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Southwest Airlines Carry-On Rules (Exact Size & Weight Restrictions)

Fly stress-free with Southwest Airlines! Learn the exact carry-on size & weight limits to breeze through your next flight. Perfect guide for savvy travelers.

Tobi Miles
October 18, 2022
Southwest Airlines Carry-On Rules (Exact Size & Weight Restrictions)

Southwest Airlines has a great reputation because it doesn't charge customers a lot of the fees that other airlines are guilty of. No matter what flight a passenger books, they will get to check 2 bags for free. This is great news for people looking to save money on airport fees. However, what is Southwest Airlines' policy for carry-on bags?

Every passenger is limited to 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item. Your carry-on bag can't exceed 24 X 16 X 10 inches. There is no weight limit on this item. Personal items can't exceed 16.25 X 13.5 X 8 inches. This item must be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

Are you planning to fly with Southwest Airlines? We recommend becoming familiar with the baggage policy before you pack for your trip. Making sure you have the correct dimensions and weights for your bags will save you a lot of hassle at the airport. Today, we're going to discuss everything travelers should know about Southwest Airlines' carry-on rules and restrictions.

What Are Southwest Airlines' Baggage Restrictions?

Southwest Airlines passengers are allowed to bring 1 carry-on item with them. This is one bag of an appropriate size that you will bring with you onto the plane. The most common choices are small travel bags or backpacks. However, there are several other items you may bring instead.  

Although you do get two free checked bags with Southwest, it's still a good idea to pack a carry-on bag. Many travelers pack a spare outfit in their carry-on, along with other possessions, in case the airline loses their checked luggage. It also brings travelers relief knowing that they have certain items with them while traveling.

How Big Can My Carry-On Be?

Your carry-on bag can't be bigger than 24 X 16 X 10 inches (61 X 40.5 X 25 cm). These dimensions cover the entire piece of luggage, not just the area used to pack items in. When measuring your bag, make sure you include the wheels and handles in the measurement.

The reason there is a strict limit on carry-on size is that these bags must be stored in the airplane's overhead compartment. If the bag is too big, it could prevent the overhead from closing. For safety reasons, the overhead must remain closed during the flight.  

What Is The Weight Limit For Carry-Ons?

There is no weight limit for your carry-on with Southwest Airlines. There is a limit on the size of carry-on items because the airline wants to ensure there is enough space for every passenger's bag. However, when it comes to weight, there isn't a limit because the overhead is strong and sturdy.

TSA recommends keeping the carry-on bag under 35 lbs. This is because an airline attendant may need to move your bag. However, if you need to bring a heavier carry-on bag, you will be allowed. There is no extra fee for bringing on an overweight carry-on bag.

Keep in mind, you will need to lift this bag over your head to place it in the overhead compartment. Make sure to pack your carry-on bag within a weight range that you're comfortable lifting.

What Is Southwest Airlines' Policy If A Carry-On Bag Is Too Big?

Southwest Airlines is strict with the carry-on bag policy. They will not let passengers bring on a carry-on bag that exceeds the size dimensions. If your bag is too big, you will be asked to have it checked. When this happens, your bag will still be on the same flight. However, it will be stored underneath the plane. After your flight, you will be able to retrieve it at the baggage claim area.

If you have already checked 2 pieces of luggage, you will have to pay a fee to check your oversized carry-on. This is why we strongly recommend measuring the bag you plan on using before you pack.

Does Southwest Airlines Charge A Fee For Carry-Ons?

There is no additional charge for your carry-on bag. All passengers are allowed to bring one carry-on item onboard. This cost is included in your plane ticket, along with a personal item and two checked pieces of luggage. Travelers won't have to worry about coming across any extra fees for their carry-on luggage.

Will Southwest Airlines Allow Me To Pay For Additional Carry-On Items?

Travelers won't be allowed to pay for additional carry-on bags. There is limited overhead space on the plane, leaving no room for extra baggage. If a traveler arrives with more than one carry-on bag, they will be required to check the extra bags. The airline makes no exceptions for extra carry-on luggage.

What Items Can & Can't Go In My Carry-On?

You can pack most essential items for travel in your carry-on bag. However, there are certain items that aren't allowed onboard. There are also certain items that you can only pack in your carry-on bag.

  • Liquids must be travel size, 3.4 ounces or less. This includes anything that is a gel, paste, aerosol, or cream. Most personal care items come in travel sizes. However, you can also buy reusable travel-size bottles. All liquid items must be placed in a clear quart-size bag.
  • E-cigarettes must be packed in your carry-on bag. You will not be allowed to use them on the plane or in the airport. They aren't allowed in checked luggage because they can overheat.
  • Many sharp objects are banned from carry-on bags. This list includes box cutters, knives, darts, corkscrews, and more. However, passengers are allowed to have knitting needles, crochet hooks, and disposable razors.
  • All firearms are prohibited. This includes air guns, flare guns, and ammunition as well. Any item that is considered a weapon is not allowed in your carry-on. Items like axes, hatchets, crowbars, etc. are all banned from carry-on bags.
  • Duty-free alcohol is allowed. This alcohol must be closed and still in the retail packaging. Passengers will also be able to travel with mini bottles of alcohol (under 3.4 ounces) in the clear-quart bag. However, alcohol over 140 proof is not allowed in the carry-on bag.

What Are Southwest Airlines' Personal Item Rules?

Your personal item must be small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of you. The dimensions of the item must be under 16.25 X 13.5 X 8 inches (41 X 34 X 20 cm). The same rules and restrictions apply to your personal item as the carry-on bag. This includes what you're allowed to bring and what items you can't pack.

What Items Are NOT Included As Carry-On/Personal Items?

Certain passengers will have items they need with them that don't count as a carry-on. These passengers will still be allowed to bring both a carry-on bag and personal items. What items don't count as a carry-on?

  • Outerwear isn't included. If you're traveling during the cold season, you can bundle up in a jacket, scarf, hat, etc, without it counting towards your carry-on limit.
  • Child restraint systems. Your infant's stroller, child safety seat, and other essential restraint items aren't included in your limit.
  • Mobility devices. If a passenger needs a mobility device or walking cane, it will not count towards their limit.
  • Umbrellas aren't counted as a personal item. If you're traveling somewhere wet, you don't have to worry about leaving your umbrella behind.
  • Food is okay. As long as the food is in disposable packaging, it won't count towards your carry-on limit.

Does Southwest Airlines Allow Pets As a Carry-On?

Southwest Airlines has a very lenient policy for flying with pets. Passengers that are flying with their furry friend can choose the pet carrier as either their personal item or their carry-on. You are allowed to fly with either a cat or a dog. The animal must be vaccinated and placed in an approved carrier.

During the flight, your pet will be stowed under the seat in front of you. In order to board with your pet, you will need to pay at pet fare. This will cost $95 one-way. Each passenger is allowed 1 pet carrier, which can have up to 2 of the same animal (cats or dogs).

The pet carrier must not exceed 18.5 X 13.5 X 9.5 inches. It's also important that your pet has enough room to stand up and turn around in the carrier.

Does Southwest Airlines Allow Sports Equipment As a Carry-On?

Only certain sports equipment is allowed in your carry-on bag. Passengers may pack balls and a helmet in their carry-on. Skates and tennis rackets are also allowed as carry-on items, as long as they are in a bag or case. You will also be allowed to bring a fishing pole as a carry-on item.

However, there is certain sports equipment that can't be brought as a carry-on. This includes baseball bats, cleats, bow and arrow, and more.

Does Southwest Airlines Allow Musical Instruments As a Carry-On?

Musical instruments can be brought on an airplane as a carry-on item. Make sure the case you use for the musical instrument doesn't exceed the carry-on size limits. If you don't have a case, the instrument will still be allowed onboard as long as it fits in the overhead compartment or underneath the seat ahead of you.

So, what does a traveler do if their musical instrument is too big? Southwest Airlines understands that people may not feel comfortable checking their instruments. If you instrument is too big to be a carry-on item, you can purchase a seat for it. Music instrument musts be placed in a window seat. You will also have to keep them buckled up for the flight.

Does Southwest Airlines Allow Specialty Items As a Carry-On?

Southwest Airlines allows several specialty items as a carry-on. This includes everything from seafood to wedding attire. One of the great things about Southwest Airlines is that the company is very flexible. They make it easier for passengers to travel with the items they need.

If there is a specific item you want to travel with as your carry-on item, we suggest checking out the official Southwest policy online. They have narrowed down their list to specific items that can and can not be brought as carry-on or checked luggage. For anything that isn't listed online, we suggest getting in touch with customer service before attempting to fly with it.

Will Southwest Airlines Allow Me To Use A Weekender Bags As a Carry-On?

Most weekender bags are appropriate for use as a carry-on. However, you should always measure the bag you plan on using to make sure it's within the size limits. Weekender bags are a great choice for travelers going on a short getaway. They allow you to stay organized while packing light.

If you're planning on buying a weekender bag specifically for carry-on travel, we recommend buying a small one. This way, it will be suitable to use with various different airlines.

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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