Southwest Airlines ESA and Psychiatric Service Dog Policy

Southwest Airlines Main Takeaways:

  • Southwest Airlines supports PSDs but treats ESAs as pets after the DOT’s new ESA ruling.
  • Service dog owners must complete the DOT form for Service Animal Air Transportation before flying.
  • No advance notice is required for service dogs, but you can add details during ticket purchase or by calling customer service.
  • Listed service dogs travel for free, while pets have a $95 fee in a carrier.
  • No breed restrictions for service dogs, but disruptive behavior may lead to refusal.
  • Pet carriers must be within 18.5″ long, 9.5″ high, and 10″ wide.
  • Domestic flights allow pets and service dogs, but international flights have restrictions based on destination rules.
  • Only one pet carrier is allowed per person when flying into the US with Southwest.

Southwest Airlines continues to support PSDs after the DOT’s new ESA ruling. However, there are some policies to know before traveling with your service dog.

Southwest Airlines’ Required Documentation

Southwest Airlines mandates that service dog owners complete the DOT form for Service Animal Air Transportation before checking into their flights. The form requires users to attest that their dogs have been vaccinated against rabies, but it does not request proof of vaccination. The airline also recommends that service dog owners read through the Pet Policy to clarify that their dogs qualify as trained service animals.

Advance Notice

Southwest does not require you to give advance notice about your service dog’s presence. If you’d like to expedite your check-in process, include information about your service dog under the “Special Assistance” tab when you purchase your ticket. You can also call 1-800-435-9792 (the main customer service line) to add details about your service dog.

Other Southwest Airlines ESA Policies

The new ESA policy treats ESAs that aren’t official PSDs as pets. As a result, having a letter verifying that your pet is an emotional support animal will not change its ability to stay with you on the plane. Unlike with service dogs, you must let Southwest Airlines know that you are bringing your ESA. If more than six animals requiring pet carriers hold existing reservations, airline employees have the right to refuse your reservation.

Southwest Airlines’ Pet Fees

It costs $95 to transport a cat or dog in its pet carrier on a Southwest flight. All service dogs that are listed on the animal air transportation form can travel for free, and only dogs can take advantage of this free flight.

Southwest Airlines’ Breed Restrictions

The DOT service animal air policy changes do not allow airlines to deny service dogs transportation based on their breeds. Southwest can refuse flight space to trained service dogs if those animals exhibit disruptive behavior. Like other US airlines, the company cannot have blanket bans against pit bull terriers, rottweilers, or other breeds.

Southwest Airlines Pet Carrier Size Requirements

All pets on Southwest Airlines flights must be in carriers that are no more than 18.5″ long, 9.5″ high, and 10″ wide. If you need a pet carrier that meets these requirements, Southwest offers its own pet carrier that you can purchase for pet or service animal air transportation.

Southwest Airlines Travel Requirements

Southwest Airlines’ rules for animals in the cabins vary based on where you travel.


Pets and service dogs are allowed on domestic flights departing from the continental United States and Alaska airports. Because Hawaii has no rabies cases, Southwest Airlines remains committed to transporting only service dogs to this state.


For international flights, Southwest Airlines does not allow the transport of untrained animals in the cabins. Service animals must travel with the DOT service animal air form. You can bring trained service dogs abroad if traveling to a safe country. For example, the United States Department of Agriculture can ban the movement of dogs from countries that have high instances of rabies.

US Inbound

Only a trained service animal may accompany you when flying on Southwest flights into the US. Additionally, you are limited to only one pet carrier per person, even if you have multiple trained service animals.