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United Airlines Baggage Fees: What’s the Cost and How to Avoid Them

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Are you trying to figure out how to avoid United Airlines baggage fees? There are a few ways you can pay $0 for checked baggage and carry-on baggage. But if you have to pay a fee, below is how much you can expect to pay.

United airlines baggage fees or luggage
Avoid United Airlines baggage fees. Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

The flight you want may have a baggage fee. However, there are ways to avoid that fee.

United Domestic Baggage Fees

Your baggage fees depend on which cabin class you choose. These fees apply to flights within the United States, Canada, and select Carribean and Central American destinations. As expected, the most restrictive fees apply to basic economy fees.

Basic Economy

On domestic flights, you can only bring one free personal item onboard. It can measure 9 inches by 10 inches by 17 inches. If you bring a full-size carry-on, you will pay the appropriate checked bag fee ($30 for your first bag and $40 for a second bag) plus a $25 gate handling charge.

United Premier and Global Services members can bring one carry-on for free.

Your first checked bag fee is $30 and the second bag is $40. Each bag can weigh up to 50 pounds.


Economy main cabin seats are allowed one free personal item and full-size carry-on.

The first checked bag is $30 and the second bag is $40. Each bag can weigh up to 50 pounds.

First Class or Business Class

Your checked bag fees are $0 on the first two bags for first class and business class flights. Your bags can also weigh $70 each before they are subject to an overweight fee.

United International Baggage Fees

United’s international baggage fees vary on where you fly to. For example, you may pay a first checked baggage fee when flying to Mexico but not Europe.

Below is a basic guideline for each cabin class and destination zone.

Basic Economy

One full-size carry-on is free on trans-Atlantic basic economy flights plus your personal item. Otherwise, you may still have to pay a fee if your carry-on gets checked at the gate for other destinations. Like domestic flights, Premier members can bring one carry-on for free.

Basic economy isn’t available on every international route yet. For many people, this is probably a good thing. On trans-Atlantic flights to Europe, you will pay $60 for the first bag. The second checked bag costs $100.

If basic economy if available to other parts of the world, the checked baggage fees are the same as a standard economy fare.


  • Europe: $0 for the first bag and $100 for the second bag
  • Mexico: $30 for the first bag and $55 for the second bag
  • Cuba: $30 for the first bag and $0 for the second bag
  • South America: $0 for the first bag and $0 for the second bag
  • Asia, Australia, and New Zealand: $0 for the first bag and $0 for the second bag
  • India: $0 for the first bag and $100 for the second bag
  • Middle East: $0 for the first bag and $0 for the second bag

Premium Economy

Your first two bags are free for all destinations. Like standard economy fares, the weight limit is 50 pounds per checked bag to avoid the excess weight fee.

First Class and Business Class

Your first two bags are free for all destinations. The weight limit is 70 pounds per checked bag to avoid the excess weight fee.

Ways to Avoid United Airlines Baggage Fees

There are several ways you can avoid the United Airlines checked baggage fees. The easiest way is to fly in business or first class. However, you have a few other options if you fly in economy or basic economy.

Own a United Airlines Credit Card

Some of the United Airlines credit cards (including business and personal cards) give you and one companion free checked bags.

United Explorer Card

The United℠ Explorer Card is probably the best United credit card for most. Here are a few benefits you get:

  • One free checked bag for you and one companion when you use your card to purchase the ticket
  • Two one-time United Club passes each year
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Complimentary Premier upgrades for Premier members
  • Priority boarding
  • $0 introductory annual fee ($95 each card renewal)
  • 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months of account opening

You will also earn 2x United miles on United purchases, restaurants, and hotel nights booked directly from the hotel. Compare the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card if you can’t decide between the United Explorer or a more flexible rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Learn more: Airline Credit Cards

United Explorer Business Card

The United℠ Explorer Business Card has similar benefits to the personal United Explorer Card. One difference is that you earn 2x bonus points on United purchases, restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores. Hotel booking won’t earn double miles though.

Learn more: Airline Credit Cards

United Club Card

The information for the United Club Card has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The United Club℠ Card is the premium co-brand United Airlines credit card. It has a $450 annual fee but has these deluxe perks:

  • Two free checked bags for you and one companion
  • United Club access for primary and qualifying travel companions
  • Premier Access travel services (priority check-in, boarding, and baggage handling)
  • Premier upgrades on award tickets (when available)
  • Hertz Gold Plus Presidents Circle loyalty status
  • Earn 2x miles per $1 spent on United purchases
  • Earn 1.5x miles per $1 spent on non-United purchases

This card is the better option if you normally check two bags per trip. Having unlimited United Club lounge access can also be a valuable addition.

Learn more: United Club℠ Card

Have a Premium Travel Card Card

If you only check a bag sporadically, you may be better off using a flexible travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It has an annual $300 travel credit that reimburses your first travel purchases each year. For instance, the credit will cover your ticket cost and checked bag fee.

This card also has complimentary Priority Pass lounge access, free Global Entry or TSA Precheck, and you earn 3x points on travel or dining. Your points are worth 1.5 cents each when booking award flights through Chase. You can also transfer them on a 1:1 basis to airline and hotel partners including United.

The Sapphire Reserve is also one of the best metal credit cards. The signup bonus is 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. This is worth $750 in award travel.

Learn more: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Earn United Premier Status

If you fly enough to earn Premier status you can avoid checked baggage fees. You can also pack a carryon for basic economy flights.

There are four different tiers of MileagePlus Premier status. Premier Silver members get one free checked bag. Premier Gold members get two free checked bags. Both Premier Platinum and Premier 1k members get three free checked bags.

Being a Premier member lets you enjoy other benefits like complimentary upgrades and earning bonus miles on flights. But if you don’t fly enough to become a Premier Member, the United credit cards are a good alternative for free checked bags.

Military Families

Active U.S. military members and their dependents may get free checked bags if they travel on the same ticket. For personal travel, you can get up to 3 free bags weighing up to 70 pounds each. When on official business, you can get 5 free trips.

These complimentary benefits don’t apply to dependants traveling alone for personal reasons besides relocating. For example, you may not be able to check a free bag when traveling over spring break.


The United Airlines checked bag fees are almost unavoidable if you fly in basic economy or standard economy for domestic flights and select foreign destinations. Expect to pay $30 for your first checked bag when flying domestic. Owning a co-brand United Airlines credit card, flying first or business class, or becoming a Premier member are other ways to avoid the checked baggage fees.

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Josh Patoka

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United Airlines Baggage Fees: What’s the Cost and How to Avoid Them

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