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United Airlines Baggage Fees (updated for 2020)

Advertiser Disclosure: CBoardingGroup has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. CBoardingGroup and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

United Airlines is one of the most popular and well traveled airlines in the world. Like many airlines, United charges a fee for checked luggage. In this United Airlines Baggage Fees guide we highlight the important aspects of checking a bag on United, what fees you might be expected to pay, how to avoid paying United baggage fees and several important and related rules and restrictions.

Specifically we answer the following questions:

  • How much does United charge to check a bag?
  • What are the United Airlines Baggage Fees?
  • Do you get a free checked bag with United?
  • What is the United Baggage Fee Calculator?
  • How much does it cost to check a bag on United Basic Economy?
  • How can I avoid paying the United Baggage Fees?
  • What are the United Airlines Oversized Baggage Fees?
  • Is there a credit card that allows me to check a bag for free? Yes (the United Explorer Card does just that!)

United Airlines Baggage Fees

Image of Bags at Baggage Claim

In the following sections we cover a lot of ground (and there’s a lot to cover) but specifically the following topics are introduced:

  • Overview of Bag Checking on United (the foundation)
  • The Bag Fees themselves
  • The value of status when checking a bag
  • Oversized Bag Fees

Use the United Explorer Card to check your first bag for free (plus earn 65,000 bonus points)

Unitedâ„  Explorer Card

Checking Bags on United Airlines – an overview

To properly understand the United Airlines Baggage Fees you have to understand there are three primary factors that come into play:

  • Size & Weight of Checked Bag
  • Class of Ticket or Status
  • How many bags you intend to check

The first factor is the size and weight of your checked bag. United Airlines allows travelers to check bags that measure (in total) a maximum of 62 inches when adding the Length, Width and Heigght of a piece of luggage. This measurement includes the handle and wheels.

Take for example the popular TravelPro Crew 11 29″ Suitcase. It’s dimensions are 29 x 20.2 x 12.5 inches. If you add these 3 figures up you arrive at a total of 61.7 inches, just shy of the 62″ baggage limit on United. Baggage larger than this will be subject to an oversize baggage fee (more on this, below).

The second factor involved in determining your potential United Baggage Fee is the class of ticket you purchased and/or your status within the United Airlines Frequent Flyer program (known as MileagePlus).

For travelers that have purchased United economy class tickets your bag can weigh up to 50 lbs. For travelers who’ve purchased United Business Class, United First Class or United Polaris Class your bag can weigh up to 70 lbs.

Moreover, travelers within the MileagePlus frequent flyer program are subject to additional flexibility with regard to the weight of their bags. Premier Silver, Gold, Platinum and 1K, along with Star Alliance Gold are allowed an extra 20 lbs of weight in their checked luggage bringing their total weight allowed to 70 lbs.

The chart below, from United Airlines’ 2020 baggage policies summarizes these requirements:

Chart of the United Airlines Baggage Fees by Weight and Status

The 3rd factor involved in determining United Baggage Fees is the number of bags you intend to check. United’s Bag fees will vary based on the number of bags you are checking with fees increasing the more bags you check. United allows passengers to check up to 3 bags per itinerary and passenger.

What are the United Airlines Baggage Fees?

United Airlines Baggage fees vary based on several factors including class of fare, status and route. The most typical fees, however, are $30 for your first bag and $40 for your second bag for domestic US travel.

United used to publish a detailed table showing their specific baggage fees but have now moved to a semi-dynamic pricing model that varies a bit based on class of fare, status and route. They now recommend travelers use their United Baggage Fee Calculator to determine the exact costs for your specific flight.

However, we did some simple searches using the calculator a found a few apparent constants that will likely hold true for most travelers:

RouteEconomy (incl basic, plus and full)Premium PlusBusiness ClassFirst Class
Domestic United States1st Bag: $30
2nd Bag: $40
3rd Bag: $150
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $150
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $150
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $150
Europe1st Bag: Free (note: basic economy is $60)
2nd Bag: $100
3rd Bag: $200
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $200
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $200
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $200
Mexico1st Bag: $30
2nd Bag: $55
3rd Bag: $180
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $180
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $180
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $180
Australia1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $200
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $200
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $200
1st Bag: Free
2nd Bag: Free
3rd Bag: $200

Note: We found some variations of fees based on status, ticket class and region. For example many Gold level status members and up could fly 3 bags fro free to various places as long as the class of ticket was Premium Economy of higher. United Global Services member can fly 3 bags for free pretty much anywhere (we couldn’t find anyplace this was restricted).

The table above should give you a pretty good sense of what the United Airlines Baggage Fees are into popular regions however, the best practice is to simply use the United Baggage Fee Calculator.

Status Matters!

The chart below highlights the significant value that having status within the United Airlines MileagePlus program has on checked bag allowances.

United Airlines Bag Allowance Chart for MileagePlus members

Oversized Baggage on United Airlines

Overstuffed Suitcase

Bags exceeding the standard weight or size limits on United will be charged an additional fee. These fees can range in value depending on the route. These fees can be up to $600 per overweight bag (although most are $200, with a few at $400 and Havana Cuba coming in a $600…ouch!) and are in addition to the standard fee.

For example, let’s say you have two bags to check and you don’t have status and are on a basic economy fare from LAX to EWR. If your first bag is under the 50 lb weight limit you will be charged $30 to check the bag. However, let’s say your 2nd bag weighs in at 54 lbs. It would be subject to the $40 bag fee PLUS a $100 overweight bag fee charge. If that 2nd bag was greater than 70 lbs (or 20 lbs+ overweight) that fee would be $200. Ouch.

Keep in mind that United Airlines maximum baggage weight is 100 lbs per bag. No bag can exceed this limit. United does make some exceptions for musical instruments and assistive devices (like a wheelchair), however. Instruments weighing up to 165 lbs will be accepted and ALL assistive devices will be accepted.

Oversized bags (bags of unusual shape that exceed the 62″ limit mentioned earlier) will also be charged an oversized bag fee. Baggage that exceeds United’s limit of 62″ (remember: add the L, W, and H together) will be charged a fee of $200 per oversized bag. Bags cannot, however, exceed 115 inches.

As you might expect, United Airlines reserves the right to refuse your oversized or extra bag based on time of year, destination or unique conditions. This rarely happens, but is a possibility. For example, if you are trying to bring your Kite board on to a small CRJ-300 flight to Daytona Beach they might tell you no…

Use a Travel Scale to ensure your bag meets the weight limits

Travelers across the world rely on this popular travel scale to weigh their luggage before getting to the airport. To avoid embarrassment of having to repack your suitcase in front of 47 other passengers waiting in line or cough up an extra $200 for an overweight bag, use the etekcity digital luggage scale and be 100% sure of where you are at with luggage weight.

United Airlines Baggage Fees – Frequently Asked Questions

In this section we summarize the United Airlines Baggage Fees for you including answers to the key questions we posed at the beginning of this article. Feel free to drop us a comment or question if you still have remaining questions about United Baggage Fees.

How much does United charge to check a bag?

United Airlines’ baggage fees vary based on route, status and number of bags checked. Use the United Baggage Calculator to determine exact costs.

What are the United Airlines Baggage Fees?

United Airlines Baggage Fees typically range from $30 – $40 for the first and second bag on domestic flights and can vary significantly for a 3rd bag. International fees can range from $30 – $100 for the first bag and vary for the 2nd and 3rd bags. Airline status, fare class and routes can also impact fees.

Does United Airlines charge military members to check bags?

No, active duty military members are not charged baggage fees to check their bags. United Airlines allows members of the military to check three bags for free if on personal travel and five bags for free if traveling on official orders.

How many bags can military check on United Airlines?

United Airlines allows active duty military members to check three bags for free if traveling for personal reasons. If traveling on official orders up to five bags can be checked.

Do dependents of Military Members get free checked bags?

Yes, if they are traveling with the military member. If they are traveling solo they must adhere to United’s applicable luggage policies.

Do you get a free checked bag with United?

Possibly. Travelers with status via the United MileagePlus program will likely qualify for one or more free bags depending on the status level, fare and route. In most cases, the travelers with United’s GlobalServices status will earn three free checked bags on any domestic or international flights.

What is the United Baggage Fee Calculator?

The United Baggage Fee Calculator is an online tool from United Airlines that calculates the specific baggage fees a traveler will pay for a particular route, ticket class and status combination. Travelers can access it here.

How much does it cost to check a bag on United Basic Economy?

United Airlines Baggage Fees typically range from $30 – $40 for the first and second bag on domestic flights and can vary significantly for a 3rd bag. International fees can range from $30 – $100 for the first bag and vary for the 2nd and 3rd bags. Airline status, fare class and routes can also impact fees.

How can I avoid paying the United Baggage Fees?

Not checking a bag is the easiest way to avoid paying United Baggage Fees. By simply carrying your bag onto the plane, travelers can avoid paying any baggage fees.

For travelers who must check a bag, earning status in United’s MileagePlus program is one method as many status tiers pay little or no fees for checked bags (some exceptions for international destinations). Additionally, booking fares higher than basic economy usually results in at least one (sometimes two) free checked bags depending on the class of fare purchased.

Finally, travelers using a United Credit Card may also qualify for free checked bag perks regardless of their status. The details of these offers vary by credit card but as an example, the United Mileage Plus Explorer Card allows card holders to check their first bag for free!

Use the United Explorer Card to Check your First Bag for Free (plus earn 65,000 bonus points)

Unitedâ„  Explorer Card

Thanks for stopping in

Thanks for visiting our United Airlines Baggage Fee guide. United Airlines is one of the world’s most prolific airlines with destinations spanning the globe. Their baggage fees are, at first glance, a tad confusing, given the variability by fare, status and destination, but as noted in the table above, some commonalities can be found that simplify our understanding of the fees.

When in doubt, use these key concepts and you will be fine:

  1. Status likely means you can check at least one bag for free
  2. Non basic economy fares likely means you can check at least one bag for free
  3. Use the United Baggage Fee Calculator to determine you exact costs (if any)

Be sure to check out all of our other great travel related content including:

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Author Biography

We. Do. Business Travel. The CBoardingGroup.com is a leading business travel focused travel blog. The principal author has over 18 years of consistent & frequent business travel. Over the years, he has developed various travel habits, travel tips, advice and more that he shares with fellow travelers of all skill levels. From hotel life, to airplane tips, to the weekly grind of frequent travel, plus a little travel humor, this blog is a haven for business travelers. Read his full bio here.

Advertiser Disclosure: CBoardingGroup has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. CBoardingGroup and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

2 comments on “United Airlines Baggage Fees (updated for 2020)

    1. The C Boarding Group Post author

      Ditto…because I never check a bag! Well, truthfully, I rarely check a bag (probably, at most 1 in 50 trips) and when I don’t pay a dime either based on status or credit cards. How about you, what’s your strategy?

      Reply

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