What to Know Before Flying Southwest Airlines with Pets

Southwest typically allows six spots per flight for eligible cats and dogs to travel in under-seat carriers in the main cabin.
Natasha Etzel
By Natasha Etzel 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

If you have a furry companion and want to bring them on vacation or are planning a long-distance move and want to fly with them, you’ll need to consider airline pet policies before booking an airline ticket.

So, can pets fly on Southwest Airlines? Yes, but only in the main cabin.

Here’s what you need to know to fly with pets on Southwest. 

The Southwest Airlines pet policy

Southwest Airlines allows travelers to fly with their pets as long as they meet the eligibility requirements. However, pets aren’t allowed to fly in cargo. Small, vaccinated domestic cats and dogs in appropriate pet carriers are welcome to travel in the cabin on domestic flights. 

Pet carriers must be stowed under the seat in front of you during the flight, and your pet must always remain in its carrier. Only one pet carrier is allowed per ticketed passenger. Unaccompanied minors aren’t allowed to travel with a pet. 

Only six carriers are allowed per flight, and pet fares are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. However, sometimes the airline will allow exceptions and forgo the six-pet cap. 

Before traveling, it’s always wise to review the Southwest Airlines pet travel rules so you know what to expect. 

Southwest in-cabin pet options

Photo courtesy of Southwest.

While Southwest doesn't allow pets to fly in cargo, you can bring an eligible pet in-cabin as long as they meet the requirements. 

Keep these Southwest Airlines pet travel rules in mind:

  • You can travel with only small, vaccinated domestic cats and dogs. 

  • Cats must be at least 8 weeks old to travel on a Southwest flight. 

  • Your pet must remain inside its carrier at all times. 

  • Your pet carrier counts as a personal item or a carry-on item. 

  • Carriers must not exceed 18.5 in. x 8.5 in. x 13.5 in. (length x height x width) in size, must fit under the seat in front of you, and must be leak-proof and well-ventilated. 

  • Pets can't travel on flights to and from Hawaii or international flights. 

  • Pets are allowed to travel on flights between Hawaiian islands. 

  • Passengers traveling to Puerto Rico should review entry requirements before flying with a pet.

  • Each passenger is allowed to bring one carrier with up to two pets of the same species. 

  • Pet carriers must be put under the seat in front of you during the flight.

  • Customers traveling with pets must board with their assigned boarding group. 

  • When traveling with a pet, you can't sit in an exit row seat or a seat with no under-seat stowage in front. 

  • Pets are allowed on a first-come, first-served basis, and only six pets are allowed on most flights. 

  • If your pet shows signs of disruptive behavior, such as scratching, excessive barking, growling or biting, they may be denied boarding. 

» Learn more: How to fly with a dog

Southwest Airlines pet fees

So, how much does it cost to fly a dog on Southwest? What about other animals?

When flying with a pet on a Southwest flight, passengers must pay a $95 pet fare fee per carrier, each way. This additional expense is worth considering as you plan out your trip costs. This fee is refundable if you decide not to travel with your pet, you decide to cancel the flight or your flight is canceled. 

For those traveling between Hawaiian Islands through June 30, 2023, the fare is $35 each way per pet carrier.

How flying with pets on Southwest compares to other airlines

Are you deciding which airline to book for your pet-friendly adventure? When considering other airlines' pet policies, Southwest ranked No. 2 on the pet-friendly airlines' list out of the nine airlines analyzed.

According to NerdWallet's evaluation, Southwest scored a 3.4 out of 5, landing in second place.

The following primary factors were considered when rating each airline's pet-friendliness: 

  • The cost of bringing a pet in the main cabin. 

  • The number of pets allowed.

  • The types of animals allowed.

  • Whether pets are allowed in cargo.

  • The cost of bringing a pet in cargo.

  • Data from the Department of Transportation (June 2021 to May 2022) regarding deaths, injuries, and losses of pets.

Southwest received high marks due to its affordable pet fees and good records with pet safety. 

Southwest Airlines pet travel, recapped

While Southwest Airlines doesn't allow passengers to travel with their pets in cargo, other options exist.

If you are traveling with an eligible pet to or from a domestic destination or between Hawaiian Islands, pay the appropriate fee and keep your pet in its approved pet carrier under the seat in front of you, it's possible to fly with your furry companion while on a Southwest flight.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.