For many people, the idea of leaving their pet at home while they head off on a trip is not an option. Dog or cat owners don’t like the idea of putting their furry friend in a kennel while they’re away – they’d prefer to have them by their side through the whole trip.
Fortunately, nowadays it’s easy to take your pet on a vacation or getaway with you – even if you’re traveling by air. The vast majority of airlines will allow you to take your pets in the cabin with you, as long as you follow certain rules and regulations.
In this guide, we’re going to look at Southwest Airlines’ in-cabin pet carrier policies. We’ll look at the rules and regulations you need to comply with. We’ll also be suggesting some of the best carriers and other products to help make your flight with your dog or cat much easier.
If you’re planning a trip with your four-legged friend, read on! You’ll find all the official advice you need here, as well as top tips and some useful products.
Table of Contents:
- Southwest Airlines Pet Carrier Rules & Regulations
- Best Pet Carriers for Southwest Airlines Flights
- Pet Backpacks and Strollers Approved by Southwest
Southwest Airlines Pet Carrier Rules & Regulations
Let’s get down to the official rules and regulations stipulated by Southwest Airlines. If you want to take a dog or cat with you on a Southwest Airlines flights, you’ll need to ensure you follow these rules to the letter. If you breach or forget about one of these rules, both you and your pet may end up being restricted from the flight.
- You may take cats and dogs in-cabin on domestic Southwest Airlines flights only.
- All pets must be vaccinated, though the airline does not currently require proof of this.
- Only six pets are allowed on each flight – these are allocated on a first-come, first served basis.
- You must pay a fare for your pet each way. Right now, the fare is a $95 flat rate for each flight, but the airline advises it is subject to change at any time.
- You must check in your pets at the airline ticket counter.
- Cats or dogs behaving aggressively or disruptively may be refused permission to board. Consider crate-training your pet beforehand to minimize noise complaints.
- Only one carrier per passenger is allowed. However, if you have two small cats or dogs which fit in the same carrier comfortably, this is also acceptable.
- Pets cannot travel with minors.
- Your pet must be able to move around inside the carrier with ease.
- If you’re traveling with a pet, you will not be able to sit in an exit row or a seat with no under-seat storage.
- Your pet must be at least eight weeks old to travel with Southwest Airlines.
- Oxygen masks and other first aid procedures will not be administered to the pet under any circumstances.
- Pets cannot be placed in the cargo hold under any circumstances.
- Your pet is not allowed to come out of the carrier at any time during the flight.
If you accept and follow all of these rules and regulations, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a peaceful flight with your furry friend.
Are There Any Specific Rules for Pet Carriers?
Southwest Airlines also has some specific rules and regulations regarding pet carriers. You should consider these carefully if you are purchasing a new pet carrier specifically for your upcoming Southwest Airlines flight:
- The maximum dimensions for your pet carrier are 18.5” long x 8.5” high x 13.5” wide.
- Both soft-sided dog carriers and hard-sided carriers are acceptable.
- All carriers must be completely leak-proof.
- Carriers must also be ventilated.
- The carrier must be able to fit under the seat in front of you, in accordance with FAA regulations.
Best Pet Carriers for Southwest Airlines Flights
If you’re looking for a new carrier to take your pet on a Southwest Airlines flight, there are plenty of options available. All of these pet carriers fit within the guidelines specified by the airline, and they all provide a comfortable space for your cat or dog when they’re accompanying you.
Pawfect Pets Pet Soft-Sided Travel Carrier
The Pawfect Pets Soft-Sided Travel Carrier is the perfect way to comfortably and safely transport your pet by plane. It’s perfect for small cats and dogs, with plenty of space for them to move around without needing to open up the carrier.
This particular carrier is approved by all major airlines, including Southwest. It measures in at 17.5” long x 10” wide x 11” high. This means it can easily fit under the seat in front of you, ensuring you comply with FAA regulations.
If you’re someone who flies regularly with your pet, you’ll be glad to know this travel carrier is made from highly durable materials. The reinforced polyester and mesh on the top and all four sides ensure that your pet’s claws won’t punch holes or ruin the carrier. It also provides them with plenty of ventilation and airflow, so they’ll be comfortable and safe in the carrier.
The carrier comes complete with two padded mats which are fully removable. The pads can be washed easily with soap and water, which means any accidents or spillages aren’t a problem. The fact that you have two padded mats also means that your pet will never be without one – you can swap them around while you’re cleaning one to make sure your cat or dog is comfortable.
The Pawfect Pets Travel Carrier can be used as a benchmark to decide whether your pet can accompany you on a flight. If your pet doesn’t fit into the carrier with room to spare, it’s likely they won’t fit into any other carrier. Therefore, if this carrier is too small for your pet, they should not be flying with you at all.
Premium Airline Approved Expandable Pet Carrier by Pet Peppy
This expandable pet carrier is another one which has been approved by the majority of airlines operating in the US. You can use this on Southwest flights, as well as other airlines like Delta, Spirit, and Alaska.
Perhaps one of the best features about this pet carrier by Pet Peppy is the fact that it is expandable from two sides. It basically turns into a mini apartment for your pet when it’s fully folded out!
You won’t be able to expand the carrier when you’re actually on the plane, but the expandable sections are ideal for when you reach your destination. If your pet has problems with their joints and needs space to sprawl, or doesn’t like being in enclosed spaces, this feature is a real bonus.
The quality materials this pet carrier is made from will ensure that it never sags, even when it’s fully expanded. A thick wire frame ensures it stays firm and strong, so your pet never feels like the roof is caving in! The Pet Peppy premium carrier also has a ventilated top and sides, for maximum airflow.
This carrier comes with some great extras that are perfect for longer journeys. Firstly, every carrier comes with a free pet bowl in a random bright color, so you can keep your pet hydrated and well-fed while you’re in transit. There’s also a pocket on the side of the carrier so you can bring along treats, toys, or simply just some reading material to distract yourself on the flight!
Best of all, the Pet Peppy carrier comes with a 100% money back guarantee. If you purchase this carrier and realize your pet doesn’t fit or doesn’t like it, you can get a full refund, no questions asked.
Best Pet Supplies Duffel Pet Carrier
Measuring 17.7” long x 10.5” high and 10.5” wide, this pet carrier is suitable for use on Southwest and a multitude of other airlines. It will slide under your seat without any worries, and is perfect for small pets up to 15 pounds.
The design of this pet carrier is predominantly meshed. If you’re heading for a very warm climate, such as the southern states, this is ideal. Your pet won’t get too hot and will have plenty of airflow at all times. It’s made from tough denier nylon and superb quality mesh, for breathability without compromising on durability. The bottom of the carrier is very sturdy to make up for the mesh sides – there’s no sagging at all when using this particular carrier.
The Best Pet Supplies Duffel Pet Carrier comes with two different straps so you can carry it how you prefer. The hand strap is great if you’re traveling light. The shoulder strap is better if you have lots of luggage or need to hold a child’s hand throughout the airport. You can simply place the carrier over your shoulder and safely carry your pet anywhere.
The makers of this particular dog and cat carrier understand that pets have a particular odor, and many of them molt. They’ve fitted a changeable jacket over the bottom mat, which can be taken off and washed to keep the carrier looking and smelling great. Airlines like Southwest have been known to reject pets if they have a very strong smell, so it’s important to keep your pet and their carrier clean and fresh.
Catit Design Cabrio Multi-Functional Carrier System
If your pet is small enough to fly but on the heavier side, you might want to look into a hard-sided pet carrier. This particular carrier from Catit is accepted by all major airlines and provides a very hardwearing and robust home for your pet during the flight.
The carrier opens at the top, so you can place your pet in the carrier with ease, as well as taking them out at a moment’s notice. The hard shell can offer added peace of mind for those traveling through busy airports. Bags can get knocked or accidentally hit, so it’s reassuring that your pet will be protected in this sturdy carrier.
It’s recommended that you bring along a blanket or a cushion for your pet to sit on during the flight. Apart from that, the Catit Design Cabrio Multi-Functional Carrier System is perfect for heavier cats and dogs that might not take kindly to mesh or soft-sided carrier systems.
Pet Backpacks and Strollers Approved by Southwest
Getting a pet through an airport is no easy task. It’s especially difficult if you’re also traveling with children or lots of luggage. Fortunately, certain pet backpacks and strollers have also been approved by Southwest Airlines. These models can be used as carry-on luggage, and they’re super-easy to carry around an airport, whether it’s on your back or being wheeled along like a suitcase.
Texsens Innovative Traveler Bubble Backpack Pet Carrier
This bubble backpack by Texsens is fantastic for those who need to keep their hands free when traveling through an airport. At 13.4” long x 10.2” wide x 16.9” high, it’s suitable for most airlines, and can easily slot underneath the airplane seat in front.
This pet carrier has been designed for total convenience. It comes with a built-in leash for your dog or cat, so you’ll always have one with you if you need to take them out for any reason. It also has mesh panels for great ventilation, a soft washable pad, and the recognizable ‘bubble’ at the front. This allows dogs and cats to see the world passing by, rather than being kept in the dark for hours.
This backpack is ideal for smaller dogs and most cats. It’s very strong, so it won’t collapse or dip when your pet is inside. The straps are also very durable and comfortable, so even when you’re waiting in line or walking to your departure gate, your shoulders will be protected.
Pet Gear I-GO2 Escort Roller Backpack
This backpack from Pet Gear comes with a fantastic feature that will make travel much easier: wheels! You can carry this backpack in the traditional way, or you can roll it along like a suitcase, whichever option is easiest for you.
This carrier comes with plenty of mesh panels, so your small cat or dog will have plenty of ventilation while traveling. It has useful pockets where you can store vital accessories like leashes and treats, plus a removable, washable mat within the pack.
Pets up to around 15 pounds can be carried safely in the Pet Gear I-GO2 Escort Roller Backpack. It measures 14” long x 9” wide x 19” tall, so you make need to lie it on its side to slide it under the seat in front. It’s suitable for use on Southwest flights – in fact, it’s one of the few backpack strollers that does meet the requirements.
Speak With Your Airline Before You Fly
The rules regarding flying with pets can change at any time. It’s important that you contact your airline around a week before you fly, to verify which rules are in force. Give them a call and make sure they understand your requirements and whether there’s anything extra you can do to make your journey more convenient. You may want to look at priority boarding or seat upgrades to ensure the flight with your pet goes smoothly.
Last-Minute Tips When Flying with Your Pet
If you’re flying with your pet any time soon, here are some great tips to make the experience comfortable for both of you:
- Introduce your furry friend to the carrier. Take them on some short journeys inside the carrier so they can become accustomed to being inside it. Don’t let their first journey in the carrier be a long-haul flight!
- Pack the necessities. Bring some toys and some treats to keep them occupied during the flight.
- Consider bringing a health certificate along. You can pick these up from your vet for a small fee. Most airlines don’t require them, but it’s useful to have if anyone has any questions about your pet’s health or vaccination status.
- Tire out your pet before leaving. If you can, take your pet for a long walk, or enjoy a fun play session before you set off for your flight. Hopefully, they’ll sleep right through!
- Create a comforter for your pet. Place an old t-shirt or another garment in the carrier with your pet before you fly. You won’t be able to take them out of the carrier once your flight departs, and the scent of you can be reassuring to them while flying.
- Consider sedatives – but only as a last resort. Some animals get very nervous during travel. That’s normal – some humans do, too! Sedatives can make the process easier for them, but they should only be considered if you’ve exhausted all other avenues and if you’re really not able to leave your pet at home.
That should be all the information you need for your upcoming flight. By following this advice and buying an approved pet carrier, you and your pet will have a comfortable, safe and enjoyable trip!