Southwest airlines car seat policy
Make sure you know the rule before boarding a Southwest with a car seat in tow – Stephen Marc (pixabay)

Who doesn’t love traveling? But when you have a two-year-old sticking on your lap most of the time, it becomes challenging to travel with them. Parents become conscious of their kids’ safety while traveling on a plane. Fortunately, airlines have safe policies to use a child restraint system (CRS) or device if you are traveling with an infant.

Key Takeaway
Southwest Airlines allows parents to bring a car seat for their kids for free to the cabin or as checked baggage. Ensure the car seat is at most 16 inches, as it might not fit on the plane seat. If you choose to check it, it doesn’t count in your checked baggage limit.

Flying With a Child on Southwest Airlines

Southwest is among the few U.S. carriers offering a sizable discount for infants flying in their car seats. A child fare might also be applied in some circumstances. That is one primary reason Southwest Airlines deserves the credit of family travelers, particularly for those traveling with a baby or toddler. In this article, we will further discuss the car seat check-in and use policy of Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines Car Seat Check-In Policy

Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge you to bring in a car seat. The car seat doesn’t count in the two free checked bags already included in your checked baggage limit. However, if want to use the car seat in the cabin you still need to purchase the seat which you will place it on.

Note that this policy is quite common in other major airlines such as American Airlines and United.

Keep in mind that not every CRS seat is accepted on board when you fly with Southwest Airlines. Your car seat should meet the following criteria to get accepted for traveling with Southwest Airlines:

1. CSR Approval Criteria

It depends on when your car seat was manufactured if it was

Manufactured before February 25, 1985

The CRS must have one of the following labels:

  • This car seat has been approved for use in both cars and airplanes.
  • This kid safety restraint system complies with all relevant federal motor vehicle safety regulations.

Manufactured after February 25, 1985

The CSR must bear both the labels mentioned below:

  • CRS is government approved for use in flights and motor vehicles.
  • It complies with all the safety regulations of federal motor vehicles.

Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it seems. To make things simpler, here’s our list of recommended FAA-approved car seats. Check them out.

2. Seats authorized by foreign or UN governments

Southwest Airlines accepts seats that foreign or UN governments have authorized. A stamp, decal, or other mark indicating official foreign approval must be on the CRS. For seats made under UN standards, the label must have an E enclosed in a circular shape, followed by a number assigned to the approved country.

The no-charge policy also applied for strollers. Read here for Southwest stroller policy.

Using a Car Seat on Southwest Airlines Plane

The safest method for an infant to fly is in an FAA-approved car seat; both Southwest Airlines and the FAA advise that every child under 40 lb to travel in a government-approved car seat.

Nothing is more critical than a passenger’s safety and security. As a result, Southwest Airlines highly advise the following:

  • Place CRSs only in the middle and window seat. If the CRS is put in the middle seat, the passenger in the window seat should not be troubled from boarding the aircraft. Only the middle and window seats are allowed for CRSs, even if you are traveling with two toddlers. Never choose a spot in the aisle.
  • CRSs are not permitted on exit seats, including aisle seats and rows in the front and behind the emergency exits.

Although you are free to position the CRS however you like in the middle and window seat, here is what Southwest Airlines advise:

  • Children under 20 pounds should face the plane’s rear.
  • Children weighing 20 to 40 pounds: CRS sits towards the front of the aircraft.

If you need more assistance protecting your kid on the plane, you can ask for seat belts for toddlers from your nearest flight attendant. Need more information about car seats? Read our article about traveling with a car seat on a plane.

If you opt to use CARES harness for children above 22 lbs

Passengers must be aware that the only harness-style device authorized for use aboard is the CARES CRS. The gadget must have an FAA Approved label and be made for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds.

Furthermore, the FAA has prohibited specific kid restraint models that could endanger a kid during an aviation disaster. Backless booster seats and other ties to another individual are examples of these.

These requirements must be met for your child’s car seat to be used in the cabin; otherwise, you will not be allowed to carry it inside the plane and must be checked in with your luggage.

For more info about luggage in Southwest, here’s our summary of the Southwest Airlines baggage policy and sports equipment policy. Check them out.


Can you bring a toddler car seat on Southwest Airlines?

Yes, passengers can bring a toddler car seat on Southwest Airlines. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) both advise that all infants and young children traveling in a place should travel in a car seat or airplane harness that the FAA has authorized.

Are car seats free to check in on Southwest Airlines?

Yes. Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge a penny for car seats. One pram and one Child Restraint System (CRS) or car seat per kid will be free to check for customers traveling with toddlers, in addition to the standard free baggage limit.

Does Southwest Airlines require a car seat for my kid to travel?

Southwest does not mandate child seats but does advise them. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Southwest Airlines highly recommend that infants and young kids weighing 40 pounds or less be restrained in the proper CRS when flying.

Does my child need a boarding pass to travel with Southwest Airlines?

It depends on your child’s age and how they fly with you. If you decide to buy a seat so they can travel in a child restraint system (CRS), then your kid needs a boarding pass. They do not require a boarding pass if you carry your infant on your lap while flying, but you will need a Boarding Verification Document (BVD) before they can board.

Need further tips? Check out our guide on traveling with a baby on Southwest Airlines.

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