United Carry-on Size & Luggage Allowance in 2024 - An Overview

 The clock is ticking down to the day of your holiday, but you’re still in the dark about United Airlines 2024 carry-on size and luggage allowance. Here’s a comprehensive and updated guide on United Airlines' baggage policy for you.

There are too many questions that can arise from just the words “packing for flying” alone. What is not allowed in a carry-on? How much extra is oversized luggage? Should I check my bags or carry them on? How strict are baggage limits? And so on.

This makes this process a headache for some. But if you spend a bit of time going over your airline luggage guide, it shouldn’t be a problem at all. In fact, it’s going to be just as easy as zipping your suitcase.

In this United Airlines 2024 carry-on size and luggage allowance guide, we will answer all your questions about how to become a pro in handling your luggage when flying with United Airlines.

United Carry-on Size - Your Key To Hassle-Free Travel

united carry-on size - cabinzero
United Airlines Carry-on size and luggage allowance guide to smoothen your travel. Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

United carry-on bag policy allows each passenger to bring one (01) carry-on bag and one (01) extra personal item on the plane for free.

  • Carry-on: must fit in the overhead compartment | 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 35 x 22 cm) - wheels and handles included. 
  • Personal item: must fit under the seat in front of you | 17 x 10 x 9 inches (43 x 25 x 22 cm).

For most passengers, the standard weight limit for a carry-on bag is 50 pounds (22,7 kilograms). However, this weight limit varies depending on your ticket type. 

What Extra Items Can You Bring On Board?

Along with your carry-on bag and a personal item, you can bring these items without extra charges: 

  • Jacket or coat
  • Umbrella
  • Things to read
  • Food and drinks bought at the airport
  • Mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, canes and crutches.
  • Child stroller
  • A car seat
  • Safety harness for children
  • A diaper bag
  • Camera.

Is United Strict With Carry-On Size?

All airlines demand passengers to strictly follow their baggage policy. Some people think this is the airline’s way to make you pay extra on top of your ticket, but in reality, it helps keep you safe while flying and ensures that you don’t take up other passengers’ space unfairly. 

United Airlines tickets have a variety of baggage allowance options. If you’re travelling with more stuff than average, you can consider upgrading your ticket or checking your bags. That way, you don’t have to worry about United carry-on size requirements anymore.

Does the Basic Economy Allow A Free Carry-On?

Basic Economy, as its name suggests, is pretty basic in terms of what you can bring on the plane. For domestic flights, no carry-ons are allowed. You’re only allowed one free personal item in that case. This means that any baggage you have with you except for your personal items will have to be checked and charged as such. 

Do I Have To Pay For Overweight And Oversized Carry-On United Airlines

united carry-on size - cabinzero

Travel light, travel right. IG: @ineescosta

Overweight and oversized carry-ons are always subject to extra fees. This is to ensure all space on the aircraft, including the overhead compartment, is fairly occupied by all passengers. If you exceed the United carry-on size and weight limits:

  • An overweight bag is a bag that exceeds 50 pounds (22,7 kilograms). 
  • An oversized bag is a bag that measures more than 17 x 10 x 19 inches (43 x 25 x 22 cm). 

Depending on how overweight and oversized your carry-on is, the extra charge can reach 200 dollars (162 pounds). If your carry-on is both overweight and oversized, the fee might add up. 

Some destinations and special aircraft models also have special instructions for overweight and oversized carry-ons. It’s best to check with United regarding United carry-on size before travelling. 

However, keep in mind that not all overweight and oversized carry-ons are approved or flying, even if you have the money to pay. Bags that weigh more than 100 pounds (45 kilograms) and are larger than 115 inches will not be accepted. 

This is a way to guarantee safety for both you and other passengers during the flight. The exceptions to this policy include musical instruments or assistive devices. United Airlines can take them on board for free.

What My Cabin Bag Is 2cm Bigger?

If your cabin bag is 2cm bigger than the United carry-on size restrictions, it may or may not be allowed on board. The decision of whether or not to allow your bag on board will be made by the gate agent at the time of boarding.

If your bag is only slightly over the size limit, say .5 inches too big, the gate agent may be more likely to allow it on board. However, if your bag is significantly over the size limit/too bulky and obvious, it is more likely to be checked. Thus, the key here is choosing a “squishable” carry-on or personal item.

What Not To Pack In Your United Carry-On?

Carry-on is more restrictive in terms of items you can pack, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to inconvenience you. Apart from items that are completely banned when flying, there are items you cannot bring in your carry-on but can be in your checked bags. According to United Airlines’ guidelines, these include:

  • Liquids exceeding 3,4 ounces (100 millimetres)
  • Sharp objects like knives and scissors with blades longer than 4 inches
  • Bulky sports equipment like baseball bats, golf clubs or ski poles
  • Tools like hammers and wrenches longer than 7 inches can be used as potential weapons.

Does A Backpack Count As A Carry-On On United Flights?

united carry-on size - cabinzero

Backpacks make perfect carry-ons. 

Your backpack can be a carry-on as long as it does not exceed the weight and dimension limit. Your backpack can be a carry-on or a personal item if it fits the United carry-on and personal bag description. Besides a good backpack for your essentials, here are some types of bags you can bring on a plane as a personal item:

  • Purse or similar small handbag
  • Briefcase
  • Laptop bag/pouch
  • Camera bag
  • Pet carrier (needs to be approved beforehand).

CabinZero’s advice: We suggest flying with a backpack that is spacious enough for your personal items as well. Doing this can save you some time at security checkpoints. Also, if your things are packed in one single big backpack, your chances of forgetting or dropping small items like your purse are lower, especially if you’re in a crowded airport.

CabinZero Backpack

Dimensions (H x W x D) in inches

Fits as United Personal Item (17 x 10 x 9)

Fits as United Carry-On (22 x 14 x 9)



15.4 x 11.6 x7.9


16.9 x 11.8 x 5.9


15.4 x 11.6 x 7.9


18.1 x 12.2 x 7.9

🟨 (may fit if you pack light and squish it down)


18.1 x 12.2 x 7.9

🟨 (may fit if you pack light and squish it down)


18.1 x 12.2 x 7.1

🟨 (may fit if you pack light and squish it down)


18.1 x 12.2 x 7.1

🟨 (may fit if you pack light and squish it down)


17.7 x 12.2 x 7.9

🟨 (may fit if you pack light and squish it down)


18.1 x 13 x 6.3

🟨 (may fit if you pack light and squish it down)


21.7 x 13.8 x 7.9


20.1 x 14.6 x 7.9


21.3 x 13.8 x 7.9


21.3 x 13.8 x 7.9


21.7 x 13.8 x 7.9


20.5 x 14.2 x 7.5

United Airlines Checked Bag Allowance and Fees - Tips To Save Your Money

united carry-on size - cabinzero

Your checked bags must follow the size and weight limits. Photo by Charnchai saeheng - stock.adobe.com

  • The dimensions of your checked bag should not be larger than 30 x 20 x 12 inches (76 x 52 x 30 cm), including wheels and handles.

United Airlines checked baggage weight, which varies depending on flight ticket, destination, and membership status. Here’s a simple breakdown of the checked bag limit in terms of cabin and membership status:


Weight limit per bag

United Economy

50 pounds (23 kilograms)

Economy Plus

50 pounds (23 kilograms)

United Business

70 pounds (32 kilograms)

United First

70 pounds (32 kilograms)

United Polaris

70 pounds (32 kilograms)

How Much Do I Have To Pay For United Checked Bags?

United Airlines checked bag fees depend on where you’re travelling (international or domestic) and which cabin class you’re in. The general note is that the lower the fare, the more (likely) you will have to pay for your baggage due to restricted United carry-on and hold bag allowances.

For Domestic Flights

The standard checked bag fees (with the exception of first class, business class and premium economy flyers) for domestic flights of United Airlines are: 

  • 35 US dollars for the first bag
  • 45 US dollars for the second bag
  • 150 US dollars per bag after that

United Airlines allows passengers to prepay their checked luggage ahead of their travel day, so if you’re thinking of travelling with checked bags, consider paying in advance to get a bit of money back. 

For International Flights

Checked bag fees for international flights depend largely on your cabin and your destination.

Flights to/from Europe, Africa, South America and Asia

Flights to/from Canada, Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico

Economy Class

First bag free

100 dollars for the second

And 200 dollars for each additional bag

30 dollars for the first bag

40 dollars for the second

And 150 dollars for each additional bag

Business Class

2 free bags 

2 free bags 

First Class

3 bags free

3 bags free

Does United Allow Two Free Checked Bags?

Generally, you’re allowed two (02) free checked bags if you’re travelling in a business cabin and three (03) free checked bags for First Class and up. If you’re flying with an economy fare, you will need to pay a fee for your checked luggage.

Basic Economy fare allows zero (0) checked bags and zero (0) carry-on, except on international flights across the Pacific. 

For MileagePlus Premier and Star Alliance Gold members, you’re allowed one (01) checked bag flying economy fare and two (02) checked bags for business fare.

How Can I Check My Bags With United Airlines?

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There are many ways to check your bags with United Airlines. Photo by brostock on Adobe Stock.

You can check your bags at the United Airlines check-in counter at the airport. Remember to be on time for this part, as you will not be able to check your bags if your counter is closed.

Your bags will be weighed and measured. If it’s oversized and overweight, you will be asked to pay the fee. You will receive your claim check, and you will have to keep it to reclaim your bags later. 

How To Avoid Checked Bag Fees With United Airlines

Travelling on a budget needs a bit of strategy. One of the best ways you can lower the cost of your trip is to avoid additional fees for your luggage as much as possible.

Though it seems like a good deal to snatch a Basic Economy fare, which is the cheapest there is for United Airlines, it can still be a two-edged sword if you don’t know how to pack or are not sure about your destination. 

  • Know your fare: the first tip is to know the United carry-on size and allowances. As you can see, United charges different rates for different international routes.
  • Travel with only carry-ons: this second tip is also the best tip, Except for Basic Economy, all fares of United Airlines allow one free carry-on and personal item. If you do it right, you can avoid all sorts of fee and hassle.
  • Pack your bags to comply with United Airlines baggage allowance: this third tip is obvious but tends to be overlooked often. Avoid overweight and oversized bags so you don’t incur any fees. By learning how to pack smartly and efficiently, you can take advantage of this and travel free of baggage charge.
  • Use United Airlines co-branded cards: Some cards allow free baggage for the cardholder and even their companion, and some have money-back programs for checked bags. 
  • Join the United MileagePlus program: if you’re a frequent United flyer, consider becoming a member to receive checked-bag benefits. 
  • Share your stuff with your travel buddies: if one or two of you are packing lighter, you can share the weight with one another.
  • Buy a higher fare: the last tip is not always doable with travellers on a budget. But sometimes you can score the higher tiers for less if you know how to do it.

CabinZero’s advice: We advise our globetrotters to opt for a carry-on-only trip. This is the safest and quickest way to avoid getting charged extra for your baggage. Invest in a spacious, cabin-size and hassle-free carry-on bag, and you’re pretty much good to go. 

How To Book Ticket And Check-In With United Airlines

You can book a United Airlines ticket online, offline or through phone. The best way is to do it online because it’s faster and more convenient. There are many class fares to choose from. More affordable tickets, like Basic Economy and Economy, are sold out quite fast, especially during peak travel season.

Where To Buy Ticket

Tickets for United Airlines are available for booking on their official booking site. You can either pay with mileage or money. There are roundtrip tickets, one-way tickets and multi-city tickets. United also provides flight-only booking alongside flight and hotel reservations. 

Just log into their booking site, choose the best flight plan for your trip, and voila, there is your ticket. You can download your boarding pass to your phone. For groups of nine and above, you’ll need to contact the United hotline at 1-800-UNITED-1 (1-800-864-8331), which is available within the US and Canada.

Another way to grab your tickets is by phone. Contact United’s Customer Contact Centre and pick your location. Online ticketing is free of service charge, but phone ticketing will cost you 25 USD in the US and Canada. The cost doubles if you purchase tickets at the airport.

One other way to get your flight tickets is through a City Ticket Office, for a 10 USD service fee. Depending on your location, service fees may vary.

United Check-In Process

united carry-on size - cabinzero

United Airlines offers several convenient ways to check in for your flight. Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

There aren’t that many differences between domestic check-in and international check-in. Both processes are pretty comprehensive and quite linear, even for first-time fliers. However, there are still certain points you should take into consideration for cheaper, faster and more hassle-free travel.

For domestic check-in

Check-in time

At least 30 minutes before departure time for automated check-in and at least 45 minutes before departure for counter check-in

Check-in method

This can be done online, at United counters, and self-serve kiosks

TSA precheck can be applied

Documents needed

Valid government photo ID, like driver’s license or passport

For international check-in

Check-in time

At least 60 minutes before departure time for automated check-in, and no less than 60 minutes before departure for counter check-in

Check-in method

Can be done online, at United counters, and at self-serve kiosks

Global Entry can be applied.

Documents needed

Valid passport, visas (if required), and travel permit (if required) 

Check-In Type

Online check-in: To speed things up and avoid long queues at the airport, you can check in online through the United check-in website or mobile app. Online check-in usually opens 24 hours before departure time. You can print your boarding pass and pre-pay your baggage fees.

Counter check-in: Face-to-face check-in is easier if you’re not tech-savvy but can be a nuisance if it’s peak tourist season when the airport is crowded in every corner. Airline staff will assist you in getting your boarding pass and baggage handling.

Self-serve kiosk check-in: It’s pretty much like counter check-in, but you’re going to proceed at a kiosk instead of at the counter with an airline staff. It’s perfect for those who don’t like online check-in but still want to keep things contactless.

Premier Access check-in: Premier Members, United Club Members, and premium cabin travellers are allowed priority access to counters, security lines and boarding.

FAQs - United Airlines Carry-on Size and Checked Bag Allowance

united carry-on size - cabinzero

Carry-on should fit in the overhead compartment. Credit: BERT SMITH

Here are some other questions you may have about the United carry-on size and checked bag allowance.

1. Can I Bring A Full-Size Carry-On United Economy?

You’re allowed ONE FULL-SIZE carry-on (not exceeding 22 x 14 x 9 inches in dimension) on United Economy. Additionally, you are allowed ONE EXTRA personal item, such as a laptop pouch, purse, or a small backpack. 

2. Can I Take a 22.5-inch Carry-On Bag?

Yes, United Airlines allows one full-size carry-on bag and one extra personal item on most flights. However, carry-on bags must not exceed 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 35 x 22 cm). Oversized bags have to be checked in.

3. Can I Bring Two Carry-On Bags United?

The maximum number of carry-ons is one per person, with the addition of one extra personal item. If you upgrade your seat, the difference is in the size and weight, not the quantity of bags. You can read more about United carry-on size restrictions in the previous section.

If you’re carrying more stuff than usual, you can check your bags or upgrade to receive more weight and size allowance and fit your stuff in one single carry-on bag.

4. When Do I Have To Check My Carry-On?

When it is overweight and oversized to the point that it cannot fit in the overhead compartment, your bag will be required to check-in, charged and handled as a regular checked bag.

One scenario where you can check your carry-on (as long as they comply with the United carry-on size limit) free of charge is when the aircraft is fully booked and out of space. Of course, it’s not your fault, so they can’t charge you. 

This is often carried out at your boarding gate, and you can pick up your bag when you leave the plane without going through baggage claim.

5. Do I Have To Recheck My Bags In A Layover?

Yes. United Airlines keeps bags on the same plane as the travellers. If you switch planes, you have to claim and then recheck your bags. For most connecting flights, you only have to reclaim your bag at the last stop. This can be a nuisance for those who are in a hurry, so it’s best if you’re travelling with carry-ons only. 



Get a hold of the United carry-on size rule? Now, just grab your bags and go.

United Airlines Carry-on Size and Checked Bag Allowance - In Summary

United’s carry-on size and checked bag allowance are easy to follow and flexible as the airline offers multiple fares. Most fares, except for Basic Economy, are quite generous in terms of allowance. 

One carry-on and one personal item are the standard carry-on allowance. Checked bag allowances differ depending on your cabin and fares, but the higher the fares, the more bags you’re allowed. Destinations also determine the number of your checked bags.

CabinZero’s advice is to optimise your packing game and switch to carry-on-only trips if you can. This can save you time and money. 

Last but not least, if you find this article helpful, don’t forget to hit the like and share buttons. We love to hear your stories and cheer for your journeys, so please leave a comment or tag us on social media on your next holiday. 

Nguyen Tran Gia Khanh

1 comment

  • Marianne Cloonan

    What you wrote may be all true. The problem is that the flight attendants do NOT enforce the policies of the airlines. I travel frequently and time and time again passengers are allowed to board with huge pieces that take up much space and also carry more than one carry on. I have stopped stressing about finding space for a carry on because I now only carry my purse. My luggage is checked.

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