United Carry On Bag Size Limit

In early March United Airlines began cracking down on passengers attempting to carry on bags that exceeded the bag size limit. In some cases the airline required passengers to go back to the ticket counter in order to check their baggage and pay the $25 bag fee. Before we dig further into this new development, let’s take a look at United’s baggage policy:

United Airlines Carry On Bag Size

  • You are allowed to carry on one bag that fits in the overhead compartment. The bag cannot exceed 22” in length, 14” in width, and 9” in depth (22” x 14” x 9”)
  • You are allowed to also bring on a personal item that fits under the seat in front of you. The personal item must not exceed 17” in length, 10” in width, and 9” in depth (17” x 10” x 9”)

united carry on bag size

What Is United Doing to Enforce The Carry On Policy?

United has implemented several tactics to catch passengers who are not complying with their carry on bag policy. Here are some of the enforcement tactics they have deployed:

  • Instructing works near security to eyeball passengers who have bags that are too large
  • Implemented new bag-sizing boxes at airports to verify carry on bag size
  • Sent an email to ┬ácustomers reminding them of the carry on rules
  • Sent out an internal memo to employees calling the effort a “renewed focus on carry-on compliance”

What Does United’s Bag Size Policy Mean For You?

Clearly United is not messing around. If you are caught attempting to carry on a bag that exceeds the size limits, then you will likely either have to gate check the bag (if you are lucky), which does not incur a fee, or you will have to return to the ticket counter to check your bag and pay the $25 bag fee (worst case scenario). Obviously having to go back out of security to check a bag is not only a huge inconvenience, but you will also run the risk of missing your flight!

If you are flying on United, the best approach to avoid paying bag fees is to sign up for the United Explorer Card. The card has a $95 annual fee (waived for the first year), but it allows you a free first checked bag. That benefit alone will help offset the high annual fee on this card. Just remember that you must charge your ticket to the Explorer Card in order to receive the free checked bag benefit. The card does also come with some other valuable benefits like earning 1 mile per dollar spent, 2 free United Club passes per year, priority boarding, and no foreign transaction fees. Overall its a good card that I consider with the $95/year annual fee.

If you do not have the United Explorer Card, then you need to plan ahead and make sure that your carry on does not exceed United’s carry on bag size limit.

Remember that active U.S. military personnel and their dependents can check up to 3 bags even if they are not traveling on official business. I’m sure that most United employees are not aware of this policy, so I would advise you to print out a copy of the webpage if you plan to avoid paying bag fees at the airport under this policy.

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