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United Airlines offers hundreds of flights around the world. When dealing with such high volume and diverse routes, United has a need for a complex and comprehensive baggage fees policy. This guide is here to help you make sense of the various regulations and ensure you are equipped to deal with any fees that may come up.
United Airlines carry-on guidelines
You are allowed up to two carry-on bags on your United flight: a full-sized carry-on bag and a personal item. The carry-on bag can have maximum dimensions — including wheels and handle — of 9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches or 22 centimeters by 35 centimeters by 56 centimeters. Your personal item is smaller and should be an appropriate size to fit under the seat in front of you. This item can have a maximum size of 9 inches by 10 inches by 17 inches or 22 centimeters by 25 centimeters by 43 centimeters.
How many and which types of bags you are allowed to bring on the plane varies depending on your travel class and location. Basic Economy ticket holders are allowed one personal item as their sole carry-on. There is an exception, though, for those who have Basic Economy tickets for trans-Atlantic flights. In this scenario, individuals are allowed both a personal item and one full-sized carry-on free of charge. If someone mistakenly brings a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate while in Basic Economy and not boarding a trans-Atlantic flight, they will need to check their full-sized bag at the gate and be fined. The amount due is the sum of the applicable checked-bag fee, plus a $25 gate handling charge.
There are a few exceptions that you are allowed to also bring on your flight, in addition to your full-sized carry-on bag and personal item. Those exceptions are the following:
- Jacket or umbrella
- Food or merchandise purchased in airport
- Medically assistive devices (wheelchair, canes, crutches, devices for prescription medications, portable oxygen concentrator and so on)
- FAA-approved child-restraint system or safety seat
- Diaper bag
- Breast pump
- Pet carrier (service charges will apply)
Lap infant carry-on policy
Which child articles can I bring that don't count toward my maximum carry-on allowance? All of the following can be brought without contributing to your carry-on allowance: diaper bag, breast pump and milk, government-approved child seat (infant carrying seat or car seat) and compact folding stroller that meets size guidelines.
If you notify United Airlines prior to your flight, you may travel with an infant (below 2 years old) on your lap without having to purchase an additional seat for them and at a much reduced cost. Each adult can have one child seated on their lap. If there are more children below the age of two than there are adult chaperones, then additional seats will have to be purchased for each unaccounted for infant.
United checked baggage guidelines
United Airlines has a rather straightforward checked baggage policy. For individuals traveling in Economy or Premium Plus fares, their checked bags may have a maximum weight of 50 pounds. On the other hand, individuals traveling in Business and First Class fares have a maximum weight limit of 70 pounds per checked bag. Regardless of the difference between the two weight limits, both bags must adhere to the max linear dimensions of 62 inches. The maximum weight for checked baggage also varies depending on your MileagePlus Premier® status level at the time of checking your baggage. If you are a Premier Silver, Gold, Platinum or 1K® member, then you qualify to have a maximum weight per bag of 70 pounds as well.
Whereas most other airlines communicate baggage fee rates through difficult-to-navigate tables, United created an official baggage fee calculator tool for user convenience. You can input your MileagePlus sign-in information to get the checked baggage service charges of the flight you booked. You can also use the tool to browse checked baggage service charges for other flights by inputting starting locations and final destinations. The calculator additionally lists the cost of oversized, excess, or overweight luggage as per your route and class of service.
This tool makes the process of figuring out the exact baggage fees of your flight simple. We would recommend anyone who is having questions about their checked baggage to use this tool.
Using the tool, we were able to compile the checked-baggage service charges for a flight between the United States and multiple popular travel destinations. Here are the results in table form to help you gain an understanding of how these prices range:
United checked baggage base rates
|Flight between the U.S. and...||1st bag||2nd bag|
|Antigua, Aruba and Cayman Islands||$30||$40|
|Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras||$30||$40|
|Argentina, Peru, South Africa||Free||Free|
|Netherlands, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Israel, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Britain||Free||$100|
|Japan, China, Thailand||Free||Free|
Outside of a few exceptions, the rates seem to be broadly fixed per continent. For example, when using the calculator to check baggage service charges for flights between Newark Airport (EWR) and European destinations like London or Prague, the price was almost always the same: free for the first two bags. The following table is broken down by greater geographic areas with exceptions noted. You can use this table as a baseline to get a gist of prices around the world, but you should still use the checked baggage service charge calculator to ensure that your destination is not an exception to these norms.
|Flight between the U.S. and...||1st bag||2nd bag|
|Central America (excluding El Salvador)||$30||$40|
|Asia (excluding India)||Free||Free|
United checked baggage service charge exceptions
Although United has guidelines in place for handling checked baggage in various circumstances, it also has exemptions. The airline provides certain individuals or groups with access to larger allowances and benefits. In particular, United provides exceptions to MileagePlus Premier members, and active U.S. military personnel and their dependents. If you belong to either of these groups, you have access to some of the more exclusive and most beneficial perks.
Active U.S. military personnel and dependents
United provides active U.S. military personnel with certain exemptions that extend to their dependents, as long as the dependents are travelling on the same reservation. If the travel is categorized as official orders rather than personal, then the dependents may travel without the active service member while still retaining those increased allowances.
|Type of trip||Class of service||Number of bags without service charges||Maximum size per bag||Maximum weight per bag|
|Personal travel||All classes of service||3 bags||62 in (158 cm)||70 lbs (32 kg)|
|Official orders||All classes of service||5 bags||115 in (292 cm)||100 lbs (45 kg)|
If the dependent is traveling for personal reasons — unrelated to official orders and not on the same reservation as the active service member — then they must abide by normal baggage guidelines. The dependents will be charged the appropriate fees and be subjected to the regulations as determined by their ticket and class of service.
United Airlines MileagePlus Premier® members
Individuals who are MileagePlus Premier members are entitled to certain baggage allowances dependent on the level of their Premier status. Companions who are on the same reservation as the MileagePlus Premier members also have access to those exemptions. The only caveat is that exemptions are not applied on group reservations (reservations of 10 or more customers). Regardless, being able to carry over your MileagePlus Premier exemptions to up to nine people is a very useful benefit.
It's also worth noting that waivers for checked baggage fees are based on the traveler's MileagePlus status, as opposed to the status of the individual whose miles were used to purchase the award ticket.
Checked baggage allowances for MileagePlus Premier members
Premier baggage exceptions
|Destination||Bags without service charges||Maximum weight per bag||**Travel period (Departures)|
|San Salvador (SAL)*||2 bags||50 lbs (23 kg)||Jan. 1 - Dec. 31|
|Havana (HAV)*||2 bags||70 lbs. (32 kg)||Jan. 1 - Dec. 31|
|Santo Domingo (SDQ)*, Managua (MGA)*, San Pedro Sula (SAP)*, Tegucigalpa (TGU)*||2 bags||70 lbs (32 kg)||Dec. 1 - Jan. 15|
|Guatemala City (GUA)*||2 bags||70 lbs (32 kg)||Dec. 1 - Jan. 15; Jun. 1 - Aug. 31|
MileagePlus Premier checked baggage details
The below table applies to United Economy travel between the U.S. and the Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America:
|MileagePlus Premier status||Bags without service charges||Maximum size||Maximum weight per bag|
|Premier Silver||1 bag||62 in (158 cm)||70 lbs (32kg)|
|Premier Gold||2 bags*||62 in (158 cm)||70 lbs (32 kg)|
|Premier Platinum||3 bags||62 in (158 cm)||70 lbs (32 kg)|
|Premier 1K||3 bags||62 in (158 cm)||70 lbs (32 kg)|
Premier Gold members are also eligible for two complimentary checked bags that can weigh up to 70 pounds (32 kilograms) each when traveling between U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. When traveling to or from certain international markets or locations, Premier Gold members are eligible for not just two complimentary checked bags but, rather, three. These three complimentary checked bags can weigh up to 70 pounds each.
United Airlines excess baggage fees
If your baggage does not cleanly abide by the size, weight or quantity limitations imposed by United, then additional charges will be applied. Any and all applicable service charges will be added together and that amount will be what you need to pay. For example, if your baggage is found to be overweight, you would need to pay the corresponding fee for when a bag is above the designated weight limit. However, if your bag is found to be both overweight and oversized, then you would need to pay the sum of those fees.
|1st bag||$30||50 lbs||62 in|
|2nd bag||$40||50 lbs||62 in|
|3rd+ bag||$150||50 lbs||62 in|
|Overweight||$100||51-70 lbs||62 in|
|Overweight||$200||71-100 lbs||62 in|
|Oversized||$200||50 lbs||63-115 in|
|Destination||Third and additional bags||Oversized bag||51 - 70 lbs||71 - 100 lbs|
These rates were all taken from United's baggage fee calculator for economy travel. We would recommend you to use the calculator tool as well when needing to figure out the exact amount to pay for any excess baggage in your specific case. The amount you need to pay can change depending on your class of service, flight route and MileagePlus Premier status.
United excess baggage embargoes
Your extra baggage will also only be accepted if there is available space on the aircraft. Every passenger on the flight has a certain allowance, and it is only after all checked baggage within these allowances are on board the plane that excess baggage will be considered. There are many situations where oversized, overweight or extra baggage is not accepted at all.
The denial of excess baggage is mostly dependent on the destination of the flight and the timeframe, because United has instituted excess baggage embargoes. These embargoes — some permanent and some only within a specific period — prevent any excess baggage from being boarded onto the plane whatsoever or with certain conditions.
Permanent baggage embargo
The following do not permit overweight checked baggage in excess of 70 pounds (32 kilograms):
- Amsterdam (AMS)
- Athens, Greece (ATH)
- Auckland, New Zealand (AKL)
- Barcelona, Spain (BCN)
- Berlin (TXL)
- Brussels, Belgium (BRU)
- Dublin, Ireland (DUB)
- Edinburgh, United Kingdom (EDI)
- Glasgow, United Kingdom (GLA)
- Havana (HAV)
- Hamburg, Germany (HAM)
- Lima, Peru (LIM)
- Lisbon, Portugal (LIS)
- London (LHR)
- Madrid (MAD)
- Manchester, United Kingdom (MAN)
- Melbourne, Australia (MEL)
- Milan (MXP)
- Munich (MUN)
- Porto, Portugal (OPO)
- Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF)
- Rome (FCO)
- Shannon, Ireland (SNN)
- Stockholm, Sweden (ARN)
- Sydney (SYD)
- Venice, Italy (VCE)
Note: United reserves the ability to change this information without notice, so make sure you go to their official website and double-check the listed locations if you plan to check overweight baggage.
The following does not allow oversized baggage at any time:
- Havana (HAV)
- Rio de Janeiro (GIG)
- Sao Paulo (GRU)
The following does not allow excess baggage or oversized baggage at any time:
- Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Seasonal excess baggage embargoes
The above list of permanent excess baggage embargoes is constant throughout the entire year, but there are certain excess baggage embargoes that are seasonal. There are two winter excess baggage embargoes with dates of November 15 to January 15 and December 10 to January 5. There is also a summer embargo from June 1 to August 3, and a spring embargo from April 12 to April 24.
These seasonal embargoes limit the excess baggage permitted for each of their included destinations during their corresponding time periods. To see a full list of the limitations on excess baggage being imposed during these periods and which destinations are included, click here to be redirected to the United Airlines official list.
In-cabin animal travel on United Airlines
- Advance reservations for in-cabin pet travel are required and can be done through united.com.
- Puppies and kittens must be at least four months (16 weeks) of age to be accepted for travel.
- Unaccompanied minors are not allowed to travel with pets.
- You must purchase an extra ticket if you would like to carry on another pet.
United has a rather comprehensive animal travel policy in place to ensure that you and your pet both safely reach the destination. United allows domesticated dogs, cats, rabbits and most household birds to travel in the aircraft cabin on the majority of domestic flights. The in-cabin pet is thought of as an additional carry-on bag, and you will need to pay a service charge of $125 both ways. It's also worth noting that an additional service charge of $125 may be applied for each stopover of more than four hours domestically or more than 24 hours on international flights.
United Airlines co-branded credit card
The United℠ Explorer Card is one of the best offerings that can return significant value to people who frequently use United Airlines for their travel needs. Despite the various discounts on in-flight purchases and fee credits provided, the greatest benefit for cardholders is the ability to check their first bag for free when using the United℠ Explorer Card to book United flights. The potential return on this card in one round trip alone makes it worthwhile to apply. Moreover, the amount of savings that frequent United flyers can rack up within one calendar year of having their first checked bag free are substantial. This benefit also extends to one other travel companion as long as they are on the same reservation as the cardholder.
United MileagePlus® Club Card
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Contrary to the United℠ Explorer Card, the United MileagePlus® Club Card is a luxury travel credit card that prioritizes access to United Club lounges. Access to this lounge collection is typically $550 annually, so you will be saving some money by paying the annual fee of this card instead. Your first and second checked bags have their fees waived when booking reservations through this card. However, there is little value beyond this. There are better luxury travel cards available that would provide more value to cardholders than this card while being more versatile. This card is only worth it if you are only looking to gain access to United Club lounges and frequently travel on United Airlines.
The information related to the United MileagePlus® Club Card has been collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to Chase credit card offers. See chase.com for more information.
Frequently asked questions
Your full-sized carry-on bag must fit in the overhead baggage storage of the cabin, and it can have maximum dimensions of 9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches. Your personal item must be smaller to fit under the seat in front of you. It can have maximum dimensions of 9 inches by 10 inches by 17 inches.
If your child is below the age of two, then they can sit on your lap for the flight. You will need to inform United that you plan to bring an infant with you on the flight and pay all appropriate fares and taxes. These fares are only taxes on the ticket if traveling domestically or to Canada, or 10 percent of the adult fare at time of infant ticketing if traveling internationally.
United allows you to bring domesticated dogs, cats, rabbits and most household birds in the aircraft cabin for the majority of domestic flight. In exchange, you will need to pay a service charge of $125 both ways.
Final thoughts on United Airlines baggage fees
One of the last headaches anyone wants before a flight is figuring out if their baggage fits all the requirements. What's worse would be attempting to figure out the fees you would need to pay if your baggage does not cleanly fit into those guidelines — rates that vary depending on route, flight class, loyalty status and even time of year. United Airlines, fortunately, provides a streamlined way to approach this issue: their baggage fee calculator. This is the fastest and most efficient way for you to figure out the exact baggage fees and regulations you can expect on your flight.