Southwest Airlines operates flights to 41 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, making it an important player in the United States airline industry. In 2011, the company carried 104 million passengers. Most of the rules governing carry-ons are made by TSA, and apply to passengers on all airlines. These rules include restrictions on large and potentially dangerous items, liquids and gels. Flying Southwest Airlines also requires passengers to follow its baggage policy, which limits carry-ons to one bag and one small personal item per passenger, with a few exceptions.

Types of Baggage

Each passenger on a Southwest Flight( has a baggage allowance of one free carry-on bag and one small personal item. This item can be a camera, laptop, purse, briefcase, or food. Pet carriers can count as either a carry-on or personal item. The dimensions of each item must be no more than 10 by 16 by 24 inches so that it can be stowed under the seat or in the overhead compartment during the flight. Here are the details regarding the allowed carry-on items:

Southwest Carry-On Bag Rules:

  • Dimensions: The maximum size limits for a carry-on size bag are 10 x 16 x 24 inches (25 x 40 x 61 cm), including handles and wheels.
  • Size Restrictions: The bag should fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.
  • Quantity: Each passenger can bring one carry-on bag. Excess baggage will incur a Southwest baggage fee on your credit card.
  • Examples: Common examples of carry-on items include small suitcases, duffel bags, and backpacks.

Personal Item:

  • Dimensions: The maximum dimensions for a personal item are 18.5 x 8.5 x 13.5 linear inches (47 x 22 x 34 cm). Oversized bags that do not fit will be subject to bag fees or will be checked.
  • Size Restrictions: The personal item should fit under the seat in front of you.
  • Quantity: Each passenger can bring one personal item.

Common examples of personal items include purses, laptop bags, briefcases, and small backpacks.

It's important to note that Southwest Airlines has a "Bags Fly Free" policy, which means that you can get two free checked bags without any additional charges, subject to size and weight restrictions at check-in. Checked bags have different weight limits than the carry-on policy and may incur baggage fees if exceeding the limits.

Other Items

Several other types of item can be brought onto the plane by passengers, and are not counted as carry-ons or personal items. These include one stroller and one car seat per child, which can be checked at the gate for free. The car seat may also be used during the flight if the child has a ticket, or if there is an extra seat available. Coats and other wearable items, umbrellas, canes and other mobility devices for passengers with disabilities are also unrestricted.

Dangerous Items

Sharp, heavy, and other dangerous items are restricted on all commercial airline flights, including Southwest. Items such as sharp knives, bats, clubs, ski-poles, snow globes and most tools and weapons must be checked rather than packed in a carry-on. Explosives and fuels may not be carried by air at all. Passengers may carry regular lighters or one book of safety matches per person in a carry-on.

Additional Items

You can also bring certain items with you into the airplane cabin on Southwest Airlines flights. This includes your outer clothing, walking canes and umbrellas and any food you intend to eat on the flight, as long as it’s in disposable packaging. This, however, does not allow for additional bags. Mobility devices and assistive devices to help disabled passengers move around are also permitted. Parents traveling with infants and small children can bring a child-restraint device in addition to their luggage allowance, but bear in mind that you’re only guaranteed a seat for your child's device if you’ve bought a ticket in the child's name.

Liquids and Gels

Southwest Airlines operates under the same regulations on liquids and gels in the cabin as all other airlines. Avoid any problems at airport security screening by observing the Transportation Security Administration’s 3-1-1 rule. This means not bringing any liquid or gel-filled containers larger than 3.4 ounces, and placing all your containers in a single clear, quart-sized plastic bag. The rules permit each passenger to carry one bag. It’s still possible to bring larger containers with you by packing them in your checked baggage.


Southwest adhere to international regulations on the items permitted in carry-on luggage. Don’t attempt to bring anything sharp, like knives, meat cleavers or box cutters, onto the plane, as security staff will confiscate them. Many sporting items, including ski poles, lacrosse sticks and golf clubs, must also travel in the hold. Most guns and other firearms must go into your checked baggage, but leave out both flares and any type of gunpowder, as they are prohibited in carry-ons and checked luggage.

Restricted carry-on Southwest Airlines items include, but are not limited to:

  • Weapons: Firearms, ammunition, firearms parts, and realistic replicas of weapons are strictly prohibited. This includes firearms such as handguns, rifles, and shotguns, as well as explosives, explosive materials, and fireworks.
  • Sharp Objects: Blades or cutting instruments are generally not allowed in the cabin. This includes knives (except for plastic or round-bladed butter knives), box cutters, razors, and other sharp objects.
  • Sporting Equipment: Items such as baseball bats, golf bags, hockey sticks, pool cues, and ski poles are not permitted as carry-on items. However, they may be allowed as checked baggage.
  • Tools: Tools that could potentially be used as weapons, such as drills, saws, and crowbars, are generally not allowed in carry-on baggage.

Liquids, pastes, Aerosol sprays, and Gels:

Southwest Airlines adheres to the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) guidelines for liquids. You are allowed to carry liquids, aerosols, and gels in containers of 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less, and these containers must be placed in a single quart-sized clear plastic bag. Exceptions are made for medications, baby formula, and breast milk, which are allowed in reasonable quantities.