Southwest Baggage Fees Explained

Southwest baggage fees (or really the lack thereof) are one of the biggest attractions to flying with Southwest. With each flight, it’s possible to save about $60 each way compared to other major US carriers. So in addition to cheap fares, Southwest offers extra ways to save money on your air travel. Here’s everything you need to know about Southwest baggage fees. 

One carry-on and one personal item

Southwest allows each passenger to bring one carry-on and one personal item.

Carry-on

The carry-on bag dimensions are limited to 10 x 16 x 24 inches. If your carry-on does not fit the dimensions above, Southwest will be forced to check it at the gate.

Personal item

Personal items can be items like backpacks, purses, briefcases, cameras, food containers, or laptops (including the accompanying case).

Your personal item must be stored under the seat in front of you and fit within the following dimensions: 18.5 x 8.5 x 13.5 inch. If you can’t fit your personal items beneath your seat, then you’ll be asked to store it in the overhead bin.

Exclusions

The following items are not considered to be carry-ons or personal items:

  • A child restraint device for a ticketed child with a reserved seat or when complimentary, available space exists.
  • Assistive/mobility devices for individuals with a disability. There is no limit to the number of assistive/mobility devices a Customer can bring onboard the aircraft.
  • Outer garments or other wearable articles of clothing.
  • Food for consumption during flight contained in disposable packaging.
  • Walking canes or umbrellas.
  • Read more about the Southwest carry-on policies here

Southwest baggage fees.

Two free checked bags

Southwest allows each passenger two free checked bags.

This is a very valuable perk to flying with Southwest. Anytime you’re thinking about flying with another airline, you should consider how much that airline will charge you to check in your bags.

Here are some examples of what other airlines charge for domestic routes:

Keep in mind that you can often check in bags for free when you have certain co-branded airline credit cards.

As you can see, most airlines are going to charge you $60 for two checked bags for a one-way flight, or $120 for two checked bags on a roundtrip. So if you travel with a lot of luggage, you are saving over $100 each time you fly with Southwest instead of one of the other legacy carriers or low-cost airlines like Spirit.

Checking in more than two bags with Southwest

For every pice of luggage that you check in over the two free bag allowance, you’ll have to pay $75 per item one-way. Note that these bags must be under the length and weight restrictions (discussed below) or you will be subject to additional fees.

Southwest baggage fees weight restrictions

While Southwest allows for two free checked bags, they have weight restrictions that you must abide by.

Overweight items from 51 to 100 pounds and oversized items in excess of 62 inches but not more than 80 inches will be accepted for a charge of $75.00 per item one-way. Only one $75.00 charge applies if the piece is both oversized and overweight, regardless of the weight as long as it does not exceed 100 lbs.

Excess baggage which is also overweight or oversized will be charged excess baggage plus the applicable oversize or overweight charge. So if you bring a third bag to check in and it weights 60 pounds, you’ll be paying $75 for the overweight charge + $75 for bringing in a third bag.

Over 100 pounds?

Any item weighing more than 100 pounds must be shipped as Air Cargo. However, customers cannot use SWA Cargo unless classified as a “Known Shipper” as defined by the TSA or TSA approved Indirect Air Carriers (IAC). For full details about shipping cargo, visit www.swacargo.com.

Military exception

Military Passengers traveling on active duty or permanent change of station orders will be exempt from the two-piece Baggage limit and will not be subject to excess, oversize, or overweight Southwest baggage fees, provided that none of the pieces of Baggage exceeds 100 pounds in weight and 80 inches in size (L+W+H).

Strollers

Customers traveling with children will be allowed to check one stroller and one Child Restraint System (CRS) or car seat per child without charge. This is in addition to the regular free baggage allowance.

TSA’s list of prohibited items

Make sure you are aware of TSA’s baggage restrictions.

If you’re not familiar with prohibited items you can read more about these here.

Liability

Southwest Airlines’ liability for lost, damaged, or delayed baggage is limited to $3,500.00 per fare-paying Customer.

Keep in mind that many credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve offer protections for lost and delayed luggage as well.

Claims

Damaged or lost baggage must be reported, in person, within four hours of Customer’s arrival at destination. So don’t wait around if your luggage ends up lost. Report it asap.

Late Check-in

Baggage checked at curbside or at the ticket counter less than 45 minutes before scheduled departure will be tagged with a Late Check-In Tag.

Although every effort will be made to get late checked baggage on your flight, in the event your baggage does not arrive with you at your destination, Southwest will not assume delivery charges to get your baggage to you. Thus, you probably want to check in your bags at least an hour before your departure time just to play it safe.

International check-in

You cannot check in or check luggage at the curbside if traveling on an international itinerary.

Special restrictions

There are certain special restrictions for items such as alcohol, batteries, camera equipment, etc. You can click here to read more about the Southwest baggage allowances for these items.

Final word on Southwest baggage fees

Southwest baggage fees are one of the best perks about flying with Southwest. Never forget to factor in these savings when shopping airfare rates. And make sure you capitalize on savings if you’re a military member.

Cover photo by Tomás Del Coro via Flickr.

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