Southwest Airlines Sports Equipment Policy
A Southwest plane. Make sure to know their sports equipment policy if you’re going to bring one – Gary Lopater (unsplash)

Southwest Airlines recognize the importance of being able to accommodate sports enthusiasts on their flights. While traveling can be a concern for many with sports equipment, Southwest Airlines have quite a generous policy. Let’s see exactly what it is.

Key Takeaway
For most sports equipment, Southwest will allow you to register it as one piece of your checked baggage for free. However, if it’s over 62 linear inches (157 cm) in size or 50 lbs (22.7 kg) in weight, a fee of $75 will be applied per bag, per flight.

While those are the general rules, there are some exceptions and limits. Read on as we look more in detail at the overweight and oversize rules, while also answering some FAQs.

Overweight and Oversize Rules

Passengers can bring sports equipment, such as skis, golf clubs, and snowboards, as part of their checked baggage allowance.

Southwest allows you two pieces of checked baggage and you can substitute your sports equipment for one piece of checked baggage. This is on a one-item-for-one-bag basis at no extra cost.

* Read more about SouthWest baggage policy here. If you’re a member of the military, you’re eligible for special treatment for military members.

This equipment is subject to the same rules as any other checked baggage as it needs to have a weight limit of 50 lbs and not exceed 62 linear inches. Linear inches are the combined total measurement of length, height, and width of a bag.

If your equipment is bigger than this, you’ll need to pay $75. However, if your equipment is heavier than 100 lbs (45.4 kg) in weight and 80 linear inches (203 cm) in size, it will need to be shipped as air cargo on a separate flight. Some exceptions apply, which are detailed below.

Overweight Policy

The overweight policy on Southwest is quite simple:

  • 0-50 lbs = Free
  • 51-100 lbs = $75
  • 100+ lbs = Air cargo

This is a fairly generous policy. For reference, an average bowling ball weighs around 12 lbs (5.4 kg), and a fully-loaded golf bag around 25 lbs (11.3 kg). Therefore, for most passengers, they can just use their sports equipment as one of their free checked bag allowance.

Oversize Policy

As with the oversize policy, the oversize policy isn’t too complicated.

  • 0-62” = Free
  • 63-80” = $75
  • 80”+ = Air cargo

The size figure used is all the dimensions of a bag added up, called linear inches. For example, if your sports bag was 30” (76 cm) long, 15” (38.1 cm) wide and 15” in height then it would be okay as all those dimensions add up to 60”. Anything over 62” inches would either need to be paid for or added to air cargo.

Specific Rules and Exceptions

While those are the general rules, there are a few exemptions and allowances that you need to be aware of. Let’s have a look at some specific examples.

Surfboards – Due to their extended length, surfboards are subject to a different set of guidelines. Even though they are almost always longer than the specified limit of 62 linear inches, there is generally a flat rate of $75 instead of needing to send it as air cargo.

Golf Equipment – Golf bags containing your full golfing equipment will be accepted. They can be used as your standard checked baggage but there is a good chance they will be over either the weight or size limit, so the $75 fee can apply. More details on Southwest Airlines golf clubs rules.

Firearms, Archery and Blades – Sporting firearms will be accepted but need to be unloaded and securely packed. Similar rules apply for sporting blades such as in fencing as well as archery bows. As long as they are safely packed away, they can be included in checked luggage.

Fishing – As with surfing, more allowances are given for fishing rods. They will only be subject to oversize charges if they are over 91 inches (231 cm) in length.

Ski Equipment – Southwest is generous with ski equipment too. Not only can you substitute it with a regular bag for free check-in, but they also allow up to two bags counting as one. These two bags would need to contain a maximum of one pair of skis + ski poles (or one snowboard), and ski/snowboard boots.

Sporting Boards – Along with surfboards, a variety of other boards can be taken too such as kiteboards and windsurfing boards. However, you need to ensure they are carefully packed and any keels or fins removed.

Southwest Airlines Sports Equipment Policy – FAQs

Can you bring sports equipment on a plane?

Almost all sports equipment can be taken on a plane. However, if your sports equipment is particularly bulky or heavy, then extra fees may apply.

Can I bring my bicycle as part of my checked sports equipment?

Yes, you can include a bicycle as a part of your checked sports equipment. However, it should be boxed and would almost certainly require you to pay oversize fees.

Are there any limitations on the number of pieces of sports equipment I can check?

There are no specific limits on the number of sports equipment you can bring. However, Southwest Airlines give you two free checked pieces of luggage. Anything more than this would come at a charge of $75 per bag, per flight.

Are there any restrictions on carrying liquids in my sports equipment, such as scuba diving gear?

Yes, liquid restrictions still apply to sports equipment. These are the standard Transportation Security Administration regulations that everyone needs to adhere to. If you are traveling with air tanks, they need to be completely empty of compressed air.

Can you bring a tennis racket on Southwest?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, a tennis racket is usually small enough to be taken as a carry-on bag. If you need to travel with a lot of equipment, then you can use it as one of your two free checked bags.

What if my bag is too heavy on Southwest?

It depends on how heavy it is. Between 51 to 100 lbs you’ll be allowed to check your bag in but at an additional cost of $75. If your bag is over 100 lbs when you won’t be allowed it as checked baggage. You’ll either need to divide it into separate bags or send it as air cargo.

Final Thoughts

Southwest Airlines’ sports equipment policy is mostly viewed as fair and quite simple. Most sporting equipment can be used as one of their two free checked bags allowance, with competitive fees for those with particularly large or heavy bags.

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