Wheelchairs and other assistive devices
Flying with a wheelchair
Customers who require assistance must identify themselves as needing wheelchair assistance upon arrival to the airport, at any connection points, and upon arrival to their destination. Wheelchair assistance is available from airport to/from gates and between gates for connecting flights.
Adding a wheelchair when booking:
- On desktop: Go to the Special Assistance link on the "Passenger & Payment Info" screen.
- On mobile: Go to the Special Assistance link on the "Passenger" screen.
Adding a wheelchair to an existing booking:
- On desktop: Manage your reservation and select “Special Assistance” under the Passenger name.
- On mobile: Manage your reservation and select the edit pencil icon next to the Passenger name. Then select "Special Assistance".
If you're checking your own wheelchair, you may print and complete the Wheelchair/Mobility Aid Information Form.
Before screening, let the TSA officer know if you can or can't walk or stand unassisted. You can show the officer your TSA notification card or other medical paperwork to describe your disability.
- Screening technology: If you’re able to stand with your arms above your head for seven seconds without support, you may be screened with advanced imaging technology or a metal detector. If you cannot or if you opt-out, you will receive a pat-down.
- Pat-down: Pat-downs are conducted by a TSA officer of the same gender. If the screening involves a sensitive area, it may be conducted in private with a companion. You can always request a private screening.
Mobility aids screening
- Walkers, crutches, canes, or other mobility aids must be X-rayed or hand-inspected by a TSA officer if it cannot fit through the X-ray.
- Wheelchairs and scooters must be X-rayed, including the seat cushions and any non-removable pouches or fanny packs.
Each plane has a specially designed wheelchair storage compartment for in-cabin stowage of at least one standard-size, adult, collapsible wheelchair. This compartment is available on a first-come, first-served basis. If this compartment is occupied or the wheelchair can't fit, it will be stowed safely beneath the plane. We suggest that all removable parts (e.g., cushions, arm or leg rests, and side guards) are stowed in an overhead bin or under a seat if possible.
Before you board, tell an Employee that you'll need wheelchair assistance after landing. When you land, identify yourself to the Flight Attendant and wait for your wheelchair to be brought to the jet bridge.
Battery-powered wheelchair and assistive device considerations
Yes, we accept battery-powered chairs and mobility aids if unintentional activation can be prevented in one of these ways:
- Key turned to off position and removed.
- Securing the device “on/off” switch to the “off” position.
- Quick disconnection of the joystick on a wheelchair.
- Removing the battery and isolating the terminals.
Yes, we need to determine that your device’s battery is acceptable for transportation. We check the following:
- The battery label is legible and in English.
- The battery shows no signs of defects or damage.
- The device has mechanical prevention for unintentional activation, or the battery can be disconnected, and the terminals protected from short circuit.
The battery must be properly secured to the device or it will have to be removed and packaged separately.
Battery-powered wheelchairs and mobility aids will be securely stowed in the cargo compartment. We recommend that all removable parts of the wheelchair be stowed in the overhead bins. If the lithium-ion battery or batteries have to be removed due to one of the reasons above, the battery or batteries must be protected from short circuit and transported as carryon by the passenger.
If an assistive device is powered by a spillable battery, the battery will be removed and placed in a protective battery box, as required by federal HAZMAT safety regulations and the battery transported in checked baggage. The passenger must provide instructions on battery removal. A spare spillable battery is not allowed.
If the battery is securely attached to the mobility aid, protected from short circuit, and the device has a means of protecting itself from unintentional activation, the battery may remain installed. Non-spillable batteries not installed or security attached must be transported as checked baggage and packaged in strong, rigid packaging marked "NONSPILLABLE," "NONSPILLABLE BATTERY," or "Not Restricted” and the battery terminals must be protected from short circuit.
Customers may bring one spare non-spillable battery. Spare non-spillable batteries must also be transported as checked baggage.
If a mobility aid is powered by a lithium-ion battery, the device must be transported as checked baggage. When the Li-ion battery is securely attached and protected from short-circuit by being fully enclosed in the device’s battery housing, the battery may remain installed in the device and there is no limit to the battery size.
If the battery is not securely attached, it must be removed and transported separately as carryon baggage. The battery terminals must be protected from short circuit. There is a single battery size limit of 300 watt-hours (Wh). If the device utilizes two batteries, each battery cannot exceed 160 Wh. A maximum of one spare battery not exceeding 300 Wh or two spares not exceeding 160 Wh each may be carried onboard.
The battery’s size in watt-hours must be displayed on the battery, or the battery should be labeled with its voltage and amp-hour (or milliamp-hour) ratings to allow for size calculation (see formula below) if needed. Any spare batteries must be transported as carryon baggage with the battery terminals protected to prevent short circuit.
Some Li-ion batteries do not display the watt-hour rating on the battery label. The following formulas may be used to determine the watt-hours rating for a Lithium-ion battery:
If the battery lists the Amp-hour rating, use this formula:
- Volts (V) x Amp-hours (Ah) = Watt-hours (Wh)
Example for a single battery:
- 10 volts multiplied by 24 Amp-hours = 240 watt-hours
- The 240 watt-hours are below the 300 watt-hour limit for a single battery, so the battery would be allowed.
If the battery lists the Milliamp-hour rating, use this formula instead:
- Volts (V) x Milliamp-hours (mAh) ÷ 1,000 = Watt-hours (Wh)
Flying with other devices that are not considered mobility aids
The following portable electronic devices (PEDs) are not recognized by the HAZMAT Regulations as mobility aids. Southwest Airlines prohibits these types of PEDs in checked or carryon baggage regardless of battery type, even if the battery is not installed.
- Gravity boards
- Segway PT
- Uni‐Wheel products
- Rideable suitcases
You can use FAA-approved child restraint systems (CRS) onboard if the safety seat has the appropriate manufacturer's label. We also accept seats approved by the United Nations (UN) or foreign governments. The child restraint system must have a stamp or decal or some other mark that indicates foreign government approval. Seats manufactured under the standards of the UN must have a label with a circle surrounding the letter E, followed by a number assigned to the country that has granted approval.
It is important to note that the CARES child restraint system is the only harness-type device approved for use onboard. The device is designed for Customers weighing between 22 and 44 pounds and must have a label that indicates, “FAA Approved in Accordance with 14 CFR 21.305(d), Approved for Aircraft Use Only.”
Additionally, please know the FAA has banned certain types of child restraints that may be harmful to a child in the event of an aviation emergency. These include backless booster seats and any device that ties the child to another person.
If a Customer will need to use any other type of non-approved restraint system to accommodate his/her disability during taxi, takeoff, and/or landing, the device must be approved by the FAA prior to travel. Customers may file a petition for exemption with the FAA. Instructions for submitting the petition may be found by visiting the FAA’s web site. Please note that the petition should be filed at least 120 days before the proposed date of travel. If the petition is approved, the Customer will be required to present a copy of the approval letter upon arrival at the airport and may be required to do so at any other point during travel.
You are welcome to use a restraint system in middle seats or window seats. If placed in a middle seat, the child restraint system can’t prevent the window seat occupant from leaving the row. Child restraint systems can’t be placed in an exit seat or in a row directly in front of or behind an exit row.