Everyone loves to travel by air and this can be an exciting experience, but when it comes to dealing with the baggage policies of the airlines, this is where it can turn out to be a daunting task at times. Southwest Airlines has a very peculiar method of boarding, and they also have a somewhat different baggage policy from other airlines. This all-inclusive article will cover all the basics regarding Southwest Airlines’ checked baggage policy, Southwest Airlines carry on baggage, as well as any possible extra charges you may come across.

It would be helpful to know what is allowed and what costs extra to know how to pack without going over the limit. Well, the following blog post will be useful for everyone – both frequent flyers and those who have chosen Southwest for their first flight.

Southwest Airlines Checked Baggage Policy

While most of the airline companies impose fees for checked baggage allowance, Southwest Airlines offers two free checked bags per ticketed passenger. This applies to all domestic flight destinations within the United States and its territories. However, there are size and weight restrictions to keep in mind: 

  • Weight: Each checked bag must not exceed 50 pounds.
  • Size: The total linear dimensions (length + width + height) of each checked bag must not exceed 62 inches.

Examples of free checked bags:

  • Suitcases
  • Duffel bags
  • Backpacks (larger than carry-on size)
  • Golf clubs (within the weight and size limits)
  • Skis (within the weight and size limits)

Important Note: If you have a checked baggage that is overweight or oversized, then you will be required to pay extra charges as highlighted under the Southwest Airlines extra baggage policy below.

Southwest Airlines Carry on Baggage (Hand Baggage) Policy

Southwest Airlines allows each passenger to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item onboard the aircraft. There are also size restrictions for these items:

  • Carry-on Bag: The maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag are 24 inches x 16 inches x 10 inches (including wheels and handles).
  • Personal Item: The dimensions for a personal item should not exceed 9 inches x 13 inches x 17 inches.

Examples of carry-on bags:

  • Standard rolling suitcases (meeting the size restrictions)
  • Backpacks (meeting the size restrictions)
  • Large duffel bags (meeting the size restrictions)

Examples of personal items:

  • Purses
  • Briefcases
  • Laptop bags
  • Small backpacks

Things to Remember about Carry-on Bags:

  • The carry-on bag must fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.
  • If the overhead bins are full, your carry-on bag might be gate-checked (checked in at the boarding gate and transported in the cargo hold) free of charge. Be sure to remove any fragile items from your carry-on if there’s a chance it might be gate-checked.

Southwest Airlines Fee for Extra Bags and Overweight/Oversized Bags

While Southwest offers two free checked bags, there are fees associated with checking additional bags or bags that exceed the size or weight limits. Here’s a breakdown of the charges:

  • Extra Checked Bag (3rd Bag): $100
  • Extra Checked Bag (4th Bag and beyond): $150 per bag
  • Overweight Bag (51-70 lbs): $100
  • Overweight Bag (71-100 lbs): $125
  • Oversized Bag (Exceeding 62 inches but not more than 80 inches): $125

Important Note:

  • Only one fee applies if a bag is both overweight and oversized, as long as the weight doesn’t exceed 100 lbs.
  • Bags exceeding 100 lbs or 80 inches in total dimensions cannot be checked as baggage and might need to be shipped as cargo.

Southwest Airlines Military Baggage Policy

Southwest Airlines offers a generous baggage allowance for active military personnel traveling on orders. With a valid military ID, active duty military can check an unlimited number of bags free of charge, as long as each bag doesn’t exceed 100 lbs in weight and 80 inches in total dimensions (length + width + height).

Important Note: This exemption applies only to active duty military personnel with valid identification. Military dependents and retired military personnel are subject to the standard baggage allowances and fees.

Tips for Packing and Saving Money on Baggage Fees with Southwest Airlines

Here are some handy tips to help you pack efficiently and avoid excess baggage fees when flying with Southwest Airlines:

  • Pack light: Utilize the two free checked bags to its fullest, but remember to stay within the weight and size limitations.
  • Space-saving techniques: Use packing cubes or compression bags to maximize space in your checked luggage.
  • Wear your bulkiest clothes: It is recommended to pack boots, thick socks, coats and thick vests if you are planning to travel so as to free up space in your check-in luggage.
  • Utilize your carry-on bag effectively: Make sure that you pack all the necessary things that you may need during the flight in your carry-on bag.
  • Consolidate toiletries: Some of the things that can be taken into consideration include; using travel sizes of toiletries or containers that can be refilled, since the TSA has laid down some strict measures on the sizes of containers that are allowed in a carry-on.
  • Ship bulky items: When you are packing your luggage and you find that you have bulky items for instance sporting equipment, it is advisable to send them by mail in advance to avoid checking extra baggage fees.
  • Travel with a companion: It is always advisable to keep some of your belongings in one check-in bag if you are traveling with someone to avoid being charged for extra bags.

What to Pack in Your Carry-on Bag with Southwest Airlines

Here’s a quick checklist of items you might want to consider packing in your carry-on bag for a Southwest Airlines flight:

  • Essential documents: A boarding pass, identification (ID), flight itinerary, and travel insurance documents if the traveler has purchased the insurance.
  • Medications: If you require any medicines during the flight, ensure that they are packed in your hand luggage.
  • Entertainment: Bring along a book or magazine or better yet download a movie or show on your hand held device for entertainment on the flight.
  • Change of clothes: Take spare clothing for the journey as there may be delays or luggage may get lost.
  • Snacks and drinks: Nevertheless, Southwest Airlines offers free drinks only for the domestic flights, so you may have to carry your snacks for this rather long flight. However, do not forget that the TSA has specific rules on liquids, gels, and aerosols that you need to follow.
  • Electronics: However, you should carry with you your phone, laptop, charger, headphones and any other gadgets that you may require during the flight.

What NOT to Pack in Your Carry-on Bag with Southwest Airlines

Ensure that you follow the TSA guidelines on some of the things that you should not carry in your carry-on luggage. Here are some items that are generally prohibited in carry-on luggage:

  • Liquids, gels, and aerosols: These items must be in containers 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less and placed in a resealable, quart-sized bag.
  • Sharp objects: Knives, scissors, razor blades, etc. are not allowed in carry-on luggage.
  • Firearms and ammunition: These items are strictly prohibited in both checked and carry-on baggage.
  • Explosives and flammable materials: These items are also strictly prohibited.

For a comprehensive list of prohibited items, you can always refer to the TSA website.


Having a good understanding of Southwest Airlines’ baggage policy will ensure your trip is a breeze. They provide free two checked baggage allowances, but please remember that these baggage have to conform to certain dimensions and weight. This perk can be a lifesaver if you are traveling with several bags because some airlines charge for checked luggage. Here’s how a little pre-flight planning can ensure a stress-free check-in process:

  • Pack light and strategically: Enjoy the two free checked luggage but ensure that they do not exceed the correct size and weight. In this case, you may decide to use packing cubes or compression bags to maximize on the space of your luggage.
  • Travel comfortably: It is advisable to wear warm clothes and shoes on the plane trip to avoid using a lot of space in the luggage to pack the souvenirs.
  • Keep essentials handy: Accompany any medication, valuable items or any item that you may need during the period of the flight in your hand luggage.

By avoiding these tips, you will be in a position not to be charged the Southwest Airlines excess baggage fees and be sure that you will be able to board the flight with full confidence and ready for the journey ahead! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I pre-pay for checked bags with Southwest Airlines?

No, Southwest Airlines currently does not have a policy that will allow customers to pre-pay for checking their bags in advance. It is charged at the airport especially during the time of check in.

What happens if my checked bag is overweight or oversized?

If you have checked-in a baggage and it goes beyond the weight or size allowed, you will be charged for the excess baggage as explained earlier in this blog. They are required to be paid at the airport before the client checks in.

How do I track my checked bags with Southwest Airlines?

Southwest Airlines offers a baggage tracking system that allows you to track your checked bags online or through their mobile app. You will need your confirmation number and a barcode provided during check-in to access the tracking system.

What happens if my checked bag is lost or damaged?

Southwest Airlines has a policy for lost or damaged baggage. In case your bag is lost or damaged, you should immediately report it to a Southwest Airlines representative at the airport upon arrival. They will guide you through the filing process for a lost baggage claim.

Can I bring a carry-on and a personal item on the same flight?

Yes, Southwest Airlines allows each passenger to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item onboard the aircraft.

What happens if the overhead bins are full on my flight?

If the overhead bins are full during boarding, Southwest Airlines might gate-check your carry-on bag free of charge. This means your bag will be checked in at the boarding gate and transported in the cargo hold. Be sure to remove any fragile items from your carry-on if there’s a chance it might be gate-checked.

Does Southwest Airlines offer any baggage allowances for traveling with a pet?

Southwest Airlines accepts small vaccinated domestic cats and dogs to travel as pets in the cabin. The pet carrier counts as either your carry-on or personal item. There are additional fees associated with traveling with a pet, so be sure to check the Southwest Airlines website for the latest information and requirements.

Can I pool my baggage allowance with someone else traveling on the same itinerary?

No, Southwest Airlines does not allow passengers to pool their baggage allowance. Each ticketed passenger receives their own free checked bag allowance (up to two bags) and carry-on allowance (one carry-on and one personal item).

What are the acceptable dimensions for a carry-on bag with wheels and handles?

Southwest Airlines includes wheels and handles when measuring carry-on luggage. The maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag, including wheels and handles, are 24 inches x 16 inches x 10 inches.

Are there any items exempt from the size and weight restrictions for checked baggage?

A few specific items are exempt from the standard size and weight restrictions for checked baggage with Southwest Airlines. These include wheelchairs, walkers, and assistive devices for passengers with disabilities. However, it’s always recommended to contact Southwest Airlines directly to confirm the specific dimensions and weight allowances for these items.

What happens if I forget to print my boarding pass at home?

Not having a printed boarding pass won’t affect your baggage allowance. You can still check in for your flight at the airport kiosk or with a Southwest Airlines representative and they will issue you a boarding pass. However, there might be a fee associated with printing your boarding pass at the airport, so it’s best to check in online beforehand if possible.

Can I bring checked baggage on a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit card?

Some credit cards provide baggage fee rebates or some percentage off for certain airlines, however Southwest Airlines baggage policies are not linked to credit card companies. Another perk is free checked baggage on domestic flights and it is for all passengers who hold a ticket regardless of their credit card type. However, there are other perks that might be provided by some Southwest Airlines credit cards such as travel insurance or points that can be redeemed on the next flight.

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