ESAs & Southwest Airlines

Federal law — the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) — gives you the right to have your emotional support animal (ESA) fly with you in the cabin of commercial carrier airplanes. The first step to accessing those privileges is having an official ESA letter to show the airlines. 

However, there are typically limitations on the type and size of ESA, and that can differ from airline to airline. It is important to review an airlines ESA policies before you buy a ticket to make sure that your ESA fits into their stated requirements. 

Southwest Airlines Emotional Support Animal Policy

When traveling on Southwest Airlines with your emotional support animal, understand their policies, including:

  • Southwest Airlines only accepts cats or dogs as ESAs.
  • You are allowed only 1 ESA per flight.
  • You must be in possession of a proper ESA letter
  • When you check in, you must present documentation (ESA letter) to a ticket counter or gate agent.
  • For the duration of the trip, you must keep documentation accessible to show Southwest employees that request it.
  • You are responsible for compliance with laws, requirements or procedures for the acceptance of ESA for departure and destination localities.
  • In the airport and on the plane, your ESA must either be leashed or in a carrier that fits under the seat in front of you
  • If your ESA engages in disruptive behavior — excessive barking, biting, urinating in the gate area, etc. — it may be denied boarding.
  • You and your ESA cannot occupy an emergency exit seat.
  • Your ESA cannot, at any time, obstruct emergency exit routes, including aisles.
  • Your ESA cannot occupy a seat or a tray table.
  • Your ESA cannot extend beyond the footprint of your seat.
  • Your ESA can sit on your lap or on the floor in front of you if it is leashed and no larger than a child under the age of 2.
  • If your ESA is in an approved pet carrier, you are required to stow it under the seat in front of you for taxiing, taking off and landing.

The Southwest Airlines ESA policies are subject to change.  Although you can check the details on their website, it is suggested that you contact them directly for any recent updates that might affect traveling with your ESA.