Southwest Airlines is a low-fare American airline based in Texas that began operating in 1971. It provides more than 3,400 flights per day to 72 cities in more than 30 states. Southwest promises to provide low fares and excellent customer service to its passengers, who are urged to be aware of its checked luggage rules before traveling.

Southwest Baggage Policies

Southwest Airlines ( sets its own baggage policies for checked bags, carry-on luggage, and personal items. Each airline is different, and Southwest Airlines baggage fees, rules for overweight baggage, and excess baggage fees differ from other airline like JetBlue and and United Airlines. Adhering to the airline's policies prevents an unexpected delay or bag fee at the airport because your bag exceeds the maximum weight or you have too many personal bags. Southwest has additional policies in place for sporting equipment, oversized luggage and other special items that are often carried aboard the aircraft, like pet carriers, skis, snowboards, surfboards, golf bags, and other oversize bags.

Carry-on Baggage

All Southwest passengers are allowed to carry-on one piece of baggage and one small item, such as a purse, briefcase or camera. All Southwest carry-on bags must be 10-by-16-by-24 inches or smaller. These size limits exist so the baggage allowance will fit into the overhead bins or overhead compartments when flying Southwest. Passenger coats, canes and umbrellas do not count in the carry-on restrictions, nor does food that is wrapped in disposable packaging and is to be eaten aboard the plane. Passengers with a disability may bring necessary mobility or assistance devices on board. Child restraint devices are permitted for ticketed child passengers.

Checked Baggage

Each passenger on Southwest Airlines may travel with two pieces of checked baggage with a weight limit of 50 lbs. and measure less than 62 linear inches for free at the time of publication. Additional bags, larger baggage and overweight bags weighing between 50 and 100 lbs. requires a fee. Bags that weigh more than 100 lbs. must be shipped as air cargo. Bags not checked prior to 30 minutes before a flight at the ticket counter are tagged as "late check-in" and are not guaranteed to arrive with the flight. Bags checked at certain large airports, such as Chicago/Midway, Orlando International and Washington Dulles, must be checked in at least 45 minutes before a flight to avoid being tagged.

Lost Bags

Travelers who believe that their luggage has been lost or misplaced must contact a Southwest employee within four hours of the flight's arrival at the airport. Upon reporting a lost bag, passengers must complete a "Lost/Delayed Receipt Form". The airline will make attempts to locate the lost bag and reunite it with the passenger. If the airline cannot locate the baggage, Southwest will compensate passengers for the current value of the items in the baggage. High-value items, such as cameras, jewelry and family heirlooms, are not covered, and you should not carry them in checked luggage.

Additional Considerations

All bags placed on a Southwest flight must comply with all Transportation Security Administration restrictions, available on the TSA website. Musical instruments larger than carry-on size are treated as checked luggage. However, an instrument that fits in an aircraft seat with the seat belt belt buckled may fly in the cabin if the passenger buys a ticket for the instrument. Most sporting equipment is considered checked baggage, and oversize or overweight fees apply. Skateboards, parachutes, bowling balls and fishing rods placed in the proper storage containers are accepted as carry-on baggage. Passengers traveling with children may check a child restraint system and a stroller for each child without a fee.