Southwest Carry-On & Personal Item Size Policy

passenger with carry on bag waiting for southwest flight

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Southwest Airlines, a major U.S. airline and the world’s largest low-cost carrier, is well-known for its unique customer-friendly policies. When planning a trip, understanding the airline’s carry-on policy is crucial to ensure a smooth and hassle-free travel experience. Southwest Airlines stands out among its competitors with a generous and flexible carry-on policy that permits passengers to bring one bag and one personal item onboard, free of charge.

In this article, we delve deep into Southwest’s carry-on policy, explaining the size and weight limitations, the fees, and special item provisions. We also provide useful tips for efficient packing and optimizing your carry-on experience.

Southwest Carry On Policy

Southwest Airlines allows each passenger to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item for free. Southwest does not impose weight restrictions for carry-on items. However, it does require that these items should fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.

Examples of acceptable carry-on bags include small suitcases, roller bags, and backpacks, while personal items could be purses, briefcases, camera cases, or laptop bags.

Southwest Carry-On Size & Weight Limits

southwest carry on a personal item size policy

While there are no weight limitations for carry-on bags on Southwest, there are size restrictions to keep in mind. Your carry-on bag must not exceed 24 x 16 x 10 inches, inclusive of wheels and handles.

Your personal item, which should fit under the seat in front of you, should not exceed 16.25 x 13.5 x 8 inches.

To confirm whether your bags meet these size requirements, you can use the sizer bins available at the airport.

Southwest Special Carry-On Items

Southwest Airlines permits some items to be carried onboard that do not count against the carry-on or personal item limit. These include outerwear, umbrellas, assistive devices, medical equipment, child restraint seats, strollers, cameras, food containers, etc.

Southwest allows certain items onboard as long as they fit within the size limits and do not pose a safety hazard. These include musical instruments, sports equipment, and fragile items.

For more details on specific items and regulations, it’s always best to contact Southwest customer service or check their website.

Southwest Carry-on Electronics Policy

Southwest Airlines allows passengers to carry onboard electronic devices such as laptops, tablets, e-readers, portable music players, and cell phones. However, these devices must be turned off or set to airplane mode during takeoff and landing. Larger electronic devices like laptops must be stowed in carry-on baggage during these times.

For devices with lithium batteries, such as power banks, they must be carried in carry-on baggage and not checked luggage due to safety regulations. It’s recommended to check the FAA’s regulations on batteries and devices for the most accurate, up-to-date information.

Southwest Carry-on Liquids Policy

Southwest adheres to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 3-1-1 rule for carry-on liquids:

  • 3: Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container.
  • 1: All containers must fit in a single, clear, quart-sized, zip-top bag.
  • 1: Each passenger may carry on one bag of liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes.

Exceptions are made for medications, infant, and child nourishments, which you can declare for inspection at the checkpoint.

Southwest Carry-on Food Policy

Passengers are permitted to bring food on board a Southwest flight. However, any liquids or gels, including sauces, salad dressings, or yogurts, must adhere to the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule.

You cannot bring filled water bottles through security. You can buy water after security and take it on the plane.

It’s also worth noting that any food brought to consume on the flight should be packaged appropriately, considering the comfort of other passengers.

Southwest Carry-On Pet Policy

Southwest Airlines allows a limited number of small vaccinated domestic cats and dogs to travel with you in-cabin under the seat in front. The pet fee is $95 each way per pet carrier. The carrier counts as either a carry-on item or a personal item.

Southwest Airlines uses specific pet carriers available for purchase at Southwest Airlines Ticket Counters and online. Alternatively, passengers can use their pet carriers as long as they meet the following specifications: no larger than 18.5” long x 8.5” high x 13.5” wide.

Pets are not allowed to travel in-cabin on international flights or any itinerary that includes an international flight.

Prohibited and Restricted Items

Certain items are considered dangerous and are not permitted on board any Southwest flight. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Explosive and flammable materials: Gunpowder, fireworks, matches, fuels, lighter fluids.
  • Compressed gases: Fire extinguishers, oxygen tanks (medical oxygen tanks require special permission), aerosols (other than personal care or toiletries in limited quantities).
  • Weapons: Firearms, ammunition, gunpowder, mace, tear gas, or pepper spray.
  • Other hazardous materials: Paint, batteries, alcohol, marijuana (including medical marijuana).

For the complete list of prohibited and restricted items, and for more specific details, it’s always best to refer to the official Southwest Airlines website or the TSA’s “What Can I Bring?” page.

Tips and Tricks for Traveling with Carry-On Luggage on Southwest

When it comes to packing efficiently and avoiding overpacking, there are several strategies you can adopt:

  • Use packing cubes, compression bags, or the rolling technique to maximize space.
  • Choose versatile clothing and accessories.
  • Adhere to the 3-1-1 rule for liquids, gels, and aerosols.
  • Leave some room for souvenirs or purchases you might make during your trip.

Choosing the right carry-on bag and personal item can also enhance your travel experience:

  • Consider the type, size, weight, and features of your bag.
  • Choose a bag that fits your travel style and needs.
  • Opt for bags with wheels, handles, straps, and pockets for convenience.
  • Select a personal item that can double as a day bag or a laptop bag.

To secure a good spot for your carry-on luggage, consider the following:

  • Check in online 24 hours before your flight.
  • Purchase EarlyBird Check-In or upgrade to Business Select to gain priority boarding.
  • Join the Rapid Rewards program to earn elite status and enjoy perks like priority boarding.
  • Be prepared to board when your group is called to secure the best overhead bin space.


How strict are Southwest’s carry-on policies?

Southwest Airlines is fairly strict about the size limitations of carry-on items. However, there is no weight limit, which is a significant advantage for travelers.

Can you bring a stroller on a Southwest plane?

Yes, strollers can be checked at the gate or checked counter without any extra charge.

Are there fees for carry-on baggage on Southwest?

No, Southwest Airlines does not charge any fees for carry-on baggage. Each passenger is allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item free of charge.

Does Southwest allow 2 carry-on bags?

Southwest Airlines allows one carry-on bag and one personal item per passenger. The personal item could be a purse, briefcase, camera case, or laptop bag.

Is a backpack a personal item or carry-on for Southwest?

The classification of a backpack as a personal item or a carry-on depends on its size. If it fits under the seat in front of you, it can be considered a personal item. If it’s larger and needs to be stored in the overhead bin, it’s considered a carry-on.

Bottom Line

Understanding and adhering to Southwest’s carry-on policy can make your trip more enjoyable and stress-free. While the airline offers a generous and flexible policy, ensuring your bags meet the size requirements can help avoid any unexpected issues at the gate.

It’s important to note that policies can change, and for the most accurate, up-to-date information, always check Southwest Airlines’ official website. Happy travels!

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Joe Morelli

Joe Morelli, an avid travel enthusiast and founder of Modern Miles, has mastered the art of earning and redeeming millions of points and miles annually. Accompanied by his wife and two children, he explores the world's wonders, inspiring others with his expertise and unquenchable thirst for adventure.

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