United Airlines Baggage Fees Policy Guide (International, Carry-On, Checked) [2020]

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Having flown United Airlines a countless number of times over the years, I am very familiar with their baggage fee policy, and luckily it is pretty straight forward policy. 

However, the baggage fees can vary based on the fare class you book, your elite status, credit card membership, flight route (international), and weight and size of your luggage. Below is everything you need to know about the United’s baggage policies. 


What are the United Airlines baggage fees?

Generally, you’ll get one free carry-on and one free personal item and you’ll have to pay $30 for your first checked bag and $40 for the second checked bag. There are many rules and restrictions that apply though so I suggest that you keep reading below for more detailed information. 


United Airlines carry-on policy

United has a pretty standard carry-on luggage policy. They’ll allow you to bring the following for free:

  • 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.

If you are bringing in a carry-on item and a personal item, the flight attendants will ask you to place your smaller item beneath the seat and to store your larger item in the overhead bin. 

Weight limit for United carry-ons

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

Still, just because there are no published weight limits you still want to keep the weight of your carry-ons reasonable. And if your carry-on is especially heavy I would recommend that you handle your bag yourself while storing your bag. 

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 cheaper than economy but come with less benefits (many of which are standard). For example, you don’t get a free carry-on and you are not allowed to choose your seat for free. 

  • 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.


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)

These prices are the same that you would generally pay when flying other domestic airlines like American Airlines. However, it is always a good reminder that Southwest Airlines offers you the ability to check two bags for free. 

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.

So let’s say you are a Silver member and you are flying business class. Your Silver membership would allow you a 50 pound allowance but your business class ticket would allow you 70 pound allowance. Therefore, since 70 pounds is greater than 50 pounds, the business class weight limit would apply.

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

United Airlines excessive 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. That sounds like a lot but it is on par with other domestic airlines. 

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 along with all assistive devices. 

Something to keep in mind is that 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 example, the following destinations don’t allow bags that weigh more than 70 pounds (32 kilograms):

  • Auckland, New Zealand (AKL)
  • Lima, Peru (LIM)
  • Melbourne, Australia (MEL)
  • Sydney, Australia (SYD)

For a current 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.

United credit cards

If you hold the United Explorer Card you’ll be able to check a bag for free for yourself and up to one companion on the same itinerary. This benefit applies even to international itineraries which is different from other airline cards like the American Airlines cards that only applies to domestic itineraries. 

If you want to check two bags for free, the United Club Card will offer you that benefit. That card is the more premium card that also offers complementary lounge access to United lounge us along with a host of additional benefits.  

Hot Tip: Use a travel card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred to earn extra points on travel purchases like airline tickets — you can even transfer your points to United (at a 1:1 ratio) and use them to fly for free! Plus, it’s at an all-time high offer of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months after account opening!


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. Notice how when traveling on official business the maximum weight per bag is increased to 100 pounds.

united airlines baggage policy
United Airlines baggage policy for military members.

Here are the United policies for military members and their families: 

  • 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.

So basically the only time a military family member does not get the baggage benefit is when they are traveling for reasons other than relocation and they are traveling alone. 


Sporting equipment

United Airlines will accept most sporting equipment. However, you need to be aware that there might be specific guidelines and packaging requirements that you must abide by when transporting certain types of equipment. You can find out more about the specific restrictions here. 

Here are some examples of accepted sporting equipment:

  • Archery
  • Baseball
  • Bicycles
  • Boogie boards
  • Camping equipment
  • Fencing
  • Fire arms
  • Golf equipment
  • Gymnastic equipment
  • Hang gliding equipment
  • Hockey equipment
  • Javelins
  • Kayaks
  • Keyboards 

United animal policy

United will allow domesticated cats, small dogs, rabbits and birds 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 and you  can find out more about the animal policies here. 


United Baggage Fees FAQ

What are the check-in times when traveling with baggage?

If you are traveling with baggage, you must check in at least 45 minutes prior to departure on a domestic flight and 60 minutes prior to departure on an international flight. (This applies to most airports although there are exceptions.).

Of course, I always advocate for you to arrive to the airport much earlier than this. For a domestic flight, I will try to arrive around two hours before departure and for an international flight I will try to arrive around three hours prior to departure. Click here to see U.S. airports with special minimum required times.

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

I would always recommend to avoid flying two separate itineraries when connecting. That is because it increases the risk of you missing a flight and if you miss a flight in a situation like that you will likely have to pay for a new second flight.

Also, if your luggage is lost for some reason it can become much more difficult to work through that process since it is harder to coordinate efforts to retrieve your bag. 

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.


Final word

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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2 comments

    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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