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All You Need To Know About United Airlines Carry-On Bag Sizes, Rules And Restrictions

Going on a holiday or business trip? If you plan to bring a carry-on bag and personal items with you on a United Airlines flight, make sure you know the rules and restrictions ahead of time so you can plan accordingly. Travellers often experience a lot of problems at the airport, such as having to wait in the check-in queue or in security lines for longer, especially if you do not have a TSA Precheck, or even having to sit in tiny cramped economy seats. let’s know United Airlines Carry-On Bag Sizes, Rules And Restrictions.

In this guide, we are going to provide you an insight on how you can avoid some of these problems when flying on a United Airlines flight with your carry-on bags and personal items.

United Airlines Carry-On Bag Sizes, Rules And Restrictions

If you are flying with United for the first time, it is important to know that there are certain restrictions and rules issued by the airline company with regard to carry-on bags and personal items allowed in the flight. Thus, such carry-on bags and personal items are required to meet the standards set by United Airlines. You may bring one of each with you when flying with United (excluding Basic Economy on a non-Transatlantic flight), however, the requirements for each may differ.

Given below are the standard sizes for carry-on bags and personal items that are allowed on the United flight.

(a) Standard Dimensions for Carry-on Bags

Now, as per the rules set by United, the standard dimensions for carry-on bags allowed on the flight are 9 inches X 14 inches X 22 inches (22 cm X 35 cm X 56 cm).

The set dimensions also include wheels and handles of baggage. So, make sure you include those in your carry-on bag’s measurements to avoid any kind of trouble when boarding your flight. However, if your carry-on bag does not meet the dimension requirements, you could be compelled to check your bag and end up paying United’s standard checked baggage fee. Unlike checked baggage, carry-on bags do not necessarily have to meet certain weight requirements to avoid having to pay an additional fee.

(b) Standard Dimensions for Personal Items

Personal items generally include laptop bag, backpack, ladies purse/hand-bag etc. Such items should be small and which can easily be placed under the seat. Now, the recommended standard dimensions for such personal items are 9 inches X 10 inches X 17 inches (22 cm X 25 cm X 43 cm).

Similar to carry-on bags, personal items do not necessarily have to meet weight requirements.

(c) Other Items Allowed on United’s Flight

In addition to bringing along carry-on bags and personal items, United allows its passengers to also bring along few other items on board. These items include the following:

  • Assistive devices (cane, crutches, etc.)
  • FAA-approved child restraint system or safety seat
  • Food bought at the airport
  • Duty Free items bought at the airport
  • Reading material
  • Jacket
  • Umbrella
  • Diaper bag
  • Breast pump
  • Pet carrier (service charges are applicable)
  • Musical instruments (such as guitars, violins and other small instruments) are permitted on board, if the instrument is packed in a hard case and space is available in an overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.

If you choose to bring a musical instrument with you, it will count as part of your carry-on allowance, so keep that in mind when you are packing.

What Items in Carry-on Bags are Permitted on Flight?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has set certain restrictions on items that passengers are allowed to bring in their carry-on bags. These items include liquids, gels and aerosols which can be packed in carry-on bags, provided they are stored in containers that are no bigger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml).

United Express flights are usually operated by several regional airline partners that mainly use aircraft that are smaller in size in comparison to mainline aircraft which are operated by United. As such, the overhead compartments in these small aircraft have less space than on mainline aircraft of United Airlines.

Thus, if you are carrying roller bags and large-sized carry-on bags, then you may have difficulties as such baggage cannot easily fit in the overhead bins. When you are in such a situation, you may be required to have your baggage checked at the gate before boarding. Once your bags are checked at the gate, they will not be sent to the baggage claim area when exiting the airport. Instead, they will be brought to you right outside the aircraft, often in the jet bridge.

However, if you are forced to gate check your carry-on bag, any personal vaporizers and e-cigarettes you carry must be taken out and stored in your personal items when boarding your flight. Also, in this case, you will not incur any fees to gate check your carry-on bag.

Carry-on Bag Rules on United’s Basic Economy

United Airlines introduced its basic economy fares to compete with other low-cost airline carriers, for example, Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines. Thus, at the time of the booking process, you can pay extra for an economy ticket that also comes with a few additional benefits.

However, one downside of this is if you choose to keep your basic economy ticket, you will not be allowed to bring a carry-on bag on board at all, unless you are flying on a Transatlantic route. You will still have the option to bring a personal item with you that can be stored under the seat in front of you, but that is all. If you go to the gate with a carry-on bag and you are sitting in the basic economy section, then you will be required to have your bag checked, while also paying the applicable checked bag fees, plus another $25 for gate handling fee.

Avoid Carry-on Fees in Basic Economy

If you are stuck with a basic economy ticket, there are two ways to ensure you can bring a full-size carry-on bag on board. Please keep in mind that although one of the methods may be easy, the other one, however, may be quite expensive and time-consuming as well.

These two methods are explained as follows:

If you paid for your basic economy ticket using a co-branded United credit card, you can bring your carry-on bag with you at no additional charge.

United Explorer Card

  • Annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95 is charged.
  • First checked bag is free of cost and you can save up to $120 per round-trip (terms and conditions apply).
  • You can earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, your account is open.
  • You get two United Club one-time passes each anniversary year.

United Business Card

  • Annual fee is $0 for the first 12 months, then $99 is charged.
  • You can earn 60,000 bonus miles after qualifying purchases.
  • You can earn 2 miles per $1 spent on local transit and commuting, including train tickets, taxicabs, mass transit, tolls and ride-share services.
  • You can earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, at gas stations, restaurants and office supply stores.
  • You can earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases and no foreign transaction fees charged.
  • You can earn a $100 United travel credit after 7 flight purchases of $100 or more each anniversary year.
  • 5,000 miles loyalty anniversary bonus when you have the new United Business Card and a personal Chase United credit card.

United Club Infinite Card

  • Annual fee is $525.
  • You can earn 100,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • You can earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases including tickets, Economy Plus, in-flight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, and other United charges.
  • You can earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel and on dining at restaurants and eligible delivery services, including GrubHub, Caviar, Seamless and DoorDash.
  • You can earn 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.
  • You get up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheckTM Fee Credit.
  • A 25% money back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages, and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights when using your card.

In addition to the travel credit cards mentioned above, a free carry-on bag is also included with the credit cards that are listed below:

  • MileagePlus Awards Card
  • MileagePlus Club Card
  • MileagePlus Club Business Card
  • Ixe United Card
  • Ixe United Universe Card
  • Presidential PlusSM Card
  • Presidential Plus Business Card

The benefits for standard carry-on bags can also extend to your travel companions if they are travelling on the same reservation and space permits.

The second way to avoid a carry-on bag service fee is to have an elite status with United or Star Alliance. If you have a MileagePlus Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K or a Star Alliance Gold membership, then you are permitted to bring along a standard carry-on bag on the flight. Here, the earning status requires a high level of spending. Therefore, this is mainly applicable to business travellers who work for companies that pay for their travel.

How to Deal with Carry-on Bag Issues in Basic Economy

If you do not hold an elite status membership with United, then the question to be asked is what is the best way to make sure that you can bring along your carry-on bag for free?

If you need to bring a carry-on bag with you so you can jet off to a meeting or catch a train etc., you will need to use one of the co-branded United cards to book your flight. This is the simplest way to make sure that you can bring your carry-on bag and personal items as well on board, even with a basic economy ticket.

If you do not have one of the co-branded cards, it is best not to sneak a carry-on bag onboard as it is very unlikely to work for you. Because when they see you and stop you, you will be on the hook for the standard checked bag fee that cost around $30, plus an additional $25 gate handling fee.

Now, instead of going through such inconvenience and paying hefty fees, it is better to plan ahead by putting everything you can in a checked bag and only packing essential items, such as medicines, in your personal items. When checking your bag at the United check-in desk, you will still have to cover the checked bag fee, but it will be half of what you would pay at the gate.

Lastly, if you are having your bag checked, pay for it with a credit card where you can use your points to pay for charges on your statement.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: The card does not charge annual fee and comes with a 20,000 mile welcome bonus worth $200 once you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months. When you use your card for travel purchases, like baggage fees, you can use your miles to pay off all, or part of, your statement. This is the reason the card is very popular among travellers.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: This card is superior to the VentureOne Rewards card. It offers a 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, you can redeem your miles on travel or transfer your miles to over 10 travel loyalty programs.

If you have a carry-on bag, using one of these travel credit cards can offset any extra cost that you could be charged. However, you can use an American Express airline fee credit on checked bags with United. For this, you must designate United as your selected airline before making the purchase.


If you book a United Airlines ticket in First Class, Business Class or Economy Class, bringing your carry-on bag and personal items onboard should not be much of a problem for you, as long as you abide by their rules and restrictions. It is only when you are stuck in basic economy that you need to re-consider your needs. You are likely to check your carry-on bag, if you feel the need of bringing along anything more than your personal items. So, planning ahead is the best thing to do. It is also best to use a travel credit card that can be of help to offset checked baggage fees.

Flying in basic economy can often be a bit of an inconvenience, but with the right information in hand, you can at least make the best of a troublesome situation.

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