What To Know About Southwest Airlines Pet Policy

When we plan to take our furry, four-legged family members with us when traveling, it's crucial to know the ins and outs of the airline. Travel planning can be complicated enough, but you certainly don't want to hit any snags when it comes to airlines and pets. In truth, if you don't pay attention to the fine print, your pet-in-tow trip can get derailed pretty quickly. Not great news for your pet or your planned trip.

Southwest Airlines is known for its pretty laid-back attitude (think open seating) and budget-friendly flights, but just like all major airlines, its pet policy has its own restrictions, considerations, and rules to follow. That said, the airline can be a good choice for pet owners, but you'll need to plan ahead. To ensure you avoid any surprises and your pet has a good flight, we'll go over Southwest's current pet policy, the cost, and the specifics of acceptable pet carriers.

Pets on Southwest can only fly domestic

We should first mention that Southwest Airlines only allows pets in the cabin. If you own a larger pet, which can't fit under the seat in front of you, you'll need to choose a different airline. Currently, as far as U.S.-based airlines, only Alaska, Hawaiian, and American Airlines allow larger pets to fly in the cargo hold.

If you own a vaccinated dog or cat that's at least 8 weeks old and well-behaved, then you may be in luck — as long as you're flying domestic. Southwest Airlines does not allow pets to travel internationally or on flights to Hawaii. To reserve your pet's domestic flight, you must call Southwest directly. The airline typically only allows a maximum of six pet carriers per flight, so you'll need to ensure a reservation for your carrier before booking your own ticket.

Although Southwest offers the aforementioned open seating policy, you will not be able to book a seat on an exit row, bulkhead, or first-row seat, as these seats do not typically offer space in front of you for stowing your pet underneath.

Two pets are allowed per carrier

To fit comfortably under the seat, the pet carrier can be a maximum of 18.5 inches in length, 8.5 inches high, and 13.5 inches wide. The pet carriers must be leakproof and ventilated, but hard-sided and soft-sided carriers are acceptable. Before boarding your flight, you'll need to check in at the Southwest ticket counter in person, allowing the agent to inspect the carrier. If you want to ensure your carrier is acceptable, you can purchase a Southwest-branded pet carrier online.

Currently, the one-way price to fly with a pet carrier is $95. Unlike some other airlines, such as United, you can carry two pets of the same species within one carrier, as long as the pets can comfortably stand and move around. The pet fee is refundable, so if your plans change or your flight's canceled, you'll be entitled to a full refund. Due to Southwest's reasonable price, refund policy, and allowance for two pets per carrier, the airline may be a good choice for pet owners traveling domestically.