United Airlines Baggage Fees Policy Guide (International, Carry-On, Checked) [2019]

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The United Airlines baggage fee policy is pretty straight forward. Generally, you’ll get one free carry-on and one free personal item and you’ll have to pay $25 for your first checked bag and $35 for the second checked bag.

However, these fees can vary based on the fare class you book, elite status, credit card membership, flight route (international), and weight and size of your luggage.

Here’s everything you need to know about the United’s baggage policies. 

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United Airlines Baggage Policy

How many bags can you carry on United?

United has a pretty standard carry-on luggage policy.

They’ll allow you to bring the following:

  • 1 Carry-on bag
  • 1 Personal item
United Airlines baggage policy
United Airlines carry-on and personal item dimensions.

Carry-on bag dimensions

The maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels.

Personal item dimensions

The maximum dimensions for a personal item are 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm). Personal items typically consist of the following:

  • Backpacks
  • Shoulder bags
  • Purses
  • Laptop bag
  • Other small items

The personal items should be able to fit beneath the bottom of the seat in front of you and bag sizers are available in the check-in area, so you can double check the size of your items once you get to the airport.

Weight limit for United carry-ons

There are no published weight limits for carry-ons but rather only size dimension limitations.

Carry-on exceptions

Like many other airlines, United makes certain exceptions for certain items brought on board. If you bring one of the following items on board, they won’t count towards your one carry-on and one personal item limit.

  • Jacket or umbrella
  • Reading material
  • Food or merchandise purchased in the airport
  • Assistive devices (collapsible wheelchair, cane, one set of crutches, medical devices needed to administer prescription medications, portable oxygen concentrator, etc.)
  • FAA-approved child restraint system or safety seat
  • Diaper bag
  • Breast pump
  • Pet carrier (service charges apply for in-cabin pets)

Basic economy carry-on policy

Note that if you purchase a Basic Economy fare, you will only be allowed one personal item, unless you are a Premier member or a primary card member using a qualifying MileagePlus credit card.

If you aren’t familiar, Basic Economy fares are the newer economy fares that are supposed to be cheaper than economy but come with less benefits (many of which are standard).

  • You can read more about United’s Basic Economy fares here and here.

United Express carry-ons

United Express flights are served by regional partner carriers using smaller aircrafts which means that they often have less overhead bin space. Sometimes the space is so limited that roller bags aren’t able to fit. If you’re flying in an EMB170, EMB175 or CRJ-700 you should be fine though.

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United checked baggage fees

United does not provide you with free checked luggage. The fees charged can vary by route so I suggest that you enter in your route here to calculate the exact amount for your luggage. However, to provide you with some guidance, I’ve supplied fee amounts that you can probably expect to pay.

Unless you’re given free checked baggage due to airline status, cabin class, or credit card membership, you’ll generally have to pay:

  • $30 for the first checked bag
  • $40 for the second checked bag
  • $150 to $200 for the third checked bag ($200 for some international flights)

United checked baggage dimensions and weight

The maximum exterior dimension (length + width + height) of standard checked baggage is 62 inches (158 cm), including handles and wheels. The maximum weight for United checked baggage depends on which class you’re flying and/or your level of elite status.

Class of ticket

Elite status

If you qualify for different allowances based on your class of service and your MileagePlus status, the larger of the two allowances will apply.

united airlines baggage policy 4
United Airlines checked baggage weight limits.

United Airlines baggage fees

United will charge you based on each measure that your luggage exceeds the limits. So for example, if one of your bags is oversized, overweight and above the allowance then you will be subject to three individual extra charges. This can get very pricey so always be aware of that if you’re planning on bringing oversized luggage.

Remember, baggage fees will always depend on the airline you are flying. Therefore, if you’re flying one of United’s partners then you will have to pay partner’s prices. For example, if you’re flying Lufthansa and then connecting onto United metal, you will need to know Lufthansa baggage fees, even though you’re flying United on the second leg.

United Airlines baggage policy for oversized baggage

Generally, for luggage that is 63.0 to 115.0 linear inches (160 to 292 cm), you can expect to pay $200 extra per bag.

Baggage with total outer dimensions (length + width + height) measuring more than 115 inches (292 cm) will not be accepted as checked baggage.

United Airlines baggage policy for overweight baggage

Generally, for luggage that is from 51.0 to 70.0 pounds (24 to 32 kg) overweight, you’ll pay $100 extra per bag but on international flights this could be up to $200 per bag.

For luggage that is from 71.0 to 100.0 pounds (33 to 45 kg) you’ll pay $200 extra per bag

With the exception of assistive devices and musical instruments, baggage weighing more than 100 pounds (45 kg) will not be accepted. Musical instruments up to 165 lbs. (75 kg) will be accepted.

Extra baggage is only accepted if space permits. Oversized, overweight and extra baggage is not accepted on flights to certain destinations and on certain flights during specific timeframes. For a list of destinations where oversized/extra baggage may not accepted check out the Excess Baggage Embargo page.

MileagePlus Premier members

United will allow you to check your bags for free if you have elite status with them.

Below are the different checked baggage policies for different levels of elite status. Travel companions of MileagePlus Premier members will have the same exemptions as the Premier member whose status provides the benefit, as long as they are traveling on the same reservation.

United Airlines baggage policy
Elite status gets you free checked bags.

The United MileagePlus Explorer Card

If you hold the United Explorer Card or another eligible United credit card you’ll also be able to check at least a bag for free for yourself and up to one companion on the same itinerary.

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Active U.S. military personnel and their dependents

The United Airlines baggage policy allows active military personnel and their dependents to check a certain number of bags for free. The size limit and number of bags depends on the purpose of the travel, however.

united airlines baggage policy
United Airlines baggage policy for military members.
  • Dependents of active U.S. military personnel have the same exemptions as the service member whose status provides the benefit, as long as they are traveling on the same reservation.
  • When travel is due to official orders, dependents may travel unaccompanied.
  • When dependents travel on their own for reasons other than relocation, they are subject to the normal baggage allowance and applicable bag fees based on ticket type.

Do I pick up my luggage if connecting on a United flight?

For a trip that includes one or more connections, United will check bags to the final destination stated on the ticket. Usually luggage will be stored on the same flight as the traveler but that’t not always the case.

You’ll need to claim and re-check baggage if you are:

  • Making a voluntary stopover
  • Making a connection that involves an overnight stay
  • Connecting to an itinerary booked on a separate ticket that doesn’t include a Star Alliance partner airline
  • Traveling internationally and connecting to a domestic flight within your destination country

Does United Airlines allow smart luggage?

Effective January 15, you must remove spare lithium batteries or lithium batteries that are part of bags themselves (“smart bags”) before checking or gate-checking baggage. These batteries can be transported in your carry-on baggage. Bags with non-removable lithium batteries are not allowed on any United flights, including United Express flights.

United animal policy

United will allow domesticated cats, small dogs, rabbits and birds may travel accompanied in the aircraft cabin on most flights within the U.S. You can read more about their in-cabin animal policy here.

Their Pet Safe program has been updated recently.

You find out more about the animal policies here. 

Final word on the United Airlines baggage policy

The United Airlines baggage policy is for the most part straight forward and pretty similar to what other legacy carriers provide. However, you need to be aware of the different rules and restrictions that apply to overweight and oversized luggage as well as all of the special rules for class fares such as Basic Economy.

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    1. I think that’s going to depend on the airport. Some airports no longer take cash for baggage fees, so I suggest calling in to your airport.

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