Southwest Airlines - 2024 Carry-on Bag, Baggage Allowance and Fees

Normally, many low-cost airlines charge you more for your luggage, whether carry-on or checked. Therefore, as one of the most famous affordable airlines in the USA, Southwest carry-on size is a concern for many passengers when choosing this airline.

While still maintaining some of the policies as the other low-cost airlines, customers of Southwest will not have to pay for their standard luggage. But how much are you allowed? Are there any extra rules set for the luggage? Let’s find out in this article!

Overview Of Southwest And Its Baggage Policy

Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge fees for standard checked and carry-on luggage. You will get to bring 2 checked bags, 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item for free! What you should remember is the size they allow. 

For checked ones, they can’t exceed 62” in size (the total length, width and height). Southwest carry-on bag, on the other hand, is listed specifically. It can’t exceed 24” in length, 16” in width and 10” in height. Your personal item carry-on must fit the space below your seat, which is 16.25” in length, 13.5” in width and 8” in height.

Southwest carry-on size - Cabinzero

Southwest Airlines offers free carry-on and checked luggage. Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz on Unsplash.

Southwest Carry-on Bag Allowances

After checking in, getting on the plane with your carry-on bag is the next step. Usually, Southwest Airlines won’t weigh your hand luggage. But there are still some rules you should follow if you don’t want to waste your time or have to pay extra fees for your luggage.

Is Southwest Strict With Carry-On Size? 

This is one of the most common questions regarding carry-on luggage on low-cost flights. In this case, the answer is unlikely. Southwest considers roller bags and small suitcases as carry-on luggage. The official limitation for hand luggage on Southwest’s flights is 24 x 16 x 10 inches.

In spite of that, many travellers who usually fly on Southwest’s flights stated that people usually bring different sizes of carry-on and no one has ever said anything.

On their official website, Southwest Airlines stated that backpacks, purses, briefcases, cameras, food containers, or laptops (case included) are counted as personal items. And these must be stored under the seat in front of you.

Because Southwest Airlines offers one free hand luggage, they tend to be more lenient to the rule. But if your bag looks much bigger and obviously exceeds the limit tremendously, you can be asked to weigh it, especially when it’s a busy flight and there is no room for luggage.

Does Southwest allow two carry-ons? 

The answer is yes and no. According to the policy, you can only bring one carry-on. But you can also bring along one personal item. So, practically, you get two carry-ons abroad.

Does Southwest check carry-on weight? According to the reviews from customers, Southwest isn’t too strict when examining carry-on luggage. Plus, there’s no mention of a weight limit on the Southwest cabin bag. If your pack isn’t too bulky, you’ll be fine.

Cabinzero Tips: According to some, you can put your purse inside your backpack. In this case, they will count it as one personal item. Therefore, you can sneak in one more hand luggage!

So, if you intend to make use of your personal item capacity, choose one that can be squashed when needed. Does a backpack count as a personal item? Yes. Using a backpack is more convenient than a purse as you can put many things inside and reduce their sizes. 

We would recommend Cabinzero’s 28L backpacks. Made of strong yet flexible material, these bags can be easily packed to fit your purpose. They also come in all shapes and sizes, so you can choose from various options you like.

If you have too much luggage, consider checking it as Southwest offers you 2 free cargo luggage. This can also save you more time if your carry-on accidentally exceeds the limitation.

CabinZero-Backpacks-New-Colours

Choose a backpack as versatile as the CabinZero 28L to be your personal item.

Southwest Checked Baggage Allowance & Fees 

Does Southwest allow two free checked bags? Yes, they do. In fact, it is one of the most significant benefits of them that attracts many travellers. 

Southwest Airlines offers each customer two free checked luggage. They must be less than 50 pounds and smaller than 62 inches in total length, width and height.

If your checked luggage is bigger than the limit, you might have to pay additional fees of up to $125, based on how much weight you exceed. The detailed fees are stated on their Optional Travel Charges.

How to book tickets and check in with Southwest 

Before worrying about Southwest's carry-on size, you will have to prepare the tickets and be ready to check-in. During these processes, there are some things you should notice to save your time and money.

Where Can I Buy Southwest Airlines Tickets?

To book Southwest Airlines tickets, visit their official website. Here, you can easily see all of the fares’ benefits, as well as the common questions that you might need.

Another popular way to book flight tickets is using a third party such as,  Expedia, Kayak, etc. However, Southwest airfares don’t show up on Google Flights and other platforms.

Therefore, booking your tickets directly on Southwest.com is the most reliable way. It’s a hassle to compare prices, but there are no hidden fees, which is a win in our book.

What Is The Check-In Process With Domestic And International Flights?

The biggest difference in the check-in process with domestic and international flights of Southwest Airlines is the online check-in. You won’t be able to check in online if you book an international flight because your passport must be verified.

On the other hand, the offline check-in process between the two flights doesn’t differ much. You will have to wait in queue at the Southwest booth and provide your personal documents before getting through the gate. 

The documents you need are what will be different. For US domestic flights, you only need to bring your flight details and ID (or Visa if you are not a US citizen). For international flights, you will also have to bring along your passport, or else you won’t receive a boarding pass.

The time you need to check in is also different between the two types of flights. For US domestic flights, you must check in at least 30 minutes before the flight. For international flights, you must check in at least 60 minutes before departure time.

What are the check-in types you can choose?

Online check-in

If you bought a domestic ticket, you can check in online through Southwest's official website or its mobile app 24 hours before the flight. Unless you have checked luggage, you won’t have to queue at the Southwest booth at all.

The boarding pass, in this case, will be sent to your phone. You can use it to board the plane, print it yourself at home, or visit the self-service kiosk at the airport to print it.

Ticket counter check-in

Customers of Southwest Airlines can always check in at the ticket counter like any other airline. You will not have to pay any extra fee for this check-in process.

This is the best way if you have to check in bulky luggage. If you are travelling abroad, you have no other option than to check in here because your passport needs to be verified.

The biggest downside of this method is that you might have to wait in a long queue. Southwest Airlines doesn’t assign seats, so the more you wait, the less chance you can pick your favourite seat (you can choose where you want to sit once you board the plane).

Fun fact: If you go on an international Southwest flight at Atlanta Airport (ATL) and decide to check in at the ticket counter, you will have to check in at the domestic gate, not the international one. Find more information here.

Southwest carry-on size - Cabinzero

if you have checked luggage, you will have to check in at Southwest Airlines' ticket counter sooner or later. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Self-serve kiosk check-in

This is also a convenient way to check in if you travel domestically. Here, you can do everything by yourself, including checking bags and paying for extra fees after you check how much your oversized carry-on is.

When finish the process, you will receive a printed boarding pass. You can also print your boarding pass even if you don’t check in at this kiosk.

Curbside check-in

This might be unfamiliar to many, but it’s a convenient way to check in for the flights from Southwest Airlines. Simply pull up to the curb and follow the instructions. It is faster than checking in at the counter, so you will have a higher chance to choose your favourite seat.

However, not all airports have this service. Therefore this might not be the optimal choice for your check-in process. Moreover, you won’t be able to use this service if you fly internationally.

Early-bird check-in

An additional service from Southwest Airlines is early bird check-in. With a fee of $15-$25, you will be checked in automatically 36 hours before your flight. For domestic flights, there is no need to check-in at the airport. But for international flights, you still have to present at the ticket counter or kiosk to verify your passport.

FAQ

1. Can A 24-Inch Luggage Be A Carry-On?

Yes, 24-inch luggage can be a carry-on on a Southwest flight. The limitation of 24 x 16 x 10 inches is also a common size requirement for other airlines, so if your bag is 24”, you can bring it as hand luggage most of the time.

2. What If My Personal Item Is Too Big Southwest?

Though Southwest might not be too strict with carry-on luggage, your personal item is not as lucky. They have stated clearly which can be considered as a personal item and you won’t be able to hold it during the flight due to security problems.

The detailed size of a personal item on the Southwest Airlines website is 16.25” (L) + 13.5” (W) + 8” (H). If you intend to bring something bigger than that, make sure it can be squashed to fit the space under the seat when needed.

You can also choose your seat wisely to maximise the space under it. Those who travelled with Southwest say that you shouldn’t pick seats in the very front of the plane or aisle seats as there will be less room underneath.

Southwest carry-on size - Cabinzero

Make sure your personal item is squishable to fit the space underneath your seat.

3. How Much Is An Oversized Carry-On?

You won’t be able to pay for extra carry-on luggage. If Southwest finds out you bring along exceeding weight on board, the only solution is to check them. This will cost you time, and there is a chance you might not be able to board the plane at all.

4. What Is Not Allowed In A Carry-On?

Southwest Airlines follows the TSA rule about carry-on luggage. So, basically, it’s the same as any other US airline. You can not bring alcohol (except for those you bought duty-free), aerosol, sharp objects, etc.

Your liquid must also follow the 3-1-1 rule to be placed in the carry-on. Besides these basic rules, Southwest Airlines specifically banned bringing self-defence spray in your luggage (both carry-on and checked). 

CabinZero-Backpacks-New-Colours

Conclusion

Southwest's carry-on size is the same as that of other carriers, but offering it for free and being flexible about it are huge plus points for this airline. The same applies to the checked luggage. No wonder Southwest is one of the most popular low-cost airlines in the US.

What about you? Have you ever taken a flight from Southwest? Share your experience about Southwest carry-on size along with other details about fees, services, etc. to help fellow travellers!

Claire Thuc


20 comments


  • Valerie Carter

    Hello, I had on soft bag, that fit under the sit, I had a bag with one pair of boots I purchased while on vacation and a pillow. I the arrived in Las Vegas with the pillow, soft bag and my purse as my carry on. Leaving Las Vegas the purse was put in the soft bag and that left shopping bag of boots and pillow. Well, the gate attendees said my pillow was a third item and I had to leave it. Exchange of words and she stood there as if I was carrying on a gun. She was rude and loud. The pillow cost is and was $75.00. This pillow is made for people that has severe neck injuries. I can’t sleep without it. Nevertheless a very kind lady said I don’t have an item I will carry your pillow. When did pillows, and blankets become part of a carry on? The on board crew made up for the treatment given before boarding. The on board crew was pleasant, attentive and just a fun crew for 4 hours. Thank you


  • Joyce D. Melton

    I truly enjoy Southwest Airlines. Three very good reasons are the free luggage (two bags ) the non-stop direct flights and the
    friendly, professional staff. I plan to keep Southwest Airlines as my choice when traveling.


  • Patricia A Alward

    I love Southwest I use them all the time they’re the only airlines that I use and from Ohio originally and so I visit family there often I had went with some friends to Las Vegas and their tickets were for on Sprint and I just got to tell you they sucked I had to pay extra for my luggage and then when we were leaving Vegas to go home the flight attendant kept calling for boarding for some place that nobody’s ever heard of so we got to where you board the plane and it had already left like 20 minutes before it was supposed to we were not the only passengers who missed our plane we had a non-stop flight and we’re supposed to be home in 5 hours the flight that they gave us took us to Texas we had a layover there for like 5 hours and then we finally got home it was horrible if you’re going to fly I firmly believe in Southwest it’s worth the price it might be a little bit more but you got to take into consideration the luggage that you’re allowed because it gets expensive if you have to pay for extra bags


  • Linda Floyd

    I only fly Southwest. I love it. I just wish they would add more nonstop flights.


  • Dorinda Allen

    I love Southwest! As well as their generous luggage fees I can bring my cat as my carry on for a much lower fee than other airlines. I use the Wanna Get Away tickets often to visit family. I feel so much more valued as a customer when flying Southwest.


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