Travel Tips

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United Airlines Carry-On Rules (Exact Size & Weight Restrictions)

Fly stress-free with United Airlines! Get the latest on carry-on size, weight limits, and what you can bring. Perfect for savvy travelers.

Tobi Miles
October 18, 2022
United Airlines Carry-On Rules (Exact Size & Weight Restrictions)

A lot of travelers choose United Airlines because of the variety of destinations. This airline travels to over 210 destinations within the US, and over 120 other destinations worldwide. If you're getting ready to travel with United Airlines, you may have a few questions, especially about baggage. Before you pack, you should know about the carry-on rules and restrictions.

Almost all United Airlines flights allow travelers to bring 1 carry-on bag. The carry-on bag can't exceed 22 X 14 X 9 inches and there's no weight limit. However, travelers with a Basic Economy ticket will not be allowed to have a carry-on item. All United Airlines flights will allow travelers to bring 1 personal item on board as well.

Knowing the rules before you pack can help you have a hassle-free experience at the airport. Today, we're going to discuss everything that travelers should know about the carry-on bag policy with United Airlines. This way, you will be prepared and won't have to check an extra bag when you get to the airport.

What Are United Airlines Baggage Restrictions?

United Airlines only allows 1 carry-on item per passenger. This is for all flights, except travelers that bought a Basic Economy ticket. Passengers that have bought a Basic Economy ticket will only be allowed to bring a personal item on board. If they arrive with a carry-on bag, they will have to have it checked.

Keep in mind, this is a general guideline. United Airlines has many flights and airline partners. The rules do vary per flight. Before booking your flight, make sure you fully review all the rules and restrictions that apply.

What Is The Size Limit For Carry-On Bags?

Carry-on items must be small enough to fit in the overhead compartment. Your carry-on bag must be within 22 X 14 X 9 inches (55.9 X 35.5 X22.9 cm). These dimensions are for the entire bag, including the wheels and handles. If your bag is larger than these dimensions, it won't fit in the overhead.

So, what happens if travelers bring a carry-on that's too big? There are no exceptions for oversized carry-on items. The airline has a strict policy to follow. If your item is too large, you will be required to have it checked. Travelers can expect to pay a fee if this happens.

What Is The Weight Limit For Carry-On Bags?

There is no weight limit for carry-on bags. However, you should always pack your pack at a weight that's comfortable for you. You will have to lift this bag to fit it in the overhead. Make sure it's not too heavy for you to handle. TSA recommends keeping your bags under 35 lbs.

Travelers don't have to worry about extra fees if their bags exceed 35 lbs. The overhead compartments are strong and can handle the extra weight.

Does United Airlines Charge For Carry-On Bags?

There is no charge for carry-on items. With nearly every ticket, except Basic Economy, the carry-on item and personal items are free. However, the rules with United Airlines slightly vary with each flight that's booked. Always fully review what's included in your flight before you pack.

If you're flying Basic Economy, you won't be able to pay a fee to bring a carry-on. Unfortunately, this option isn't available. Instead, you can pay to have the extra luggage checked.

Can I Pay To Bring Multiple Carry-On Items?

Travelers aren't allowed multiple carry-on with United Airlines. There is no option to pay an additional charge for an extra item because there isn't enough space. The airplane has limited overhead space, allowing just enough for each passenger to bring one item. Any additional bags will need to be checked.

Does United Airlines Allow Personal Items?

All United Airlines flights allow 1 personal item per traveler. A personal item is a small piece of luggage that can fit underneath the seat in front of you. Your personal item can be a purse, small bag, laptop, etc. Since your carry-on bag will be in the overhead, your personal item will contain items you want to have during your flight.  

What Is The Size Limit For Personal Items?

The dimension of your personal item shouldn't exceed 17 X 10 X 9 inches (43.2 X 25.4 X 22.9 cm). It's important that your personal item isn't larger than these dimensions because it will need to fit under the seat for take-off and landing. However, you will be able to have access to your item while the plane is in the air.

Are There Items That Don't Count As a Carry-On/Personal Item?

There are certain items that travelers are allowed to have that don't count as a carry-on. When a passenger has one (or more) of these items, they will still be allowed a carry-on and personal item. Any item that isn't counted as a carry-on is an item that the passenger needs for function.

What Does NOT Count As a Carry-On?

  • Infant essentials. Parents that are traveling with an infant don't have to worry about choosing between their carry-on and their child's items. Passengers will be allowed to bring a diaper bag, breast pump, child safety seat, stroller, and other necessities for the infant to travel.
  • Assistive devices. If a passenger requires mobility or a medical device, it will not count as their carry-on. This includes items like an oxygen concentrator, wheelchair, crutches, etc.
  • Outerwear and objects. If you're traveling in snowy or rainy weather, you'll likely arrive in outwear that you won't want to wear on the airplane. Your jacket, umbrella, and other necessary items will not count towards your carry-on limit.
  • Small travel items. There are certain items you may have for travel that are small enough to hold but you don't want to put in your carry-on. This includes a camera case, reading material, travel pillow, or snacks in a package.  

What Items Are Restricted From My Carry-On Bag?

  • Dangerous items. Any item that is considered a weapon or could be used to put other passengers at risk is not allowed in your carry-on bag. This includes knives, axes, tasers, etc.
  • Firearms. There are no exceptions when it comes to bringing firearms in your carry-on. This includes stun guns and novelty items as well.
  • Explosives. Travelers aren't allowed to pack any explosive items in their carry-on bags. This includes fireworks, gunpowder, flares, and more.
  • Flammable items. Passengers will not be allowed to bring any items with fuel on board. This includes camping equipment, gas-powered tools, and more. However, travelers will be allowed to have 1 lighter in their carry-on or personal item bag.
  • Household products. You will not be able to bring any household cleaners in your carry-on bag, like bleach, detergent, or disinfectant. Many types of glue and paint are also not allowed in your carry-on.
  • Powders. Passengers may only travel with powders that are less than 12 fluid ounces. The only exceptions are medical prescriptions, baby formula, and human remains.

Can I Pack Liquids In My Carry-On Bag?

Liquids are allowed in your carry-on bag, but there are restrictions. Travelers can only pack liquids that are in 3.4 ounces (or less) containers. Any liquids that are in containers larger than this amount must go in your checked bags. Luckily for travelers, most essential personal care items come in travel sizes. For items that don't, you can buy reusable travel containers.

Each passenger is allowed up to 70 ounces of fluid in their carry-on bag. All of the containers holding fluid must be placed in a clear quart-sized bag. Any extra or oversized fluids should be packed in your checked luggage.

So, what products are considered liquid? This includes most personal care products. Any product that is a gel, oil, cream, paste, or aerosol is considered a liquid.

Travelers will not be allowed to bring a water bottle larger than 3.4 ounces with them. However, they will be allowed to purchase a water bottle (or other beverage) at the airport. Alcohol is not permitted in your carry-on unless it's duty-free in retail packaging or in a 3.4-ounce container in the clear quart bag.

Does United Airlines Allow Pets As Carry-On?

Travelers can bring a pet carrier as their carry-on item. United Airlines is a pet-friendly airline. They make it easier for passengers to travel with their furry friends. However, travelers are only able to bring 1 pet per passenger in the plane cabin. The pet must be able to stand up and turn around in the pet carrier.

Travelers can choose between using a hard-sided or a soft-sided carrier. For the hard-sided carrier, the dimensions can't exceed 12 X 17.5 X 7.5 inches (30 X 44 X 19 cm). With soft-sided carriers, they can't be larger than 11 X 18 X 11 inches (27 X 44 X 27 cm). You must keep the pet carrier under the seat with the door closed.

Does United Airlines Allow Sports Equipment As Carry-On?

Sporting equipment must be checked. This is because most sporting equipment is too large to fit in the overhead. The only exception is that United Airlines will allow passengers to bring one piece of tennis equipment as their carry-on.

While you may not be able to bring sports equipment as a carry-on, you're not out of luck. United Airlines does allow travelers to check most types of sporting equipment. This includes skis, paddleboards, bicycles, baseball equipment, and more. However, you may need to pay an additional charge.

Does United Airlines Allow Musical Instruments As Carry-On?

United Airlines does allow small musical instruments as a carry-on. The instrument must be packed in a hard case. However, the size of the instrument will determine if it's your personal item or a carry-on item. If it's small enough to fit underneath the seat, you may bring it on as a personal item.

So, what does a traveler do if their musical instrument is larger than the carry-on dimensions? There are two options. You can pay to have your instrument travel with the checked luggage. However, if you're not comfortable with that, you can buy an extra seat for the instrument.

How Does United Airlines Handle Specialty Carry-On Items?

United Airlines makes sure all carry-on items are the right size before allowing them on board. There is a sizer at the airport that is used to make sure all carry-on items will fit on board. Specialty items are allowed as long as they are the correct size and don't contain restricted items.

So, what does a traveler do if their specialty item is oversized? There are some items that are too valuable or fragile to have checked. United Airlines understands this and does try to make things easier for the traveler. If you want to have an oversized item on board with you, you can buy a seat for it. This way, you know it will remain safe while traveling.  

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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