United’ New Strict Baggage Rules

More bad news for fliers: According to The Points Guy, on March 1 United Airlines implemented an update to their systemwide policy that cracks down on passengers’ carry-on baggage rights. The airline has rolled out new bag-sizers by their gates and some check-in counters, and every flier—regardless of his or her class of service or frequent flier status—will have to use them to make sure their bags will fit.

The maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag will remain at 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels. And the maximum dimensions for your one personal item, such as a shoulder bag, backpack, laptop bag or other small item, are 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm). The worst part—and the big news here—is the renewed focus on enforcement here, as described in an internal newsletter. And, not only might you have to check your bag and wait for it on the other side, but United agents will also be collecting checked baggage fees from passengers whose bags do not fit in the sizers ($25 for the first bag, $35 for the second bag). UPDATE: United has clarified that they won’t charge the fee at the gate—only pre-security—which is a big relief.

Note that the following items are allowed and do not count toward your one bag and one personal item limit:

  • Jacket or umbrella
  • Reading material
  • Pet carrier (service charges apply)
  • FAA-approved child restraint seat
  • Diaper bag
  • Food or merchandise purchased in the airport
  • Assistive devices (collapsible wheelchair, cane, one set of crutches, medical devices needed to administer prescription medications, portable oxygen concentrator, etc.)

I’ve read that some gate agents have been strict while others haven’t been, but I’m guessing that with time, they’ll all become strict and that other airlines will follow suit. Bad news all around.

Key information from United:

22 Comments On "United’s Strict New Approach to Baggage Rules"
  1. Anonymous|

    Not sure that I see it as a problem. I usually take just my briefcase onto the plane and find it irritating when I open the overhead and see it stuffed with large bags and coats and shopping from people sitting several seats away.

  2. peterjohnloewen|

    This is fine news. Flyers need to recognize that bags weigh something, so they cost money to fly. They should pay for them. And they should not delay takeoff and deplaning just because they’re too cheap to pay for baggage.

  3. Rob|

    I’ve got a trip coming up, and I really dont want to check my backpack. I’m hoping they haven’t rolled it out at all airport and I can sneak it on the plane!

  4. Frepaujr|

    It’s only bad news if you’re that jackass who carries on his large suitcase that takes up half of the overhead bin

    1. rainil|

      AMEN! So tired of seeing people stuff “carry on” bags (can you say full sized AND OVERSTUFFED?) and take up an entire oh bin when I have a computer and the normal regulation sized carry on..I have even had to check my regulation sized bag because they have hogged up all of the bins. Good to see someone enforcing it.

      1. Steve B|


    2. Christie Andersen|

      Yes, I’m so tired of people who carry on three bags (clearly in violation of what they are told) and take their sweet time shoving them into the overhead bins while a line of people wait behind. I say crack down!

  5. Anna Whiteside|

    All right, so can someone recommend a legal carry on bag, lightweight and I guess 22 inch.

    1. Alexis L|

      I second this request! Seems like every bag I look at is too big once the wheels are factored in.

  6. Jonathan Z|

    Unfortunatly they did a bad job of letting fliers know about this change. I flew out to Europe this weekend before the rules changed only to discover the bags I carried on the way out needed to be checked on the way back – adding unexpected expense to my trip.

  7. John Reinke|

    The footprint of my business laptop is 11″ by 17″. How will that fit in a carry-on 9″ x 10″ x 17″? I’m flying with other airlines!

    1. gnasin|


      1. Karen|

        Good one! :)

  8. Valerie|

    I’m NOT a fan of United…but it’s about time people be forced to check their darn bags. I travel with one medium sized backpack that I would honestly check if my laptop weren’t inside. I travel weekly and bag claim often takes no more than 10 mins, plus it has the added benefit of not having to haul my stuff through the airport with me. The answer to lost/delayed bags is not to keep them with you but to demand accountability and efficency from the airlines. Delta has done a GREAT job with their tracking tool on their mobil app which lets you put in your tag # and track exactly where your bag is. In almost 10 years on the road, checking a bag weekly, I’ve had my suitcase delayed only twice and a third time where someone claimed the wrong bag from bag claim and returned it two weeks later.

    1. Frequent Traveler|

      Here’s the problem (which as a frequent traveler you should appreciate) . . . when you check you bags, you lose ALL opportunity for flexibility in flying. When you travel weekly across country, you often get stuck on layovers, have to divert to different cities, or have to make tight connections. When you check luggage you lose the ability to reroute and often times on close connections your luggage doesn’t make it. It’s not about being lazy, or taking too much time, it’s about flying 150,000+ per year and needing to be able to have the flexibility to make changes while at the airport.

      1. Karen|

        I agree! Last year, I missed a flight and they were able to put me on another flight, 50 min later. My prize, much better fights and an upgrade to 1rst class on the 2nd fight.

  9. russsharerRuss|

    My daughter flew Delta today (March 5) and they seem to have implemented the same tight control, at least at LAX

  10. Steve|

    Once again, welcome to my world down under in Australia. At Brisbane International airport, you are also restricted to a total weight of all carry on to 7kg. I can usually sneak on a 7kg bag PLUS small laptop bag.

    When travelling in the USA, I cannot believe the amount of stuff in the cabin AND how long it takes to board, de-plane because of the crap stored.

    In our part of the world, they can turn a 737 around on domestic in 30 mins, try that in the USA, never going to happen under the current rules with the amount of crap you can bring on the plane. A lot less stress for both the pasweengers and crew with less bags to worry about when boarding and shaving 30mins off the turn around time ultimately gives the passenger cheaper fares.

    I also get peed off in the USA when I have checked by bags and get told to put my laptop under my seat to leave room for those with all their worldly possessions in the lockers because they are too tight with their money to check their bags. I am 6ft tall and need that room under my seat for my feet.

  11. Karen|

    United’s width dimension, 15″ is an inch less than the European standard, 16″. I’ve only done carry on for the past 10 years. Sadly, I got stuck with a United flight on one of my flights to CPH, next month. Where’s that measuring tape?!

    1. Karen|

      Oh, 14″! That’s a trick to get more money! Btw, the only thing that goes into the overhead, is my bag. The point is to get out fast. Missed flight, not a problem…I have my stuff with me!

  12. C. Smith|

    This is not bad news, it is good news. I’m tired of self centered A$$#@!&s hogging up all of the overhead bins.

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