United Carry On Size, Weight, Fees & Limit Guide [2021]

Have you chosen Unites Airlines for your next plane journey? Here are the details you need to know before you get started with your packing!

United Airlines Carry-on Baggage Rules

According to United Airlines’ baggage policy, all United Airlines passengers can take one personal item. In addition, all passengers can also take a standard carry-on bag except those traveling on a basic economy ticket. However, on some flights, even basic economy customers can have one carry-on bag.

This applies on transatlantic flights to or from the United States, Central America, Mexico, Panama, El Salvador, and South America and transpacific flights flying into or out of the United States.

If you are flying with basic economy tickets and wish to take a carry-on bag, you will have to check your bag with the applicable baggage fees and an additional $25 fee as gate handling charges. This is waived off in case you are a MileagePlus Premier member, Star Alliance god member, or MileagePlus credit cardmember.

Another exceptional case when your carry-on bag may not be allowed is when you are traveling on a smaller aircraft. For example, regional airlines that partner with United Airlines under the name United Express may not have enough space in the overhead bin. Therefore, you must check if your suitcase fits in it.

Among all the United Express flights, Air Wisconsin and CommutAir allow their passengers to carry only a personal item for this reason. Anything else will be added to the cargo compartment. Gojet Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Republic Airways, and SkyWest allow a personal item and a carry-on bag.

Weight and Size restrictions

United Airlines baggage policy states that your personal item must be of dimensions no bigger than 17 x 10 x 9 inches and must fit under the seat in front of you on the flight. (source united.com)

Carry-on bags can measure up to 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Note that these measurements include wheels and handles.

(source united.com)

What can your personal item be?

Your personal item can be a purse, shoulder bag, or laptop bag. In addition to this and your carry-on bag, you can bring a jacket, an umbrella, or food purchased at the airport. You can also carry a diaper bag, a breast pump, a camera, or a safety seat approved by the FAA.

Since your personal item is the only thing you can carry for free on a basic economy ticket, ensure that you pack all your essentials in it.

Musical Instruments

You can take some musical instruments like a violin, a guitar, or any small instrument in a hard case, as carry-on baggage. Placing it in the overhead space will make it count as your carry-on bag. If you keep it on your lap, it will count as your personal item.

Assistive Devices

You can also bring any assistive devices like collapsible wheelchairs, portable oxygen concentrators, walking sticks, or devices for prescribed medications free of charge.

Inside your carry-on bag

United Airlines ensures that the Transportation Security Administration guidelines are adhered to.


You must carry laptops in checkpoint-friendly bags. This means that there should be a laptop-only section with no pockets inside or outside it, and the section should completely unfold to lie flat for screening on the X-ray belt. The laptop-only section of the laptop bag should also not have any buckles, zippers, or metal snaps on top of or underneath it. You should place nothing in it but the laptop itself.

Tablets, handheld game consoles, e-readers, and other electronic devices larger than a cell phone will have to be taken out from your carry on bag for X-ray screening too.

Lithium batteries can be taken in your carry on bag as long as they are under 100 Watt-hours of energy.

Sharp items

Knives are usually not permitted. Pocket knives, retractable or foldable blades, box cutters, scissors with pointed tips, and razors cannot go in your carry on bags. Your carry on bag can only contain plastic or round-bladed butter knives.

Aerosols, liquids, and gels

There are special restrictions on transporting aerosol items, gels, and other liquids in carry on bags. Any liquid toiletries you take with you into the cabin should be under 3.4 ounces in quantity and fit in a clear, sealable bag. You may have to remove the bag from your carry-on bag for inspection. Each passenger is allowed only one such plastic bag. This is known as the 3-1-1 rule.

(source tsa.gov)

If you need to carry these items in higher quantities, they must go into your checked bags.

However, you are now allowed to take upto 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in your carry on bag. This will definitely need additional screening since it will be in a bigger container than the usual 3.4 ounces.

Also, items like baby food, breast milk, packaged milk, juice, and medications might be allowed in quantities over 3.4 ounces. Still, they will have to be declared to the security officials for screening.

You are allowed to carry toiletries or beverages that you purchase beyond the checkpoint at the airport. You must, however, remember that if you were to go through another security checkpoint at a stopover, you might have to throw those items away.

If you are flying internationally into the United States and are connecting to another airplane, you can carry liquids over 3.4 ounces, provided you purchased them in a duty-free store. You should have made the purchase less than 48 hours before the screening, and you will need to show a receipt to prove the same. Ensure that the product is put in a secure and tamper-evident bag and is screened and cleared by security officers. Sometimes, they may not be able to screen liquids in ceramic, opaque, or metallic bottles. In such cases, you will have to move them into your checked baggage or dispose of them.

The country you are traveling to may have additional restrictions on gels, liquids, and aerosols. In addition, you might want to check out the website of your departure airport to avoid any last-minute troubles at the checkpoint.

Powder-based items

It is best to put any power-like items in your checked baggage. If you are traveling to any place in the United States, you cannot carry power-based substances in quantities more than 12 fluid ounces into the flight cabin with you. However, things like baby formula, duty-free powders, and human remains are allowed in tamper-evident bags.

Cabin seat baggage

Items that are too sensitive or fragile to be passed as checked baggage can be considered cabin-seat baggage. They can be some musical instruments, artifacts, media cameras, garment bags, et cetera.

After being approved by a United agent, you can purchase a ticket for such an item. It can then travel with you, on a seat in the cabin. The item must weigh under 75 kilograms and be packaged safely. It should be secured by the seat belt and should not obstruct the view of any signboards like ‘no smoking’, ‘seatbelt’, or ‘exit’ on the flight. It should also not restrict the ability of passengers to reach the cabin’s aisle side of the emergency exit.

You can discuss the charges applicable for the item with the agent only.

United Airlines Checked baggage rules

Let’s look at the policies and applicable baggage fees for checked bags in United Airlines.

Weight and Size restrictions

The checked baggage rules in United Airlines baggage policy state that the linear dimension, the sum of length, height, and width of your bag, including wheels and handles, must not exceed 62 inches.

The weight limitation on your checked bags depends on your MileagePlus status or the class you purchase your ticket in. For example, if you are traveling in United Economy, your checked bag can weigh 50 pounds or 23 kilograms at most. United Business, United First, and United Polaris business class customers can have their checked bags weigh upto 70 pounds or 32 kilograms.

Those with a MileagePlus status of Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K, Star Alliance, or Gold can also check bags of upto 70 pounds.

If the weight and size limits are not the same with respect to your class of service and MileagePlus status, the larger limit will apply.

United Airlines Checked Baggage fees

The first two checked bags are free for Premium Plus, Business class, and First class customers. Economy customers traveling between the United States and Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South America also get two free checked bags.

There are exceptions to this, as in some cases, checked baggage service charges may apply even for the first two checked bags. For instance, Basic Economy customers need to pay $60 for their first checked bag if they fly to or from Europe, India, or the Middle East. Flights to or from Colombia, Guatemala, and El Salvador charge $100 on their second checked bag. Flights to or from New Zealand also charge a fee of $100 to check your second bag. If you are flying to Ecuador, you will have to pay $40 for their second checked bag.

Economy customers traveling domestically or to Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico will have to pay $30 to check their first checked bag. The second check bag will incur a fee of $50 for flights going to Mexico and $40 for flights traveling within the U.S. or to Canada, the Caribbean, or Central America. However, if you are flying between U.S. and Cuba, you will have to pay $100 to check your second bag.

Excess baggage

United Airlines allows you to check two bags with minimal or no baggage fee, depending on your travel route. Additional bags will incur an excess baggage fee.

Third checked bag onwards, you will need to pay $500 per bag if you are flying to or from Cuba. Flights to and from all other parts of the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Canada, and domestic flights will charge $150 for every bag checked after your first two. However, in Central America, Guatemala and El Salvador will need a fee of $300 and $500 respectively for every additional bag.

If you are flying to or from Mexico, your excess baggage fee will be $180 per bag. On flights to or from Europe, India, Middle East, East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, excess baggage will incur a fee of $200 for every additional bag.

Overweight baggage

According to the United Airlines baggage policies, if you are flying inside the U.S. or to Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Panama, or Brazil, a $100 overweight fee is to be paid for checked bags weighing above 51 and under 70 pounds. This overweight fee will be collected along with the applicable checked bag fee. Guatemala and El Salvador would charge you $250 and $300 for the same.

The overweight fee in the same weight category would be $400 for flights to or from Cuba and $200 for flights to or from the rest of the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.

For bags heavier than 70 pounds, you need to pay a $200 overweight fee on domestic flights and flights to Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Panama, or Brazil. On flights to Cuba, the same costs you $600. However, in El Salvador and Guatemala, you will need to pay $500 and $450 respectively on these checked bags.

Flights to the rest of the Caribbean, Central America, South America will cost you $400 extra charge per bag in the same weight category. You will be charged the same on flights to or from Europe, India, Middle East, Africa, East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

United Airlines’ baggage policy states that bags weighing over 100 pounds will not be accepted as checked baggage. However, if you are carrying musical instruments or assistive devices, this rule can be exempted. All assistive devices will be allowed, as checked bags and musical instruments have a weight limit of 165 pounds.

Oversized baggage

Checked baggage with linear dimensions between 63 and 115 inches will incur an oversized baggage fee of $200 to $400. The fee is strictly $200 for domestic flights and flights to or from Canada, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Brazil, Europe, India, Middle East, Africa, East Asia, Australia, New Zealand. Oversized baggage on flights to Cuba will incur an additional fee of $400.

Flights to and from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, Panama, and South America can cost you anywhere between $200 and $400 to check in oversized bags, depending on the airport you board your flight at.

Bags that measure more than 115 inches or 292 centimeters in terms of linear dimension will not be accepted as checked bags.

Inside your checked bags


Your checked baggage cannot contain most lighters, including arc lighters, plasma lighters, and electronic ones. A maximum of two fueled lighters is allowed inside your checked bags if enclosed in case approved by the Department of Transportation. Cigars and cigarettes, however, can be taken.

Propane, butane, or any item fueled by it is not allowed. Bang snaps, blasting caps, and carbon dioxide cartridges are also not permitted.

Dynamite, English Christmas Crackers, Fire extinguishers, and other compressed cylinders cannot go into your checked baggage. Likewise, firecrackers, fireworks, aerosol paint, flammable paints, gels, or liquids cannot either. Needless to say, gas torches, gasoline, and liquid fuels that can catch fire, such as cooking fuel, are also not allowed.

Realistic replicas of items like incendiaries and explosives will not be entertained. In addition, oxygen containers that are not medically required will not be allowed.

Your checked bags cannot have any kind of match. However, one book of ‘non-strike anywhere’ type matches can be taken in your carry on.

Self-defense sprays can go into your checked bags, provided they have less than 2% of tear gas by mass. Pepper spray or mace spray is allowed in containers of upto 118 milliliters. These containers must have a safety mechanism to avoid any unintended leakage.

Rainbow flame crystals can go into your checked baggage. However, there will most probably be met with extensive screening, so you might want to skip it if you do not have the time. Also, if the TSA officer, for any reason whatsoever, deems an item unsafe, you would have no choice but to discard it.

Lithium battery-powered lighters cannot go into your checked bag. However, you can take them in your carry on bag if need be. Note that your checked bag cannot be a smart bag without a removable battery if you are traveling on a United or United Express flight.

On the other hand, Gel-type candles can be taken in your checked bags, even if they’re not allowed in your carry on bag. Solid candles are permitted in both carry on and checked baggage.

Do not carry party poppers, sparklers, spray paint, torch lighters, vehicle airbags, or chlorine for spas and pools.

Power banks that have a lithium-ion battery cannot be in your checked bag. Pack it in your carry on instead.

If you wish to carry Lithium batteries under 100 Watt-hours, you have to carry them in a device. They cannot be lying in your checked bag loose. If the batteries have more than 100 Watt-hours of energy, they are not allowed in checked baggage. However, you might need to take loose batteries with you. In that case, you can carry one spare battery under 300 Watt-hours or two spare batteries of under 160 Watt-hours each into the cabin with you.

Non-spillable wet batteries that exceed 12V and 100 Watt-hours, which are not allowed in the cabin, can go into your checked baggage.


Any firearms that you keep in your checked bags, like starter pistols, rifles, and so on, should be unloaded and should be packed in a hard and secure container. The same must be declared at check-in. According to United Airlines baggage policy, upto 11 pounds of ammunition may be carried. However, it should be in the manufacturer’s original packaging. Ensure that you find out about the rules pertaining to possession of firearms in the place you are traveling to.

Flare guns, flares, gun lighters, and gun powder are not allowed in your checked baggage. You cannot carry rocket launchers on the flight

Cap guns and holsters can be carried in your checked baggage, but compressed air guns are only allowed if the compressed air cylinder is not attached.

You can carry realistic replicas of firearms in your checked baggage.


Alcoholic beverages with less than 70% alcohol concentration are allowed upto 5 liters, and you can take those with upto 24% alcohol in any quantities. Alcoholic beverages with over 70% alcohol are strictly not allowed.

You can take baby food, baby formula, protein or energy powder, bottled water, bread, breast milk, candy, cereal, juices, and canned foods. Creamy and solid cheese, coffee, chocolate, cookies, and crackers are also allowed. Fresh seafood and meat, both fresh and cooked, can go in your checked bags but without any liquid.

Creamy dips, spreads, dry fruits, fresh eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, and frozen food are allowed. In fact, all solid foods are allowed. You can carry pizzas, sandwiches, gravy, hummus, or a live lobster too. However, the lobster will be inspected by a TSA officer.

Salt, honey, maple syrup, salad dressing, salsa, sauces, ice cream, jam, jelly, peanut butter, gum, pies, cakes, snack bars, nuts, oils, vinegar, and gel ice packs can go into your checked bags. Dry spices, soda, soups, dry tea bags, or loose tease leaves are also permitted.

You checked bags can contain pet food too, both in liquid and solid form.

Sports equipment and Camping

You cannot take bear bangers, bear spray, and small compressed gas cartridges. All other sports and camping equipment can be taken as checked baggage.

Parachutes must not have Automatic Activation devices. In addition, you must be present when a TSA officer needs to inspect your parachute.

Medical necessities

You can put most medical necessities like eye drops, sugar test kits, crutches, and so on in your checked bags. However, any medical devices containing radioactive material in any form, whether externally fitted or ingested, cannot be taken as checked baggage.

Personal oxygen also cannot go into your check bags. You can take it into the cabin instead.

Special allowances

United Airlines gives special benefits to Active U.S. military personnel as well as their dependents. If military personnel is traveling for personal reasons, they can check upto 3 bags weighing less than 70 pounds and of linear dimension 62 inches for free. Their dependents, if traveling on orders, can check upto 2 bags.

If military personnel is traveling for any official purpose, they can check upto 5 bags weighing 100 pounds and measuring 115 inches in linear dimensions, free of cost.

In-cabin pets

You can take your pet with you, as long as your pet is in a travel carrier that fits under the passenger seat. You have to pay $125 as service charges for the same. If it’s a domestic four-hour stopover flight, you may have to pay an additional $125. In the case of international flights, a stopover of 24 hours needs you to pay the same fee.

Also, if you want to bring two pets, an extra ticket has to be purchased. A $125 service charge applies too.

Your pet must always travel on the same flight as you. If you are an unaccompanied minor, you cannot take pets with you.

Domestic flights allow dogs and cats that are older than eight weeks. However, international flights require your pets to be vaccinated and need them to be at least 16 weeks old.

Cats and dogs that do not fit in kennels can travel through the “PetSafe” program, which ensures that your pet boards your plane just before taking off and travels in a climate-controlled and pressurized environment. They will also be unloaded immediately after landing and handed over to you. You must make reservations for PetSafe five to thirty days before the date of travel.

Note that in case of emergency, pets will not be given any oxygen service.

4 thoughts on “United Carry On Size, Weight, Fees & Limit Guide [2021]”

  1. You dont actually list any weight restrictions for carry on luggage even though your heading
    indicates that the information is there. What is the weight max for a carry on bag?????

    You only list weight for checked bags.

    • For united there is no weight restrictions on carry on luggage. Only on checked luggage. I’m sure if you pack it full of literal rocks, they’ll make you check it. But official policy involves no weight limit.

  2. I am thoroughly disgusted with this new pet policy for public transportation. PETS should never be allowed in cabins of any public/commercial flights! Once I find out how this came into being in recent years, I will be addressing this debacle with letters/petitions to politicians and all airlines, including rails, buses, and supermarkets. Ugh – we never saw this in our youth and it not a direction our society should be doing!


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