Southwest's Carry-On Policy: Everything You Need to Know (2023)

Southwest Airlines is known for its customer-friendly policies, and its carry-on policy is no exception. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide to Southwest's carry-on policy, including size restrictions, weight limits, luggage fees, and more. Whether you're a frequent Southwest flyer or planning your first trip with the airline, this guide will help you navigate the ins and outs of carrying on a bag with Southwest.

Southwest's Carry-On Size Restrictions

Southwest allows each passenger to carry two items on the plane: a personal item and a carry-on bag. The dimensions for these items are as follows:

  • Carry-on bag: 24” (L) x 16” (W) x 10” (H)
  • Personal item: 16.25” (L) x 13.5” (W) x 8” (H)

It's important to note that these dimensions include handles and wheels. Compared to the average carry-on size in the United States, which is 22” x 14” x 9”, Southwest's carry-on size allowance is significantly above the national average .

Southwest's generous carry-on size policy means that you can bring a larger bag on board and avoid waiting at the luggage belt for your check-through bags upon arrival. If you prefer to travel with just a carry-on bag, Southwest's larger bag policy allows you to pack a few extra items and enjoy the convenience of traveling light.

What About Carry-On Weight?

Unlike many other airlines, Southwest does not have a maximum weight restriction for carry-on bags. This is a relief for travelers who have experienced the frustration of having to remove items or pay overweight fees on other budget airlines. However, Southwest does require that you are able to lift your carry-on bag above your head to place it in the overhead bin. Therefore, it's advisable not to overload your bag with heavy items to ensure you can handle it comfortably .

Southwest's Luggage Fee Policies

One of the standout features of Southwest's carry-on policy is that it offers a generous luggage allowance for free. Each passenger is allowed to bring the following items without incurring any additional fees:

  • 1 carry-on bag
  • 1 personal item
  • 2 checked bags

If you need to travel with more luggage than this, it must be in the form of checked bags. Southwest provides a baggage fee chart on its website that breaks down the costs for extra luggage. Generally, you can expect to pay $75 for a third checked bag and every bag thereafter. Additionally, there is a $75 fee for any checked bag weighing between 50 – 100 pounds .

The Cabin Room Dilemma

Finding space in the overhead bin can be a challenge, especially if you're one of the last people to board the plane. While Southwest aims to have full flights, there are times when there is still space available in the overhead compartments. In such cases, Southwest may make an announcement offering passengers the option to check their carry-on bags to their final destination for free. If you choose this option, there are a few things to consider:

  • You'll need to allow extra time to pick up your carry-on at the luggage belt.
  • Your carry-on will go to your final destination, not your layover.
  • You must remove all valuables from your bag.
  • Southwest only checks carry-on bags, not personal items.

It's worth noting that personal items should fit under the seat in front of you, while carry-on bags go in the overhead compartment .

Items To Take Out of a Carry-on-Turned-Check-Through Bag

In some cases, Southwest staff may ask you to check your carry-on bag at the gate, even if space on the plane is not an issue. This typically happens when passengers are traveling with strollers or large mobility devices. If you are asked to check your carry-on, make sure to remove the following items before handing over your bag:

  • Keys
  • Valuables
  • Spare batteries
  • E-cigarettes
  • Medicine
  • Canes or other small assistive devices

When your bag is checked, you will receive a ticket that you should keep safe. This ticket will be used to track down your bag in case it does not show up at your destination .

The Downside to a Lenient Size Policy

While Southwest's generous carry-on bag policy has its benefits, some customers have raised concerns about passengers boarding with bags that are too big. Southwest does not typically monitor the size of carry-on bags, which means that some passengers may bring bags that exceed the allowed dimensions. Instead of placing their carry-ons in the overhead bin on their side, these passengers may lay them flat, resulting in fewer bags fitting in the compartment. As a result, passengers at the end of the boarding line may be asked to check their bags. To mitigate this issue, Southwest tries to anticipate full flights and offers a free check-through option at the gate. However, this is not always a guaranteed solution, so it's important to be prepared to check your bag at the gate if necessary .

Items That Don't Count as Carry-Ons

Not all items you bring on the plane with you count as carry-ons according to Southwest's policy. The following items do not count towards your carry-on allowance:

  • Mobility devices
  • Walking canes
  • Child seats
  • Strollers
  • Umbrellas
  • Food and beverages for consumption during the flight

Additionally, coats and other clothing items do not count as carry-ons as long as you wear them. While it's unlikely that Southwest staff will give you a hard time if you have a coat draped over your arm instead of wearing it, it's always a good idea to be mindful of the space you take up in the cabin .

Do Pets Count as a Carry-On?

Yes, small pets do count as a carry-on item on Southwest flights. This is in accordance with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules, which state that each passenger can bring only one carry-on and one personal item on a plane. Southwest allows a maximum of six pets on each flight, but you can only travel with your pet as a carry-on if you are traveling domestically. Additionally, your pet's carrier must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. If the carrier is too large, Southwest will place it under the plane. It's important to note that there is a $95 fee to fly with a carry-on pet, and the pet's crate must be treated as your personal item or carry-on. Fortunately, Southwest allows two free checked bags, which can be used to transport additional items for your pet .

What's Allowed in Carry-On Bags?

Southwest allows passengers to pack almost anything in their carry-on bags, with a few exceptions. In compliance with TSA policies, you can carry on one quart-sized, see-through bag of liquids. Each liquid within the bag must weigh no more than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters). It's important to remember that gels, aerosols, and toothpaste all count as liquids. If you wish to travel with larger bottles of shampoo or other liquid items, you can place them in a check-through bag. However, there is an exception to this rule for alcohol purchased after passing through security. In such cases, the alcohol will be placed in a special sealed bag, and you will not be able to open it while on the plane. Disposable containers of drinks purchased after security are also allowed on the plane and do not count towards the quart-sized bag policy .

Banned Carry-On Items

While most items are safe to bring in your carry-on and personal bags, there are certain items that Southwest does not permit in compliance with TSA policies. These include:

  • Firearms
  • Ammunition
  • Motor oil, brake fluid, and other similar substances
  • Sharp objects, including razors and scissors
  • Flammable liquids
  • Hoverboards
  • Wet-cell batteries
  • Human remains

It's important to note that if you wish to bring cremated remains or pets on board, you must obtain permission from Southwest in advance. Additionally, alcohol containing more than 70% alcohol by volume is not allowed on board. Understanding and adhering to these policies will ensure a smooth and hassle-free travel experience with Southwest.


Southwest Airlines offers a generous carry-on policy that allows passengers to bring two items on board: a personal item and a carry-on bag. With larger size allowances compared to the national average, Southwest's carry-on policy provides travelers with the flexibility to pack more and avoid waiting at the luggage belt. While there are no weight restrictions for carry-on bags, passengers should be able to lift their bags above their heads to place them in the overhead bin. Southwest's luggage fee policies are also customer-friendly, with free allowances for carry-on bags, personal items, and checked bags. However, it's important to be aware of the cabin room dilemma and the possibility of being asked to check your carry-on bag at the gate. By following Southwest's guidelines and understanding what items are allowed and prohibited, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey with Southwest Airlines.


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