Americans using the services of Southwest Airlines can transport small domestic cats and dogs under their seat in the passenger cabin. The airline even offers its branded pet carrier for 58 USD at the time of writing. The Southwest Airlines pet carrier has the following dimensions: 17” long x 9.5” high x 10” wide. The airline staff accepts pet carriers with dimensions: 18.5” long x 8.5” high x 13.5” wide at maximum. The pet carriers can be soft or hard-sided but they must be leak-proof and well ventilated for the comfort of your pet. If you need to travel with more than one pet you should know that only one pet per person is allowed. The traveling pets have to remain in their carrier at all times including when at the gate. Persons who travel with a service animal (only service dogs allowed) and a pet should know that both animals can not share a pet carrier. If you are using a service animal and intend to have a pet with you on a Southwest flight, you will be directed to purchase a non-refundable extra seat so both animals can be accommodated.
Rules for Pets and Service Animals
Please note that Southwest Airlines does not accept pets in the passenger cabin on international flights. You can find the “Flying with Pets” F.A.Q. page of Southwest Airlines here (https://www.southwest.com/faq/pets). You should know that pets can not be transported in the cargo hold of the aircraft operated by Southwest Airlines. Passengers accompanied by pets/service animals will not be allowed to take seats on an exit row or seats with no forward under-seat stowage. The airline will not accept to transport any animals who are not accompanied by a handler or an owner. Also, you can not have unaccompanied minor travel with a pet. Minors using a service dog will need to be accompanied by an adult who is the service dog handler.
Each flight can have up to six pet carriers on board, please keep that in mind. This number can be reduced or increased in some circumstances at the discretion of the airline management. As mentioned earlier, only cats and dogs are allowed on board, they should be at least 8 weeks old, healthy, odorless, calm, not disruptive, and require no attention during the full length of the flight (this includes the time you take to leave through the gate). The full pet policy of Southwest Airlines can be found here.
What to Expect in a Case of Emergency
Pet owners and service animal users/handlers should know that in the case of emergency there will not be available oxygen masks or other first aid for their animal. The airline assumes no liability for the health or wellbeing of pets and service animals transported on their aircraft. Any animal that becomes disruptive, endangers the safety of another animal or person will be removed from the flight. It is best to have the number of a veterinarian in the area you will be visiting in case your pet or service animal may need immediate medical help.
Need-To-Know for Service Dog Users and Handlers
Southwest Airlines accept only dogs as service animals. Although some states allow miniature horses to serve as service animals you might not be allowed on a Southwest flight. Persons using a service animal will need to fill out a service animal transportation form from the US DOT. The form has to be filled out after you have purchased your ticket. Changes to your seat may be enforced as you can not be seated on an exit row. You must carry the Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation form to the ticket counter or gate on the day of travel. We recommend sending the form via email 48 hours prior to departure and carrying a printed copy to the gate.
Please note that animals who carry a service animal vest, harness, ID card, or registration will not be accepted unless they come with a filled-out US DOT transportation form. Service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or otherwise tethered to the handler at all times.
You can find more details here. The animals allowed on a Southwest flight must remain under the control of their owner/handler at all times. The staff members of Southwest Airlines can ask you if your dog is required due to your disability and what task it has been trained to perform for you.
You can take advantage of the phone line for persons with special needs here — 1-800-435-9792. If you may prefer support via live chat and you have a Rapid Rewards account with Southwest Airlines you can find the live chat in the Southwest mobile app on iOS and Android devices. The live chat is available between 6:00 am to 8:00 pm Central Standard Time.
Service animal relief areas are available at every location served by Southwest Airlines. The staff is trained to help persons accompanied by service dogs and you should not hesitate to ask for assistance. The service animal relief areas are not open to pets. Should you choose to transport your service animal in a carrier, it will have to stay under the seat in front of you for each phase of the flight (taxi, takeoff, and landing). In some cases, the passenger can have their pet or service animal placed on their lap as long as the animal is not larger than a child under the age of two. You can not put your pet or service animal on the tray table, encroach on a neighboring seat, or extend into the aircraft aisle.