What is the Southwest Airlines Drone policy and just how much does Southwest luv my drone? We examine these questions and more as we deep dive into the Southwest Drone Policy.
This article is part of our series on Airline Drone Policies. Be sure to check out all of our posts and stop back in often as we expand our coverage.
Southwest Airlines Drone Policy – does Southwest Airlines Luv your drone?
Unlike many airlines, Southwest actually mentions drones (albeit briefly) in their baggage policies. While most airlines (although not all) are largely silent on drones and instead use other policies (like their generic battery policies or carry on / checked bag policies, Southwest at least makes mention of drones.
And, while it’s maybe not 1000% clear it’s better than nothing. So, let’s deep dive into the Southwest Airlines Drone Policy.
Southwest addresses drones in their special luggage section
The first place drones show up in Southwest’s policies is in their special luggage section. Specifically, the Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) section.
In the PED section, Southwest gives us a few important tidbits of information about bringing a drone on a Southwest flight:
“Portable Electronic Devices containing dry cells or dry batteries (including lithium or lithium polymer cells or batteries) are allowed to be transported as long as the battery size requirements are met. Some examples of these devices include but are not limited to watches, calculating machines, cameras, cellular phones, laptop/notebook/tablet computers, camcorders, medical devices, and drones.”
Furthermore, they note a few additional PED restrictions that travelers must consider inasmuch as it affects their drone travel:
“Effective January 15, 2018, each Customer is permitted up to a maximum of 15 PEDs and a maximum of 20 spare lithium-ion batteries per person. Loose or spare cells or batteries (including power banks) must be protected from short circuit and transported in carryon baggage only.”
Takeaway: You should be fine bringing your drone on the trip because it’s HIGHLY unlikely you will have 15 PEDs (I mean, think about it, worst case: 2 laptops, 2 phones, 1 vape pen, 1 watch…and yeah, 1 drone). Yeah, you are good to go. For those of you that travel with 47 vape pens…you, sir, are out of luck. Also, if you have spare batteries they need to be stored in an appropriate container. We recommend something like these.
“If the lithium-ion cells or batteries exceed 100 watt-hours, only 2 cells or batteries not exceeding 160 watt-hours each are permitted. Cells or batteries that exceed the 160 watt-hour limit are not allowed as checked or carryon baggage.”
Takeaway: Drones typically have removable Lithium Polymer batteries (LiPO) and they are almost always well under 160 watt hours. How do you know your battery watts? Check the battery itself…or consult the manufacturer’s website. And…only 2 batteries.
“Passengers are asked to transport PEDs in carryon baggage. When this is not possible, the device must be switched off and measures must be taken to ensure it cannot be accidentally activated when placed in checked baggage.”
Takeaway: This is the most important takeaway. Southwest’s Drone Policy strongly prefers that PED’s be carried on instead of checked. Thus, to avoid any additional scrutiny carry your drone on with you. Don’t forget to get a special travel drone case to store your drone in. For example, the Lowepro DroneGuard BP 200 (which fits the best overall travel drone, DJI Mavic Pro) will work perfectly!
Bringing your Drone on a Southwest Flight (as a carry on)
Now that we’ve established that Southwest’s Drone Policy allows us to bring a drone and in fact they’d prefer we carry it on the plane, let’s re-familiarize ourselves with Southwest’s Baggage Policies because they too will impact your drone trip.
Like most airlines Southwest allows you to bring 2 pieces of luggage aboard the plane which include a suitcase or bag and a small personal item. Their dimensions are as follows:
- Suitcase/Bag: 10 x 16 x 24 inches
- Personal Item: 18.5 x 8.5 x 13.5 inches
If you are traveling on a Southwest flight and you are bringing your drone with you make sure that the case you use meets these requirements. The aforementioned the Lowepro DroneGuard BP 200 has dimensions of: 9.45″ x 6.69″ x 15.75″ and can count as your personal item.
If you do check your drone on Southwest Airlines
While the Southwest Drone Policy discourages travelers from checking their drone it’s not prohibited. If you do check your drone you need to do three things:
- Remove the Batteries
- Get a Drone Hard Case
- Get a TSA Approved Lock
Again, Southwest Airlines’ Drone Rules would prefer you NOT check a bag, but it is allowed. As a general rule, however, we here at the BestTravelDrone.com suggest you NEVER check your drone. Why risk the possibility of damage or theft when you’ve just dropped a grand on a nice drone?
Final Thoughts on the Southwest Drone Policy
It’s nice to see more airlines starting to clarify their drone policies. Not all airlines do and in cases employees may not even be aware of them.
We always recommend that when traveling with your drones you bring any applicable policies with you (print them out) and bring any applicable manufacturer specifications too – in case you need to prove something to an airline rep (e.g. battery strength).
By way of quick summary, here’s our final thoughts on Southwest Drone Policy:
- Southwest does address drones a little bit
- You CAN bring a drone on a Southwest flight
- You should carry it on with you (don’t check it)
- Your batteries need to be individually stored, you can only bring 2 and they need to be less than 160 watt hours
Thanks for stopping in and we hope you enjoyed this overview of the Southwest Drone Policy. Happy droning and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.
If you are still in the market for the perfect drone for your next trip, be sure to check out our detailed analysis of different and popular drones for travel and see what we recommend!
Lastly, please check out all of our great travel drone related content, including:
- Best Travel Drone – comparison & analysis of the top drones for travelers
- What’s the TSA Drone Policy?
- American Airlines Drone Policy – can I take my drone on an American Airlines flight?
- Delta Drone Policy – there is no policy!
- 3 Awesome Drones for Travel
- Top 5 Drones on Amazon.com
- 147 Travel Tips – the ultimate list of road warrior tips & tricks
- 7 Tips for Traveling with a drone – the experts weigh in
- Spirit Airlines Drone Policy – what is Spirit’s Policy on Traveling with a Drone?