Southwest Airlines' Fees Revealed: Do Bags Really Fly Free?

It’s become one of the most famous airline slogans ever – the Southwest catchphrase, “Bags Fly Free”. And it’s true, as millions of happy Southwest fliers can attest. In fact, Southwest Airlines is one of the airlines with the lowest baggage fees.

But there’s a little more to the Southwest baggage fee policy than two free bags, including certain limitations that smart shoppers should be aware of.

Southwest Baggage Fee Policy

These are the basics of Southwest’s baggage policy:

  • Every passenger is allowed one free carryon bag
  • Every passenger is allowed two free checked-bags

No other domestic airline has such a generous free bag allowance, and the discount carrier has focused on this “Southwest difference” in countless amusing advertisements and events like this “no baggage fee, no clothes” press conference kick-off:

But what if you want to check two bags? Or really big bags? Here’s what you should know.

Southwest Excess Baggage Fee Policy

Planning a very long trip, or traveling with a lot of gear? Southwest will allow you to travel with numerous checked-bags, but it will cost you:

  • A passenger’s 3rd through 9th bag will cost $50 each
  • A passenger’s 10th bag (and beyond) will cost $110 each

Southwest Oversize & Overweight Baggage Policy

Southwest’s two free checked-bags must adhere to the following limitations:

  • Bags cannot weigh over 50 pounds each
  • Bags are limited to 62 inches in size (add the length + width + height)

Southwest will accept items as heavy as 100 pounds, and as big as 80 inches, but these will incur an additional $50 charge.

Avoid Late Baggage Check-in Costs (and Inconvenience)

Some airports served by Southwest require that bags be checked-in no later than 45 minutes before departure and these include: Baltimore/Washington International, Chicago Midway, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Orlando and Washington Dulles. All other airports require check-in 30 minutes before departure.

Bags that aren’t checked-in by the above time frames will be tagged “Late Checked” and if they do not make it onto your plane, Southwest will not assume the costs of delivering this baggage to you–you will. So, in other words, don’t check in late – unless you’re willing to make a trip back to the airport in case your bags miss the flight.

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Published: December 30, 2010