United Carry On Size, Weight, Fees & Limit Guide

United Carry On Size, Weight, Fees & Limit Guide – 2020

People ask lots of questions about baggage when they need to travel on airplanes. For example, if a backpack or laptop case can be taken as carry on, can you bring your umbrella on a flight or a golf bag, how big your carry on can be etc. Today we will clear up all of these doubts in our guide to United carry on size, weight, fees and limit (2020). 

Summary of United Airlines carry on size policy 

United personal item size

Items allowed on board a United flight 

You are allowed the following on a United Airlines flight:

united air allowed items
  • One carry on bag 
    • A small luggage that can fit in the overhead bin 
    • Example: small bag, briefcase etc. 
    • Max size: 22” × 14” × 9” (56 cm × 35 cm × 22 cm) 
  • One personal item 
    • A bag or container that you can carry on your body 
    • Must fit under the seat 
    • Example: small backpack, purse, handbag etc. 
    • Max size: 17” × 10” × 9” (43 cm × 25 cm × 22 cm) 
  • One additional item 
    • Something that you must have on you as a part of your or your child’s life 
    • Example: jacket, umbrella, small/thin book, small packed food or beverage, walking stick, crutch, small medical device (with prescription), diaper bag, breast milk/pump, small camera etc. 

United basic economy carry on exception 

If you are travelling on a United Airlines flight in the basic economy class, you can only bring the one personal item on board, no carry on bags allowed in United basic economy. Your carry on bag will have to be checked. This applies to all passengers flying basic economy, except on transatlantic flightsMileagePlus Premium or Star Alliance Gold members, or those who paid with MileagePlus credit cards

United Airlines carry on dimensions 

You can bring only 1 carry on bag in a united airlines flight, except in the basic economy class. The United Airlines carry on baggage size policy is as follows:

united carry on bag size
  • Cary on type: small bag, briefcase or trolly bag that can fit in the overhead bin 
  • Carry on size: less than 22” × 14” × 9” (56 cm × 35 cm × 22 cm) 
  • The above size is including any handle, wheels or other stuff sticking outside of the bag
  • The item must fit in the carry on sizer box at the gate – handle, roller and all 
united item bag size allowed

We have an extensive review of carry on bags and backpacks.

United Airlines personal item dimensions 

You can bring 1 personal item on board a United flight. It is allowed in all United airlines flights, regardless of the class you are travelling in. The United airlines personal items rules are as follows:

  • Personal item type: handbag, purse, laptop bag, small backpack etc. that can fit underneath the seat in front of you 
  • Personal item size: less than 17” × 10” × 9” (43 cm × 25 cm × 22 cm) 
  • The above size includes any handles or rollers, and must fit overall in the small sizer box 

United additional or special items rules 

If you want to carry uncommon or special kinds of items in a United Airlines flight, there may be some restrictions, special considerations, or extra charges for those. The following table can help you find your special item type and how it can be taken on board united. 

united air allowed items

Table for united airlines additional items fees 

Luggage type with picture Item (example) Carried as / Rules Max Nos, size & weight Extra fees 
Childcare items Hygiene/food (Breast pump, diaper bag, mother’s milk, baby formula) Additional item n/a n/a 
Child seat (car seat) Additional item, only for ages ≥ 2  1 per child, carry-on size 10% of adult fare 
Stroller (stroller, folding wagon) Additional item, only for ages ≥ 2 1 per child, carry-on size 10% of adult fare 
Compact folding strollers (gb Pockit Stroller, BabyJoy Pocket, Silver Cross Jet Ultra Compact) Carry on / personal item (as per size) 1 per child n/a 
Recreational equipment Sports equipment packed in bags Checked bag As per checked bag rules As per checked bag rules 
Scuba tanks (above 40psi only) Tank inside visible and not sealed, valve removed As per checked bag rules As per checked bag rules + $150/$200* if empty  
Batteries Standard battery cells (AA-9V, AAA, C, Carbon zinc, D, alkaline, Nickel metal hydride, Silver oxide) Place in checked/carry on n/a n/a 
Lithium cells (each packed separately in protective packet) Place in carry on if ≤ 100wh, place in checked bag if ≤ 160wh, above not allowed n/a n/a 
Firearms Hunting and personal safety equipment Checked bag, packed in hard, locked cases, battery removed from stun gun As per checked bag rules As per checked bag rules 
Gas-powered tools Cutters, saws (with permit and safety documents) Fuel removed, safely packed, as checked bag As per checked bag rules As per checked bag rules 
Life jacket 1 carbon dioxide-powered inflatable life jacket + 2 small gas cylinders + 2 small spare cartridges (packed separately) CO2 container and/or flare removed, as checked or carry on (as per size) As per standard baggage rules As per standard baggage rules 
Lighters Lighters, matches (packed safely) Inside carry on n/a n/a 
Portable medical devices ventilators, respirators and CPAP machines As additional item, must give 48 hours’ notice, with full battery + 3 hours of extra charge n/a n/a 
Hunting trophy Antlers In protective casing, as carry on ≤ 120” total dimensions (≤ 98” in United Express flights) $150/$200* 
Cremated remains Cremated human remains in urn or other container Packed in protective casing, with documents, as carry on n/a n/a 
Cremated pet remains (only if they can see what’s inside the container Packed in protective casing, with documents, as carry on n/a n/a 
Ice Blue ice As per size As per standard baggage rules As per standard baggage rules 
Dry Ice  In ventilated package (not Styrofoam), with proper label  Up to 5.5 ponds (2.5 kg)  $150/$200* 
Liquor Alcoholic beverages (≤ 24%) In any bag, packed safely As per standard baggage rules n/a 
Alcoholic beverages (24% to 70%) In checked bags (in carry on if purchased as a duty free item), packed safely Up to 1.3 gallons (5 liters) in total. The package must be 5 liters max in size) n/a 
Musical instrument Small musical instrument Packed in hard case, must fit in bin or underseat space, as carry on or personal item respectively n/a n/a 
Medium-sized musical equipment Packed inside checked bag 63” to 115” in total n/a 
Large/fragile musical instrument As cabin-seat baggage As per cabin-seat baggage rules As per cabin-seat baggage rules 
Seafood Seafood in proper packs (not in wet ice/styrofoam) As or in checked bags n/a n/a 
Holy water Jerry can of Zamzam water / Ganga water / Holy water Sealed watertight, as a checked bag 2.64 gallons (10 liter) 1st can free, standard checked bags charges 
Pets Pets in pet carrier Safely enclosed in carrier/container/kennel, as additional item, placed in underseat space 17.5” × 12” × 7.5”  (44 cm × 30 cm × 19 cm) $125 for each animal** 
* $150 for domestic flights or to/from Canada/Puerto Rico/USVI; $200 for other flights 
** Plus $125 service charge for each stopover of more than 4 hours on domestic route or more than 24 hours on international route 

Items allowed in United carry on bags 

The United Airlines carry on items policy follows the TSA regulations strictly. As such, here’s a general idea of the items you can carry inside your United carry on baggage or United personal item.  

united air allowed items for carrry on

Table of United Airlines allowed items in carry on 

Type Item (with picture) Restrictions / Notes 
Food & Beverages Alcoholic beverages up to 70% only Less than 3.4 oz (100 ml), sealed, packed in small plastic zip lock bags. Details… 
Baby food, formula, breast milk, juice  Need to be screened separately, in reasonable quantities 
Dry, solid foods like bread, cookies, dried fruits Need to take out of bag before x-ray 
Liquid, gel or cream-like food like jelly, cream, gravy, honey Less than 3.4 oz (100 ml), sealed, packed in small plastic zip lock bags.  
Canned food Container size less than 3.4 oz (100 ml). Must be sealed. Recommended to take in checked bags. 
Powdered food or consumable, like coffee or spices Container size less than 3.4 oz (100 ml), sealed, take out before x-ray 
Drink containers like thermos Container size less than 3.4 oz (100 ml) 
Uncooked food like eggs or veggies Take out before x-ray. Not allowed to/from USVI, Hawaii, Puerto Rico 
Uncooked meat, seafood, frozen food Packed securely with up to 5 pounds of dry ice (wet ice not allowed) 
Pre-made packed foods like chewing gum, chocolate bars In reasonable quantity 
Oils/vinegars Container size less than 3.4 oz (100 ml), sealed, take out before x-ray 
Pet food Solid and fluid pet foods: follow rules above 
Medicines and medical equipment Blood sugar related equipment like sugar test kits, insulin pumps and cartridges Valid prescription needed, must also inform TSA officer at airport. Details…
Vision support like contact lenses, lens kit, lens solution Container size less than 3.4 oz (100 ml). More can be allowed by TSA officer if deemed necessary. Details… 
Other external medical devices like spinal stimulator, neurostimulator, feeding tube Submit Disability Notification Card and medical documentation to TSA officer, show manufacturer documentation about if it can be x-rayed. Tens/massage devices can be taken without documentation 
Inhalers or similar devices Container size less than 3.4 oz (100 ml). More can be allowed by TSA officer if deemed necessary. Details… 
Instant hot/cold packs As long as it fits within United carry on size 
Fluid medicines like tonics, ointments Container size less than 3.4 oz (100 ml). More can be allowed by TSA officer if deemed necessary. Details… 
Medical marijuana like cannabis infused products, CBD oils Only allowed if THC ≤ 0.3% of dry weight, documents mandatory 
Medical masks like N95 masks Must remove and be checked during screening 
Hard medicines like pills, and pill cutter Valid prescription needed, must also inform TSA officer at airport. Details… 
Nebulizers, CPAP devices etc. Valid prescription needed, must inform TSA officer, place in a clear plastic zip lock bag, take out while screening. Details… 
Portable oxygen concentrators like Inogen One, Airsep Lifestyle Documentation needed, inform TSA officer, take out for inspection. List of allowed devices… 
Vitamin/food Supplements Same rule as foods 
Support braces like neck brace, knee brace Must inform officer 
Thermometer Remove battery from digital thermometer.  
Injectable medicines and injections In reasonable quantity. Injection needles must be unsealed from factory packaging. Inform TSA officer. 
Disinfectants and hand sanitizers Container size ≤ 3.4 oz (100 ml), greater size can be allowed if deemed necessary 
Household items and tools Small devices like airbrush make-up device, breast pump, curling iron, small electric fan If it fits within your United carry on baggage. Must remove power source. 
Powders like baby powder, talc Container size ≤ 12 oz (350 ml). Must place in separate bin for screening. 
Mix/blend machines like travel blenders, juicer Allowed only if the blade is removed and placed in checked bags, and if it is less than United carry on dimensions 
Small non-powered tools or toys like bottle opener, key fob, fidget spinner,  Not harmful tools that can be used as weapons, fully assembled size ≤ 7”  
Gas operated personal tools like butane shavers, butane curling irons Withing safety case, gas cartridge not allowed 
Fluid items like ointments, creams, gels  Container size ≤ 3.4 oz (100 ml), placed in quart size plastic zip lock bags 
Electronic devices like cell phones, clocks, music players, electric razors or toothbrushes, flashlights, small radio Remove power source whenever possible 
Aerosols like perfume, deodorant Container size ≤ 3.4 oz (100 ml) 
LaptopNeeds separate screening 
Paintings If it fits within your United carry on baggage 
PillowsIf fits 
Pots and pans If under the United carry on size limits 
Office supplies like staplers, pins, pencil sharpeners In protective package 
Hygiene supplies like tampons, sanitary pads, disinfecting towels, disposable underwear, condoms etc. In reasonable quantities 
Vacuum-sealed bags Needs to be inspected – if basic scrutiny unsatisfactory, they may open it 
Wedding dress Must be packed safely and securely in hard transport-ready casing. 
Unpowered home tools like knitting needles, shaving razors, nail clippers,  In safe package. Scissors must be ≤ 4” 
Flammables Smokes like cigarettes and cigar, cigar cutter Check import/export laws for the countries in case of international travel 
Chargers with a battery inside, like power banks  Must be packed properly 
Candles Must be packed properly 
Sporting & Camping equipment Collapsible outdoor furniture like air mattress with inbuilt pump, sleeping bag If fits within United carry on 
Small sports stuff like balls If fits 
Camping stoves Without fuel 
Soft-sided cooler Only if empty 
Parachutes Packed properly in separate bag 
Collectibles like rocks or conk shells As long as reasonable weight 
Weather protection like umbrella, raincoat, snow boots As long as it fits within the carry on size 
Common things  To find out which common, day-to-day usables will the United Airlines will allow on their flights, please check this page
Note: please go and check the TSA list of allowed and restricted items for full details. 

United Airlines Basic Economy Carry-On Fees and How to Avoid Them 

When you are travelling on a basic economy class ticket on a United flight, you cannot take a carry on luggage on board. (You can still take one personal item, though.) However, this rule is lifted if you are going on a transatlantic flight. 

If you are caught at the gate with a united basic economy ticket and a full-sized carry on, then it will have to be checked in, and the relevant charges (usually $30) paid. Furthermore, you will be charged $25 extra because of the gate check. 

Therefore, it is better if you opt for some ways to avoid the United basic economy carry on charge, or don’t take a carry on at all. There are two great ways you can avoid paying extra but still take a carry on onboard a United Airlines basic economy class, as follows: 

1. Pay with a co-branded United credit card 

This is the most common way to avoid the united carry on fee, and also get some extra advantages along with. If you use one of the following cards, you can bring a carry on bag onboard with a United basic economy ticket. 

Table of united co-branded credit cards 

UnitedSM Explorer Card      UnitedSM Business Card      UnitedSM Infinite Card      
MileagePlus Club Card      Presidential PlusSM Card     MileagePlus Awards Card      
Ixe United Universe Card      Presidential Plus Business Card      Ixe United Card      
Note: any carry on luggage you take onboard a United flight using these methods is still restricted by United carry on size and number restrictions, and the items within it are restricted by the United carry on item regulations.  

2. Be an Elite traveler with United  

If you travel frequently on United flights, you can accumulate enough miles to achieve the Elite status on United Airlines. This is most suitable to business travelers who need to cover lots of miles on work. When you achieve this status, and you hold one of the following memberships, you will be allowed to take a carry on (subject to restrictions and space availability) on board the United flight with just a basic economy ticket. List of such memberships are: 

  • MileagePlus Premier Silver 
  • Premier Gold 
  • Premier Platinum 
  • Premier 1K  
  • Star Alliance™ Gold 

This is the hard and expensive way to get free carry on in united basic economy, but hey, the payoffs are better too! 

United Airlines liquids, gels and aerosols rules 

About fluid or gaseous items you can carry in your United carry on luggage has some restrictions. United Airlines follows the TSA restrictions on liquids, gels and aerosols strictly, so you will have to pack accordingly. These restrictions are: 

  • United liquid, gel, aerosol max size: 3.4 oz or 100 ml 
  • The above is the size of the container (bottle/tube/jar), not how much liquid/cream is left in the container. 
  • All the liquid, gel, aerosol items you carry in your United personal item or carry on must be kept inside a single quart-size clear plastic bag (6’ × 9’). You can get many of these online. The size may vary a little bit as long as it sums up to 1 quart (946 ml) or less. 
  • You have to place the bag in a separate bin while checking in. 
  • Exceptions:  
    • Medicines and infant nursing liquids are not counted in this rules – they have separate rules.  
    • Duty-free items – only on international flights, packed in original clear bags provided by vendor, and you have to show the receipt too. 

How to Handle United Basic Economy Bag Issues 

There are some restrictions on baggage in United basic economy class. These are the following: 

  • You cannot bring a full-sized carry on bag on a United basic economy class ticket.  
  • You are allowed only a small united personal item (size under 17” × 10” × 9”) or your pet carrier, which must fit under the seat
  • If you bring a full sized carry on bag on a basic economy ticket: 
    • It will be checked in and you have to pay the applicable united checked baggage fees ($60, $100, $200 for the first, second and third bag). 
    • You will also have to pay the gate handling fee ($25). 
  • Mobility or assistive devices (like foldable wheelchairs) are not counted in this rule. 
  • This rule does not apply on united transatlantic flights

This means if you’re travelling basic economy on United, you will have to pay for your carry on bag, a minimum of $60, and up to $225. So, how do you avoid paying for United carry on in basic economy?

  1. Book the flight using a co-branded United credit card.  
  2. Become a privileged customer with United Airlines. 

 We have already discussed these methods above, please go to the “United Airlines Basic Economy Carry-On Fees and How to Avoid Them” section in this article for more information. 

FAQ’s about United carry on size 

What is United Airlines maximum carry on bag size? 

Answer: 22” × 14” × 9” (56 cm × 35 cm × 22 cm) or less. This includes any handles or wheels, etc. sticking out of the bag. 

Is United Airlines strict about carry on size? 

Answer: United airlines follows the standard rules for carry on and personal item sizes (22 x 14 x 9 and 17” x 10” x 9” respectively). However, as long as the item fits completely into their sizer boxes provided at the check-in, they may allow it even your bag is bit larger than regulations. 

Can a 24 inch luggage be a carry on? 

Answer: as long as the bag fits into the overhead bin, United will allow it as a carry on. So, if the bag is 24 inched long but can fit into their sizer box somehow, you can take it. Check these carry on bags we have reviewed.

What if my carry on is one inch too big united? 

Answer: If your united carry on bag is above their size limits (22” × 14” × 9”), they will check that bag in, for which you may have to pay additional fees, ranging from $60 to $225). 

What is not allowed in carry on? 

Answer: United Airlines restricted items policy follows the TSA restricted items regulations strictly. As such, basically you cannot take any item in your carry on that may be considered dangerous, for example: 

Also, you cannot carry liquids or creams in containers that are bigger than 3.4 oz (100 ml). 

Can a duffel bag be a carry on? 

Answer: Sure, you can take a duffel bag as a carry on in a United flight, as long as it is under United Airlines carry on size restriction (22” × 14” × 9”). The problem is, duffel bags are generally odd-shaped, so they may cause a bit of problem with this size restriction. However, if it can be somehow stuffed into the United sizer box at the check-in, then the airline crew should have no problems allowing it. 

Can I take a backpack and a carry on United? 

Answer: The United Airlines allows each passenger one free personal item (max 17” x 10” x 9”) and one free carry on bag (max 22” × 14” × 9”). If your backpack and carry on are smaller than those sizes, then sure you can bring them on board free of cost. However, make sure that your personal item can fit the under-seat space and the backpack fits in the bin. Check the best backpacks you can bring on your next travel.

Can I bring makeup in my carry on? 

Answer: When your makeup is a solid matter (like lipstick) then there wouldn’t be any restrictions on it in a United flight. However, if you are bringing fluid types of makeup (liquid, flowing powder, gel, cream etc.) then you have to obey the TSA restrictions, which are basically: 

  1. The containers (bottle, tube, jar) must be less than 3.4 oz (100 ml) or less in size 
  2. You must place all of them inside one quart-size bag (6” x 9”), clear plastic. 

How do I get a free checked bag on United? 


  1. Pay using a United co-branded credit card, like United Explorer card, MileagePlus Club card, Ixe United Universe card etc. 
  2. Become an elite flyer in some of their privileged memberships, like MileagePlus Premier, Premier Gold, Star Alliance Gold etc. 

How many 3 oz bottles can I take on a plane? 

Answer: According to the TSA, you can carry a few 3 oz or less bottles, tubes etc. in your united carry on as long as they all fit inside one 6” x 9” quart-sized clear plastic bag. Generally, it isn’t capable of holding more than 3-4 items of 100ml size, that should be your rough limit. Do make sure you’ve checked the united restricted items guide first, though, because you have to present the plastic bag at security in a separate bin for checking. 

Check Other Airlines Baggage Fees and Policy.

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