Southwest Airlines Baggage Fees and Other Extras: What Flyers Can Expect

It won't cost you a thing to check a bag or change your flight reservation with Southwest.
Elina Geller
Meg Lee
By Meg Lee and  Elina Geller 
Updated
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.

Light packers and overpackers can rejoice while flying on Southwest Airlines. The carrier's generous policy allows two free checked bags up to 50 pounds.

But is it all too good to be true? Are there hidden Southwest baggage fees that you should be aware of before you snag a Wanna Get Away fare?

Check out this guide on Southwest Airlines' luggage policy as well as other fees to be aware of.

Southwest carry-on policy

Southwest carry-on baggage fees are non-existent. It costs exactly $0 to bring your first carry-on bag and your second carry-on bag (a personal item) onto a Southwest Airlines flight. So if you prefer not checking bags, you don't have to worry about having to pay extra for a carry-on bag.

Southwest checked bag policy

Southwest allows travelers to bring two checked bags for free. This is an incredibly generous luggage policy, especially since some consider Southwest to be a budget airline. 

If other airlines offer a free checked bag, it's usually one rather than two — or only available on specific flights, such as those to certain international destinations.

Plus, on some of the most restrictive airline tickets (i.e. basic economy), there is no free checked bag allowance, period.

Southwest, however, has the same baggage rules whether you’re on a Business Select or a Wanna Get Away fare.

Get up to 80,000 bonus points with our favorite Southwest cards
Check out our nerdy picks for the best Southwest credit cards and find the right card for you.

Southwest overweight bag fee

Be careful, though. If your bag is deemed overweight (over 50 to 100 pounds) or oversize (larger than 62 inches up to 80 inches), you'll be charged $75 per bag.

How much is a third bag on Southwest?

If you check a third bag, you’ll have to pay $75 per bag. This same fee applies to checking sports equipment, including archery gear, a boogie or kneeboard, bicycles, skis and snowboards, and more.

If you’re packing for an adventurous trip, we recommend first reading all of Southwest’s terms and conditions for checking sports equipment.

How many bags does Southwest allow for military?

Military traveling on active duty or permanent change of station orders are exempt from the two-bag limit and can check overweight and oversize bags for free. However, none of the pieces can exceed 100 pounds or 80 inches (length plus height plus width).

Other Southwest fees

Beyond unusual baggage situations, be prepared to foot an additional bill for the following incidentals and services.

Change/cancellation fees: None

Another perk of flying Southwest is that there are no flight change fees added on top of fare differences when you make a switch — or just flat-out cancel your flight, which also costs $0.

EarlyBird check-in fees: $15-$25

Southwest’s unique boarding system requires passengers to check in 24 hours in advance to digitally race for their place in line. If you want to avoid that chaos altogether, you can pay an EarlyBird Check-In fee of $15, $20 or $25 one way. This will give you a better boarding position (though boarding first, with Group A, isn’t promised), earlier access to precious overhead bin space and automated check-in.

Upgraded boarding fees: $30-$80

When available, Southwest passengers can pay $30 to $80 per flight (depending on the itinerary) to secure a position in the A1–A15 boarding group. Since you can’t book specific seats on Southwest, this can be a great elective fee to improve your chances of nabbing an aisle seat at the front of the plane.

You can upgrade online at Southwest's upgraded boarding page.

Unaccompanied minor fees: $50

Is your kiddo age 5-11 and flying by alone? Expect to pay $50 per child for this service.

Pet fees: $95

Your furry friend can join you on board for $95 per pet carrier.

In-flight fees

If you can’t make it to your destination without a quick drink or some inbox maintenance, expect to pay $6-$7 per serving of wine, beer or liquor, plus $8 for Wi-Fi internet access.

Fees across U.S. airlines

In NerdWallet's most recent analysis of airline fees, we compared seat selection, checked baggage and overhead carry-on baggage fees charged by the major U.S. airlines on typical one-way fares.

Here's how they stacked up:

Southwest baggage rules recapped

Southwest allows you to check two bags up to 50 pounds without paying any fees. This perk can save travelers a lot of money, especially since most other domestic airlines charge for checking a bag.

Extra bags, overweight and oversize bags will incur a charge. So if you want to avoid paying Southwest’s baggage fees, stick to one carry-on and two checked pieces of luggage.

Other services, like pet cargo or modified bookings, will cost various amounts out of pocket. Knowing what Southwest baggage fees are out there — not to mention other fees — will help you better budget and prepare for your next Southwest flight.

Frequently asked questions

Your first two checked bags are free on Southwest, as long as the bags don't exceed 50 pounds each and 62 inches on any side. If your luggage is larger than that (but less than 100 pounds and smaller than 80 inches on any side), you’ll need to pay $75 per piece, each way. Anything larger must be shipped as air cargo.

If you have more than two bags to check, you’ll pay $75 for each additional item, each way.

Southwest customers can carry on one bag and one small personal item for free.

The personal item must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you (18.5 x 8.5 x 13.5 inches), and can include purses, briefcases, cameras, food containers or laptops (as examples). The carry-on bag must be stored in the overhead bin and can be no larger than 10 x 16 x 24 inches.

As long as it’s contained in disposable packaging, food for consumption during flight doesn't count as a carry-on bag.

Yes, if you can bring it through security, you can bring it on the airplane. You can also bring food purchased inside the airport onto the flight. FAA regulations prohibit passengers from drinking alcohol on the aircraft unless it is served by the air carrier.

If you prefer to eat Southwest’s food, complimentary snacks and nonalcoholic drinks are available on flights longer than 250 miles. Alcoholic beverages are usually available for purchase. Some longer flights have additional complimentary snacks.


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 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-6.5%

Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

$300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more Travel cards
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.