If you’ve ever wondered how strict Southwest Airlines is with its passenger luggage size and weight restrictions for carry-on items, keep reading. What about “personal items”? If you have questions in this regard, I will cover as many of them right here.

title - How Strict Is Southwest Airlines With Carry-On & Personal Item Size?

I will lay out Southwest’s current rules and regulations and then answer common questions I hear about them.

If you need new carry-on bags, take a look at these Southwest-compliant ones:
This great carry-on bag is for travelers that want to get the best value out of their luggage investment.
This Travel Pro bag could end up being the last carry-on bag you ever purchase! 

How Strict is Southwest Airlines With Its Carry-on Luggage Policy?

Commercial airlines, including Southwest, develop and implement their own unique policies regarding size and weight requirements for check-in and carry-on luggage. All Southwest passengers are allowed one carry-on luggage item (intended to be stowed in an overhead luggage bin) and one personal item (intended for fitting beneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin). 

Southwest Airlines Carry-on Luggage Policy

Southwest Airlines’ carry-on luggage policy is actually more generous than most other carriers. Including handles and wheels, your carry-on luggage on Southwest Airlines flights is not to exceed: 

24” l x 16” w x 10” h (61 x 41 x 25 cm)
(50 total linear inches (l + w + h) or 127 linear centimeters total, including handles and wheels. Carry-on items any larger than these dimensions will need to be checked, even if at the gate during boarding.

To avoid unnecessary travel delays, take some preemptive cautionary steps beforehand and invest in some compliant carry-on luggage, so that you can travel in peace and quiet.

Southwest-compliant Luggage Recommendations

So, what carry-on luggage would I recommend for flying with Southwest? I personally recommend the following Southwest-compliant carry-on luggage bags because of the carrier’s strictness with its luggage policies. 

This great carry-on bag is for travelers that want to get the best value out of their luggage investment.

This Travel Pro bag could end up being the last carry-on bag you ever purchase! 

Southwest’s Carry-on Luggage Allowance

All Southwest passengers are allowed to bring one carry-on item and one personal item on board its flights.

If your carry-on bag is deemed “too large” to reasonably fit in an overhead luggage bin or underneath the seat in front of you, you may have to check it. In general, checked bag fees are $75 each way for each checked bag in excess of your two free checked bags.

Bringing Carry-on Liquid Items Onto Southwest Flights

You are allowed to bring liquid items onboard Southwest Airlines flights per Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations, as long as they make it through the security screening checkpoint. 

Liquid items in question include your toiletries and all other liquids and creams you may want to pack along. The TSA allows containers/bottles with no more than 3.4 fl. oz. / 100 fl. ml.

These liquid toiletries/items also need to be packed neatly into a re-sealable clear Ziploc-style plastic baggie, like these gallon size baggies. Your baggie can’t be any larger than 7.8 x 7.8 inches (20 x 20 centimeters).

You’ll find plenty more information here on our TravelontheFly site about what items you are and aren’t allowed to bring on a plane with you.

You may also want to verify these requirements with the TSA’s website

How Strict Is Southwest Airlines With Your Carry-on Size?

As long as your item(s) fit in the overhead bin above you or underneath the seat in front of you, you should be fine.

As Southwest focuses on maximizing revenue with each of its flights, the carrier has the incentive to enforce their policies more strictly in this regard, especially when it comes to fully booked flights. However, Southwest Airlines is known for being quite traveler friendly and is typically inclined to error in your favor. 

To make your flight as worry-free as possible I’d suggest complying with their policies instead of trying to get away with what you can. If you need a new carry-on bag that will fit Southwest’s (and other airlines’) guidelines, get this bag and never worry about it again.

How Strict Is Southwest Airlines With Your Carry-on Luggage Weight?

Southwest, and most, if not all other airlines, are not concerned with carry-on/personal item weight. They will only concern themselves with spaces in the cabin where carry-on items should be able to be stowed comfortably. Meeting the size dimensions of your carry-on bags I mentioned above are your only concern.

Should I Risk Flying on Southwest Airlines With an Oversized Carry-on?

Most experienced travelers will tell you “Why risk it?” And I would agree with them. But know that if your bag is only slightly larger than Southwest’s specified size dimensions, Southwest representatives and flight crews will likely let it slide. You already get two free checked bags on Southwest, and the worst-case scenario if your carry-on is too large, is that you will have to check your bag and possibly pay the $75 checked-bag fee, though many times, if checked at the gate, additional checked bags don’t incur a charge.

PRO TIP – You have a better chance of getting away with a slightly larger piece of luggage if your carry-on is soft-sided. That‘s why I have highlighted and pointed you toward soft-sided bags like this one here. They are a little easier to squeeze into tight spots, including into the overhead bins on a plane!

Southwest Airlines Checked Baggage Fees

As mentioned previously, if your carry-on item is within Southwest’s size limitations, you won’t have to worry about additional checked bag fees when flying on Southwest. Especially since you get your first two checked bags on Southwest for free. If your luggage surpasses these size constraints, you might have to pay an additional $75 fee each way to check your bag. 

I travel with a bag that is slightly larger than many airline regulations and I have never been asked to check it. I can’t guarantee that you won’t be asked to.

Your best bet is to travel with a carry-on bag that is within Southwest’s size regulations, and then you will never have to worry about it!

You can check out this “All About Baggage” page on Southwest’s website. for more information relevant to a specific upcoming flight.

Where Can I Find a Quality Travel Bag That’s Within Southwest Airlines’ Carry-on Luggage Limits?

I recommend this great carry-on bag that is a great value for the money.

And this Travel Pro bag is more than enough for even the pickiest travelers. 

How Strict Is Southwest Airlines With Its “One Personal Item” Policy?

Southwest offers quite generous baggage/carry-on/personal item allowances for free in comparison with many of its competitors. As long as the personal item in question can easily be carried and stored underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead luggage bin, Southwest representatives probably won’t ask to verify its size or weight.

Does Southwest Consider a Backpack a Personal Item?

TSA regulations allow travelers to carry an item such as a backpack as a personal item as long as dimensions fall within Southwest policy guidelines: no more than 16.25 L x 13.5 W x  8 H inches (41 x 34 x 20 cm). So, yes, as a Southwest passenger, you are allowed to travel with your backpack as long as it fits in an overhead bin or seat in front of you. 

Southwest Airlines’ Personal Item Policy

Each Southwest passenger may bring a personal item in addition to their main carry-on (i.e., diaper bag, briefcase, purse, shoulder bag, etc.). Personal items must fit in the 16.25” (L) x 13.5” (W) x 8” (H) (41 x 34 x 20 cm) space under the seat in front of you or in the overhead luggage bin. Read Southwest Airlines’ “All About Baggage” requirements here

Carrying Additional Items Onboard a Southwest Flight

In addition to your carry-on bag and personal item, you are also allowed to bring small items, such as a jacket/sweatshirt, blanket, umbrella, book, duty-free items, a reasonably sized stuffed animal, food/drink purchased past the security checkpoint, crutches, strollers, camera, etc. 

Personal items include slightly larger things that will take up space overhead or underneath a seat, like purses, shoulder bags, backpacks, briefcases, large camera cases, etc.

Is the First Checked Bag Free on Southwest Airlines Flights?

Southwest is one of the few carriers that allows for TWO free checked bags for each of its passengers. Weight restrictions exist for checked bags (50 lbs/23 kg or less) and 62 total linear inches/158 cm in size or less (length + width + height). 


If you need to check more than two bags on a Southwest flight, additional bags each incur a $75 fee each way, and must also comply with the 62 linear inches (L+W+H) in size and 50 lbs. or less in weight. Overweight or oversized excess baggage will incur an excess baggage fee plus any applicable oversize or overweight charge.

Items weighing more than 100 pounds (45 kg) and exceeding 80 inches (203 cm) in linear size need to be shipped as Air Cargo.

So, How Strict is Southwest Airlines About Carry-on and Personal Items?

All Southwest passengers are allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item per TSA regulations. Both items should be able to fit in an overhead luggage bin, or one of them should be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you. Your best move is to invest in carry-on baggage that complies with Southwest’s regulations, like this one. In case you choose to take this risk with Southwest by bringing larger bag, be sure to at least use a soft-sided bag so you’ll be able to do some “scrunching” as needed.

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