing a spot and help you avoid last-minute stress or complications.

Familiarize Yourself with Southwest’s Pet Policy

Review the Southwest Airlines pet policy thoroughly before booking your pet’s travel. Ensure your pet meets all requirements, such as carrier size, weight limits, and breed restrictions. This will help prevent any issues or delays during check-in or boarding.

Prepare Your Furry Friend’s Carrier

Ensure your pet’s carrier meets Southwest Airlines‘ requirements, including size, weight, and construction materials. The carrier should also be well-ventilated and comfortable for your animal to lie down, stand up, and turn around in.

Visit Your Veterinarian

Schedule a pre-travel visit to your veterinarian to ensure your feline is healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations. Obtain a health certificate, if required, and discuss any concerns or questions you may have about your pet’s ability to handle air travel.

Arrive Early at the Airport

On your travel day, arrive at the airport well in advance to allow ample time for check-in, security screening, and any last-minute issues or concerns. This will also help reduce stress for both you and your pet.

FAQ: Southwest Airlines Pet Shipping Policies

To provide further guidance, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions related to using Southwest Airlines for pet shipping.

What is the cheapest way to transport a pet?

Typically, ground transport is the cheapest way to transport a pet.  Longer trips using a transportation service, like CitizenShipper, typically average around $1.00 per mile.  Using a pet transportation service ensures your pet arrives in your new location safely, while minimizing stress and overall cost. 

How much does it cost to ship a pet internationally? 

While shipping your pet domestically is a relatively straightforward process, international shipping can be more complicated.  Hiring a pet transport service to help with international logistics can save a tremendous amount of stress and time.  

Each country of arrival will have specific regulations regarding pet health checks, necessary vaccination, and possible quarantine requirements.  The cost to ship a pet internationally can vary, especially if you need to board your pet for an extended quarantine. 

How much does it cost to transport cats?

The cost to transport cats will vary depending on the transport method.  Cats can be transported via ground or air transit, and are often small enough to be considered a “carry on” item.  Transporting a cat can cost as little as $25 on Amtrak, or as much as $125 to fly in the main cabin of an airplane.

How much does it cost to travel with a small pet?

Traveling with a small pet, compared to a large pet, is much cheaper.  Smaller pets can fit under the seat in front of you and can often qualify as a “carry on” item.  Traveling with small pets on Amtrak can cost $25, while airlines can charge around $125.  Keep in mind certain companies will only allow cats and dogs to travel.  

What does it cost to ship a puppy?

While puppies are small enough to fly in most airline cabins, they can incur additional costs.  Puppies generally require more attention, and therefore can be more expensive than shipping an adult dog or cat.  

Many breeders will utilize an air nanny service to accompany your puppy.  If the air nanny is experienced, or a regular, certain airlines may provide discounted rates or waive certain fees.  Breeders regularly ship puppies to their new homes and are well-versed in arranging transportation.  


By carefully considering the pros and cons of using Southwest Airlines for pet shipping and following the tips outlined in this article, you can help ensure your pet’s successful and stress-free journey. Be sure to familiarize yourself with Southwest’s pet policy, book early, and prepare both yourself and your pet for the travel experience.

However, if you’re looking for alternative pet shipping options, consider using a reliable transportation platform like CitizenShipper. CitizenShipper connects clients with thoroughly screened drivers to offer dependable, cost-effective pet shipping services. You can select between terminal-to-terminal or door-to-door shipping options to best accommodate your requirements and budget.