How Strict Is United With Personal Item Size?

United Airlines is pretty specific about personal item size.

The airline is even more rigid with Basic Economy travelers, as the only luggage they can carry (for free) is one personal item.

United Airlines strictly enforces a personal item size limit of 9 in x 10 in x 17 in (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm) as it must fit under the seat in front of you. Depending on your cabin, you can also bring one carry-on bag measuring less than 9 in x 14 in x 22 in (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm).

Examples of personal items are purses, laptop bags, and small backpacks.

United Airlines has baggage sizers at the airport to confirm your bag is permitted.

You’re fine if you have a different bag with slightly different measurements as long as it fits in the sizer.

United Airlines Carry-On Restrictions

United Airlines allows most passengers to bring one carry-on in addition to a personal item.

Basic Economy travelers, however, are only allowed to bring a personal item. 

If you’re flying Basic Economy and bring a carry-on, you’ll have to pay $25 to check it.

Normal carry-on rules apply to Basic Economy passengers under the following circumstances:

  • You’re traveling on transatlantic flights to or from the U.S., Mexico, and Central America, as well as to and from El Salvador, Panama, and South America.
  • You’re traveling on transpacific flights to or from the U.S.
  • You’re a member of MileagePlus Premier or a companion of a MileagePlus Premier member traveling on the same reservation.
  • You’re a primary cardmember of qualifying MileagePlus credit cards or a Star Alliance Gold member.

If you’re bringing a carry-on, confirm it’s within the 9 in x 14 in x 22 in (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm) size limit so that it fits in the overhead bin.

United allows the following items as part of your carry-on allowance:

  • A jacket
  • An umbrella
  • A diaper bag
  • A breast pump
  • A camera
  • A pet carrier (additional fees may apply)
  • Reading material
  • Food or merchandise bought at the airport
  • Assistive devices (e.g., wheelchairs, crutches, canes)
  • An FAA-approved child restraint system.

You can also bring a musical instrument as part of your carry-on, but it must be in a hard-shell case and fit in the overhead bin.

Any luggage larger than the limits will have to be checked, possibly for a fee.

If an item is too delicate to be gate-checked, you can buy a separate ticket and fly with it in the cabin.

Does United Allow Pets?

Yes, United Airlines allows domesticated cats and dogs. You can carry your furry friend in the cabin, or if they’re a large animal, they can travel in cargo.

Most United flights allow pets in-cabin, and it’s the best route if you’re worried about whether your pet will be okay.

If bringing a pet in-cabin, it must be in a carrier that fits under the seat in front of you.

The carrier should also be spacious enough for the animal to stand up and turn around.

United doesn’t allow you to carry on your pet if traveling to, from, or through Hawaii and select international regions.

Unless you’re flying domestically, double-check the rules for pets at your destination.

Bringing pets costs $125 each way, and United charges an additional $125 for stopovers that take more than 4 hours within the U.S. and more than 24 hours outside the U.S.

Does United Allow Baby Equipment?

Yes, United allows the following items when traveling with a baby:

  • A diaper bag
  • A child restraint system
  • A breast pump and milk
  • A compact folding stroller (must meet carry-on size restrictions)

Passengers are allowed one car seat and one stroller per child at no extra charge.

If your stroller is non-collapsible/non-foldable, you’ll need to check it at the gate; otherwise, head to the check-in counter for assistance when you arrive at the airport.

Compact folding strollers are allowed as part of your carry-on, but they must meet the airline’s carry-on restrictions.

United also allows pack ‘n’ plays, collapsible cribs, and similar items, but you need to check them as regular luggage.

United Checked Luggage Restrictions

United Airlines has a weight limit of 50 lbs (23 kg) for most checked luggage.

The airline also sets a size limit of 62 linear inches or 158 cm (length + width + height).

You may bring up to two checked bags, subject to additional fees.

In most cases, the first bag will cost you $25, while the second will be $45.

Any additional bags will cost $150 each.

Fees vary depending on the destination and time of year, so confirm the prices for your flight at booking.

Premium Economy passengers can bring up to two checked bags at no cost.

Travelers flying Business or First-Class are also permitted to check two bags of up to 70 lbs (32 kg) each.

United Airlines may give additional privileges throughout the year to specific MileagePlus members, First-Class and Business First passengers, certain credit card holders, and active military personnel.

Does United Allow Sports Equipment?

Sports essentials are allowed as part of your checked luggage but must be within the checked luggage size and weight restrictions.

Your sporting equipment must be in a bag/case designed for shipping, for example, a golf bag with a hood and tripod or a bicycle bag.

United has specific guidelines depending on the equipment, so confirm with them if you have any questions.

It’s important to note that you can only pay for your equipment at the check-in counter – you can’t do it online.

What Happens if My Bag is Overweight/Oversized?

Overweight and/or oversized luggage is subject to a fee.

For Economy class tickets, overweight items are bags over 50 lbs (23 kg).

Luggage weighing 50 to 70 lbs (32 kg) can be as much as $200 per bag.

Bags over 70 lbs (32 kg) but weighing less than 100 lbs (45 kg) cost up to $400 per bag.

The specific price depends on your destination.

Baggage weighing more than 100 lbs (45 kg) is not allowed.

United counts oversized luggage as items larger than 62 linear inches or 158 cm (length + width + height).

Oversized baggage can cost up to $200 per item, depending on the destination, and bags measuring more than 115 in (292 cm) are not allowed.

Oversized and overweight fees are additional costs to the base price for luggage. 

If you bring a bag that’s too big and/or too heavy, you may have to pay for a checked bag in addition to the overweight/oversized fees.

What Happens if I Lose My Bag?

If you accidentally leave something on the plane, provide United with a detailed description of the item (e.g., color, brand, serial number, etc.) by filling out a Report Lost Item form.

United will only reach out if the item is found.

If you lose a checked item, file a report in writing to the Baggage Service Office or the United Airlines Baggage Resolution Service Center.

You’ll also need to file a report with the Baggage Service Office if your luggage is delayed.

I recommend going to Baggage Services at the airport and dealing with lost or delayed items immediately after arrival, but you have up to 24 hours to file claims for either.


Familiarizing yourself with any airline’s carry-on and checked luggage allowances will save you time and stress at the airport.

What you can and can’t bring on a United flight is a bit confusing, and there are particular limitations for Basic Economy passengers. 

Bringing the wrong size or too much luggage on a United flight can be an expensive mistake, so it’s best to confirm the rules for your flight before you pack.