United’s Strict New Carry-On Baggage Rules Go Into Effect

by on March 3, 2014 · 108 comments

in TPG Contributors, United

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United put its new carry-on baggage sizing policy into effect yesterday, so we asked TPG Contributor Jason Steele, a Denver-based United flyer, for his take on the policy and its enforcement.

Better start measuring your bags!

Better start measuring your bags!

If you’ve flown on United Airlines recently, you might have noticed that they have deployed new carry-on baggage sizers at all of their gates, and even at many of the check-in areas. This is in conjunction with a new policy that was implemented systemwide on Saturday, March 1. Although there have been rumors online of this policy change for some time, it was confirmed by the UA Insider company representative on Flyertalk last week.

The new size limits as posted are:

Maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels.

Maximum dimensions for your 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).

United's acceptable carry-on sizes.

United’s acceptable carry-on sizes.

However, those who have measured the new sizers find that their interior dimensions are one inch larger than advertised. In fact, UA Insider noted that “the sizers are indeed slightly larger than our published guidelines so that in-policy bags will comfortably fit in them.”

Also 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.)
United's sizers are actually slightly larger than the dimensions listed.

United’s sizers are actually slightly larger than the dimensions listed.

What you need to know about the new policy:

  • All passengers may be required to place both their carry-on and personal item into one of the new sizers before boarding. Expect no exceptions for elite level travelers and those traveling in business or first class. Do not expect staff to be swayed by protests from travelers who have flown with their bags for decades and know that it will fit easily in the overhead bins.
  • United will collect checked baggage fees from passengers whose bags do not fit in the sizers. According to the United Hub web site: “Once they’re at the gate, bags that exceed carry-on size limits will need to be checked to your final destination, and will be subject to the standard checked-baggage fee.” Whereas United used to gate-check bags at no cost, passengers can now expect to be presented with the choice of paying for their bag or leaving it behind.

Why is this happening?

United is claiming that the new policy will “help everyone board a little easier.” It is true that United, like many airlines, has been lax in enforcing their existing policies, and that some passengers have exploited the lack of enforcement and slowed down the boarding process.

United says the new rules will speed up boarding.

United says the new rules will speed up boarding.

At the same time, the reason that people aggressively push the boundaries of the current policy is that United charges (non-elites and those without one of their co-branded credit cards) for checked bags at the check-in counter. Carriers like Southwest and JetBlue that allow checked bags for free are able to load their cabins much quicker.

Furthermore, these new limits are significantly less than that what will fit in an overhead bin. For example, the carry-on that I have used without a problem on dozens of flights since 2006 easily violates the new standard. Therefore, most observers are left to conclude that by implementing a new carry-on bag standard along with the policy of charging for gate checked bags is clearly done as a revenue-generating measure.

What are the potential problems with this policy?

  • This policy is poorly disclosed. United has a couple pages on their web site here and here, as well as a single, short post on Flyertalk. Otherwise, there has been very little news or announcements on this subject. Some travelers have received email announcements while others have noticed additional information when checking in online. So many travelers will be blindsided by this policy for months to come. Of course, this strict new policy seems counter to their current marketing campaign of “United Friendly.”
  • This policy may be inconsistently enforced. Like many United policies, not all of the employees and contractors are on the same page. It is entirely likely that gate agents might accept a carry on for the first leg of a flight, but reject it on the second leg. Over the weekend, as this new policy was supposed to take effect, some travelers reported strict enforcement, while others saw none.
  • Having each passenger place his or her bags in a sizer, and potentially have to see an agent to pay a checked-bag fee, will undoubtedly slow down the boarding process even more. Some passengers will argue the point with United staff, while others will have to take time to retrieve their valuables before checking their bag.
  • The new policy is inconsistent with their Contract of Carriage. Page 22 of the current contract states:


“Carry-on Baggage must not exceed the Maximum Outside Linear Dimensions of 45 inches (114 cm) (height + width + depth), which includes its wheels and handles, and may not be longer than 22 inches in any single dimension.”

Limiting bags to linear dimensions of 45 inches with a maximum single dimension of 22” is not the same as limits of 22 x 14 x 9 inches. For example, a cube of 15 inches on each side complies with the Contract of Carriage, while it would definitely not fit into the new sizer. The Contract of Carriage does specify that, “Carry-on Baggage or personal items suspected of being oversized may require being placed into a sizing unit to determine acceptability.” Nevertheless, it doesn’t define the dimensions of the sizer used. On a practical level, one could easily have a bag of 20 x 14 x 10 inches that meets the specification of Contract of Carriage, but fails to fit in the new sizers.

United actually sells non-compliant carry-ons!

United actually sells non-compliant carry-ons!

  • United actually sells non-compliant bags as “carry-ons”. For example, traveler can buy this Tumi Alpha Continental bag from United’s MileagePlus Awards Mall. It is clearly labeled “Carry-On” despite having outside dimensions of 10 inches in depth and 16.25 inches in width.
  • It is unclear whether or not United and their contracted gate agents will require the bag to merely fit in the new sizers or to easily slide in and out. With other airlines, I have had agents force me to check a bag that fit in their sizer without much effort, but was still deemed too large.
  • There have been reports of gate agents blaming the new policy on the FAA. It is not new that airline staff can erroneously blame their company’s policies on “FAA regulations,” but it should be obvious that the FAA isn’t forcing United to start charging for gate-checked bags.

Tips for navigating United’s new policy

  • Measure your bags now. Those with plans to travel on United should take out their tape measures and ensure that their bags comply with this new policy. The airport is not the time to learn that your bag won’t fit.
  • Focus on the 9. If you look closely at the baggage sizers, you will see that there are cutouts on either end of the 22-inch length for handles to protrude (but not wheels). Also, agents would have to bend over and put their head just a foot or two above the floor to ensure your bag doesn’t rise slightly above the 14″ long side. Nevertheless, your bag will obviously fail the sizer test if it violates the 9-inch dimension, which is 10 inches on the actual sizers.
  • Have a backup plan. Even when the dimensions of your bag appear to be compliant with the new policy, there is no accounting for the whim of gate agents under pressure to enforce this new policy who might find that your bag doesn’t fit easily enough, or that its handle is too large. Therefore, it would be wise to include a small cloth backpack or bag with your valuables, just in case you are forced to check your bag at the gate.
  • Examine the list of permitted carry-ons. United’s Contract of Carriage is filled with exceptions to the carry-on plus personal item rule. These include an overcoat or wrap, an umbrella, a reasonable amount of reading material, a camera, and a diaper bag. As long as they are enforcing their rules (and then some), passengers should be aware of all the permissible exceptions.
  • Use a United credit card to avoid checked baggage fees. United offers its Explorer and United Club cards that offer up to two free checked bags when you use them to purchase your tickets. These cards won’t keep United from damaging or losing a bag they force you to check at the gate, but at least you won’t have to pay for the privilege.
  • Vote with your wallet. If you don’t want to worry about being forced to check your favorite carry-on bag, you might just want to fly a different airline. At this time, most other carriers have little incentive to separate you from your carry-on, so long as it fits in the overhead bin.
The hard-sided CalPak will fit.

The hard-sided CalPak will fit.

Some suggestions for purchasing affordable, compliant bags:

Unfortunately, many will discover that their expensive carry-on or personal item needs to be replaced in order to comply with United’s new rules. Here are some suggestions for reasonably priced carry-ons:

  • Consider hard-sided luggage. I have long preferred soft side carry ones because they tend to be more affordable and because I could overstuff them a little. Unfortunately, this leaves too much up to chance when being forced to use a sizer.
  • Check out bags marketed as “International carry-ons.” Some foreign airlines have long held polices that were closer to United’s, so online retailers such as as eBags have a whole selection of carry-ons that meet this requirement. Many bags list a height of just 20 inches, but that often doesn’t account for handles. This CalPak KLUB 20 hard-sided, four-wheel spinner from is listed as 20″ x 13.5″ x 9″ and should easily fit in a sizer. It weighs 3 lbs, has a 3-year warranty, and costs $52.99 with free shipping. Thankfully, eBags frequently appears in online shopping portals. For example, the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal currently offers an additional 8 points per dollar from eBags, while shoppers using the American Airlines AAdvantage shopping mall will enjoy 5 miles per dollar plus a 10% discount for purchases over $49.
  • Visit discount stores. Great luggage doesn’t have to have cost a lot of money. I find some good deals at discount retailers in my area such as Ross, TJ Maxx, and Tuesday Morning. For example, I picked up a hard-sided piece from a company called CIAO that is compliant with United’s new policy and international carriers for $40. To my eyes, it is indistinguishable from many bags sold for $200 or more. Besides, since your carry-on bag will always be within your control, you don’t have to worry about it being tossed by a baggage handler or run over by a luggage cart.
  • Double check all dimensions. Bring your tape measure with you to shop for luggage, and double check any bag you order through the mail. Many travelers have found that their bags dimensions are inaccurate, or don’t include wheels and handles.

The bottom line is, the new policy is in effect, and it’s better to be prepared than get blindsided by having to pay a fee to check your bag at the gate. Have any of you flown United since the new policy went into effect? If so, were the agents enforcing the new rules?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Anon

    what a useless post. much more useful would be someone’s personal experience with enforcement of the new policy out of a UA hub (Denver)

  • Gary

    What a useless comment. Much more helpful would have been your personal experience with enforcement of the new policy.

  • Dan

    Completely disagree. There are thousands of United flights a day, and a few samples from a few people will not provide any clarity, especially for a new policy. Nice post TPG

  • Jenny

    I flew out of Denver yesterday. I did see the new sizers at the gates, but my flight didn’t mention them or use them to check our bag sizes.

  • david

    I took a flight from CLT to ORD last night. The sizers were at the gate but not used. And there certainly was no enforcement. The couple across the aisle from me each had 2 rollaboards, which were stacked and at least 2 personal items each.

  • dee seiffer

    Good to know. Thanks for such a detailed post, Jason. That’s why I follow TPG.

  • Bawsey

    Or just carry a copy of the CoC and stroll onto the plane like a Boss with hand luggage in tow!

  • IADFlyer

    I think that the majority of people that take issue with this policy or post are the people violating the FAA carry-on limits. MANY travelers walk through government controlled TSA checkpoints w/ “carry-on” bags that do not comply with government regulations, be that the amount or size of the bags.

    Now, that being said, I do take issue with 2 statements in the article. 1] I immediately discount any reference to Southwest or Jetblue in an article about a legacy carrier, especially one w/ as many hardcore business travelers [legendary for not wanting to give up ANY bag] as UA has [well, the old UA atleast!]. The vast majority of business travelers can have their bag checked for free, so the cost of checking it has nothing to do with it. 2] Just because the overhead bin can fit something larger then these guidelines allow doesn’t mean we should get to bring it on. By setting a standard size [assuming they can enforce it] more passengers who have complied w/ the carry-on limit will find SPACE for their bag, in theory atleast! As someone who travels with a bag that can go underneath the seat in front of me if it HAS to, I have not had to concern myself with this in years. Words can never express the grief, frustration and anxiety this has saved me.

  • RakSiam

    So UA is trying to put themselves out of business?

    But I wouldn’t say that B6 is any faster boarding. I flew TPA-DCA over the weekend on a flight that was basically 100% full. Boarding took forever because even with a free bag people still bring on everything and the kitchen sink.

  • bwb
  • Lego

    Voting with your wallet seems to be getting harder. The airlines continue to consolidate and with each alliance making separate anti-consumer decisions. Delta’s new Skymiles program is terrible and United has a bad carry on bag policy. What’s a person to do?

  • Roy H

    what were United’s old carry on dimensions? Curious how much it changed. Same as the contract of carriage?

  • joeypore

    Just another reason why I believe the new American, if they play their cards right, can really succeed as the largest airline. They seem to have a pretty good product going for them, and if they stay away from all of these dumb new rules and devals that Delta and United are doing, they might just be able to win over more people.

  • Goat Rodeo

    Uhm – American has the exact same dimensions and hasn’t driven itself out of business. I think people will live with the new restriction(s).

  • Goat Rodeo

    you do realize this “dumb new rule” is the exact same carry on rule that AA has, right?

  • Jim

    I for one don’t see an issue here. How many of us are tired of the folks who knowingly (or are just too foolish to not own a tape measure) bring oversized luggage onto the plane. Yes, they have those expansion zippers, but that doesn’t give you the right to stuff 10 days worth of junk into the bag to carry on.

    How many times have we been hit upside the head by that person with an oversized bag trying to heft it into the bin, whilst having an overstuffed purse on their shoulder (or laptop bag) all the while holding a bag of crap that they bought in the terminal. Very frustrating.

    Pack light, and this shouldn’t be a problem. Over the years, I have learned to pack a couple fewer books, not because it is oversized, but one gets tired of schlepping a bunch of crap around the terminal.

  • joeypore

    I’m referring to now charging people at the gate for something they were not enforcing prior to March 1st. In addition, AA employees are very realistic in my experience, knowing what actually will fit and what will not.

  • Jason Steele

    The contract of carriage hasn’t changed, but the sizers and the charging for gate checked bags is new.

  • Goat Rodeo

    At some point in time people have to realize carry on restrictions matter – if they learn that lesson with their wallet at the gate – fine by me. My carryons are all properly sized and most of us on this block board prior to the unwashed masses who are likely to have these “issues.”

  • Jason Steele

    As a DEN based traveler, I am a big fan of Southwest travel. I know they won’t make me check the carry-on that I have been using for years, that easily fits wheels first in the overhead. Since they don’t charge for 2 checked bags, people carry on less, the planes board quicker, and everyone is less confrontational.

  • Ivan M.

    Totally support this and I hope other airlines adopt it (since I hardly ever fly United). I am really tired of people taking all their wordily possessions onto a plane. This would solve so many issues. Apart from the obvious (more space for everyone), people would not crowd at the gate anymore because it will become less important to be the first to board. Getting off the plane would also be so much faster. I really hope Delta adopts this.

  • Jason Steele

    This confirms the accounts I have heard from others, very inconsistent enforcement.

  • Jason Steele

    Thanks Dan. I visited DEN and looked at the sizers in the check-in area, and read as many trip reports as I could find.

  • Roy H

    awesome my samsonite roller I have is spot on with the new rule..I was worried for a second. Though the personal item one is a bit tight..the smaller backpacks I tend to use may be a tad big.

  • joeypore

    Lol, I’m not even sure what you’re trying to prove. I fly upwards of 100k miles a year, mostly in J or F, and I do agree, many people are naive when it comes to traveling…but is that going to change?? Most of the time, it’s the ones that don’t fly often that are the problems. Occasionally is the dumb rich girl in first class. Regardless, I rarely ever see this actually take away significant time from the boarding process.

    It’s their business; they can do what they want. Me personally, I’m on AA and that’s not going to change.

  • Lindsey

    Thank you! I really don’t care what the policy is, I just need to know that my bag meets the guidelines. I’m frustrated when I go out of my way to purchase the correct bag and a gate agent here and there says it is too big. I don’t care, just tell me what’s permitted and I’ll carry the right thing! I just bought the CalPak KLUB 20 on ebags (via MileagePlus shopping portal), also using promo code for 10% off (GXYFACNLUG10), and of course, charged it to my Chase United Presidential Plus. Thanks for this helpful post!

  • KarenC

    Boarding at LGA this past saturdsy, they were checking bag sizes. I was in boarding group one. Fellow in front of me was forced to check his garment bag. Boy, was he mad, to the point of kicking his on bag while agent was tagging it.

  • Ryan

    I have no problem with this. What they need to enforce is the size of the “personal item”. people load up a roller bag and then walk on with a backpack thats almost as big as the roller bag. It can’t fit under the seat so they take up two overhead spots. I feel like that is a bigger issue.

  • wingknut

    More airlines need to _aggressively_ enforce carry on standards.

    I’m on the same page as United on this, although they need to clean up how this is defined.

  • leah/besttravelgear

    Excellent and well thought out post! I hope it gets a lot of circulation, tweeting right now. Thanks!

  • JoeSchmoe

    if you’re mostly in J or F, you obviously have no idea how the “boarding process” works because you’re boarded first. your comment is useless.

  • joeypore

    lol. Yeah, if you’re one of those that crowds the gate waiting to board. I could care less about being the first on board. I hang out in the Admirals Club or Centurion Lounge and board after everyone else has. Much less crowding. Much less stress.

  • Goat Rodeo

    which is great when you’re sitting in F and you don’t have to fight with someone with a monstrosity of a bag they’re trying to jam in the overhead.

  • Name

    It’s about time the airlines got serious about the monstrosities that are now hauled into the cabin as hand baggage. Passengers have been scamming this system forever. Flight attendants have taken the brunt of the gate not enforcing the rules. If UA takes it one step further and shunts all the oversize bag people off to the side as the plane boards, then deals with them last, people will snap to pretty quickly. I do see the addition of a few marshals at the gate to help the agents, as people will be raising an awful fuss. My next UA flight is not until July, so it will be interesting to see how it’s going by then.

  • Name

    As far as the oft-stated “ignorance excuse” is concerned … if someone is able to book a tix on the internet, they should be able to read and understand the regs.

  • Ed

    “Carriers like Southwest and JetBlue that allow checked bags for free are able to load their cabins much quicker.”

    But those two carriers (along with AirTran, Alaska, and Virgin America) allow the larger 24 x 16 x 10 carry-on size. Assuming that Southwest & JetBlue’s overhead bins are slightly larger to accommodate that size, it’s plausible that the extra space, not the free baggage policy, is what’s responsible for the speedier boarding.

    I’ve never measured the bins, but the circumstantial evidence seems to support the notion; my fully-packed Osprey Porter 46 fits more snugly in Delta, American, and United bins than in Southwest’s, and I’ve observed more people struggle with typical roll-away bags on those airlines as well.

  • Bob Lablob

    I’m all for this, however what I would really like to see are FA’s who find bags turned side-ways and say, ‘if this bag doesn’t fit straight in, its too big and will have to be checked’. Plain and simple. United shouldn’t have to waste gate agents time or money on the sizers…If it doesn’t fit straight in, its too big, end of story. 95% of these bags can be caught with the ‘eye-test’, we shouldn’t be forced to cram our bags into a metal box to prove that its the right size.

  • Josh

    The 10″ dimension on the personal item is a killer. I have a very compact backpack I carry my laptop in and it is 17x12x2. That 12″ width exceeds the new 10″ rule but this is a very small backpack that easily fits under the seat. I think many people will find that they will have to start claiming their laptop bag as their sole carry-on and actually check their suitcase even though the suitcase will fit in the sizer.

  • Bala S

    I traveled United from SFO to EWR and the gate agents enforced the rule only on obvious violations. They did not ask me to put my items in the sizer, and they were both fairly small.

  • Chris M

    Wow.. Reading some of the comments have surprised me. 1K flyer since the merger and have found the overhead bins getting smaller on the newer planes. The issue seems to be the extra bags brought on board and some excessive sized bags. But in the bag fees and how long it takes for checked bags in some airports to arrive is a problem. Newark can take 40+ minutes. Reduce bag fees and improve checked baggage times would help. Having said all this flying intra Europe with no carry bags except briefcases you bored in 15 minutes and take off quickly.

  • wwittman

    if airlines would just raise fares $25 but not ‘charge’ for checked bags this would all be moot.
    THEY created this problem through greed.

  • MC

    No checking at PTY or EWR on Mar 1/3

  • Patrick Fisk

    Delta is the #1 airline in the industry! Hands down superior to the others.

  • Chris P

    Strongly Agreed!!

  • Chris P

    It always amaze me to see how people post comments like this. it might sounds useless to you, but could benefit others. People spent time to write this up to inform others. Have a little appreciation on things!

  • DeityByZero

    Now you know why I won’t fly United. I’d rather take the bus than fly on an airline consistently rated as the worst one in the US. I could care less what kind of stupidity United wants to engage in.

  • DeityByZero

    You should take the bus.

  • DeityByZero

    There are many of us who could care less what you “pack light” people think we should carry on. I travel with my office in my bag, for good reason, and what you think about that means exactly squat to me.

  • DeityByZero

    More airlines need to turn anal customers around and off the airplane. If you don’t like what other people feel necessary to carry with them, take the bus.

  • DeityByZero

    On what planet?

  • JazzSinger

    I’m all for cracking down on the people who try to bring their life with them on a plane, but I don’t like the idea of nickel and diming someone who’s bag is a half an inch too big according to someone’s subjective enforcement. I’m curious to see how this goes, because my carry-on is the exact maximum size allowed. I bought it with the rules regarding carry-ons in mind, so I’m not trying to cheat. I’ve been a big fan of Continental, now United, for years, but the first time someone makes me check my bag will be the last time I fly that airline.

  • asten77

    Why do that when they can do both? Fares should have dropped $25 when the fee took effect – they most certainly didn’t.

  • HudsonJoe

    You should be dragged behind the bus along with all your trash.

    This is long over due. I personally would welcome a return to the era when there were no overhead bins and the only thing over the seats were hats and coats.

  • Paul White

    And the fact you don’t like this means bupkiss to those of us tired of being stuck behind you while you fumble for you myriad bags, those of us tired of getting smacked by said bags as you fail to control them, and those of us that want people to abide by agreed upon rules.

  • Jim

    Wow. I guess you told me. I am ashamed now. And by the way, I’ll say that you “couldn’t” care less. I feel slighted that you didn’t instruct me to also “take the bus.”

  • Jim

    Paul, that’s his office – not his bag.

  • Paul White

    So…can I throw his office off the damn terminal?

  • Jim

    Gate check that office!

  • Jesse

    If enough members call United elite line, we can get this policy changed. It has happened before and can happen again. Give them a call, give them you mileage Plus number and tell them that the back packs are too small and the carry ons width is too small. If the counter folks would do their job and only allow 1 bag per passenger, they would not have to change their policy.

  • SeattleStudent

    Thanks for the heads up on this–I will never travel on United again given a chance. As we all know, their baggage sizers have nothing to do with what actually fits on board. I rarely if ever see luggage that won’t fit as a major problem that slows down boarding (and I have flown regularly for decades.) On the other hand on nearly every flight these days I find that airline agents freaking out needlessly about luggage results in a lot of stress, and treating people like misbehaving kids. Personally I’d be willing to check baggage more often if we were allowed to gate check it and retrieve it with every flight, but as is airlines all too routinely lose luggage for good, delay it, or damage it and the contents beyond repair, so I view checking baggage as an emergency procedure, fees or no fees. So if United is now going to make flying even more miserable (something I thought couldn’t be done) with their new, totally unnecessary hostile strictness, I’ll part ways.

  • Dizzy

    I would say soft-sided bags are better, they squish to dimensions. I’ve been using a jansport Cordierra 33 which is a slightly oversized backpack for about 10 yrs now. Few changes of clothes, laptop, toiletries, 1-2 prs shoes, can even fit my pocket trumpet in there for jam sessions and gigs. Lots of pockets to separate stuff. Often I’ll grab a blanket or three from the plane as a little bedroll strapped to the bottom for impromptu camping if that’s possible (which I return on other flights). Much easier to travel with a backpack than rollers anyway! I usually buy small squishable souvenirs- ex- silk products, SMALL embroidered bags/etc, jewelry, some tea/herbs etc. Makes it super easy to do VDB’s too as well as NEVER losing my luggage. Workes even on united express flights.

  • Patrick Fisk

    The one you’re standing on. Delta is #1 in every financial & customer service metric.
    Barron’—> Delta, is still the cream of the crop. Stock price at all time high!

  • Rochelle

    charging for checked luggage encourages passengers to carry their luggage on to the plane. none of the hassle now associated with getting on a plane today was present a few years ago when checking luggage was free.

    Also, UA does not allow passengers with small children to board first. This means someone carrying a baby seat required by the airline, has to manage a child and a cumbersome seat, plus other paraphernalia need for a small child or baby. If they board with other passengers not only do they crash into everyone on the way to their seat, they take twice as long to get to their seat. UA should change this policy!!!

  • Marcia

    During international flights this is not a good police. Specially if you have other companies with competitive prices/services. My last trip with United was a bad experience . United is convenient for me, but I am considering to change to another company.

  • Richard Kahn

    I would not mind checking my bag even for a fee if the airlines would just change their barbaric system of baggage handling. There are times when the wait for the bag is longer than the length of the flight and this is compounded by frequent loss and damage with inadequate compensation. (When a bag is lost the airline a game begins to limit their responsibility and delay the payment).

    Worse, when the bag misconnects or is lost, your trip is compromised, complicated and at times disastrous. Sometimes I have multiple destinations on a trip and there is no way that a mishandled bag can catch up with me and I have little or no time to go shopping for replacements.

    I wish that the fees the collect would not be viewed as “EASY MONEY” and they would use it to vastly improve the baggage handling system that was designed in the 1960′s. For now, I have no choice but to avoid checking luggage. But someday I hope that I can my bags with peace of mind. That would be a luxury!

  • Jacque

    I have been saying for 15 years that airlines should NOT charge for baggage checked, and charge for carry-ons, and use that money towards decreasing waiting times (copy ORD’s UA’s system), and improving accuracy and safety of handling our bags. If the loss and damage rates go down, and bags are checked for free, boarding times free up and everyone has less hassle. Small hand luggage only on board with hats and coats, purses – sounds marvelous to me.

  • Richard Kahn

    Mr. TPG: I would be up for CHECKING EVERYTHING and just walking on board with my passport, That would be so wonderful. Easy security. No worries about liquids and electronics. And there is is waiting for me when I get off. What a dream!

    Unfortunately, the reality is that checking luggage is a nightmare. It is far from safe, ulcers until you see it coming off the carousel (that is at times hard to find the right one), dangers of theft, significant wait time that seems like forever, .

    I would bet that this is the real reason why people bring their things on board. It is definitely my reason. The only issue I have with baggage charges that it only buys you hell and the airline only pockets it.

  • zubonhebi

    Exactly right. If checked baggage were secure and convenient I would only carry what I use during the flight. I no longer check a bag; too many arrivals with no bag and a meeting the next morning not to mention 30 to 45 minutes waits at the baggage claim. I now make do with what fits into my United-compliant roller bag, even for international trips. If I can’t pack it, I buy it at my destination.

  • enough

    I am full support of enforcing sensible rules, but I also know that I’ve invested quite a bit of coin on my luggage (both a wheeled carry-on and my backpack personal item) — that totally comply with the purposes. That is, in my 50 or so United fliglhts in the last two years (of all kinds and classes, domestic and international) my wheeled bag fits nicely “wheels first” (not sideways), and my personal item (backpack) fits under the seat. I have not had a flight yet, to see if these two bags fit in the new “sizing” boxes at the gate.

    I hope United is giving gate agents some sensible empowerment on this — not some pencil-pushing corporate bean counter azzho sitting behind a desk dreaming up new ways to drum up extra cash off of otherwise fully compliant passengers.

  • Michael Aaron

    The only real problem I have with this is the dimensions for the smaller carry on. Like most business travelers I always fly with a laptop. I recently visited 3 different stores in an attempt to find a suitable laptop briefcase that is no more than 10 inches tall. Couldn’t find any decent – and I have only a 14″ laptop. United should increase that allowable dimension to say 12″ which would cover most modestly sized laptop briefcases. They would still fit quite easily below the seat.

  • feijitong

    The customers who produce the most revenue usually seem to me to be the ones with the most carry-ons. This makes strict enforcement of the policy somewhat counter-productive and unlikely to succeed in the long-run. I could see different policies for First/business/elites as a way around this problem. Many of the people who complain about carry-ons tend to be lighter travellers or those who pay with lower fares.

  • feijitong

    Who pays more for the ticket? DeitybyZero is a business traveller and probably pays quite a bit on average per mile. Look, I am a business traveller and I have flown over 100k miles for over a decade each year on United but I do the same on American and it is easy for me to switch back and forth and I will if United is going to hassle me with my backpack being more than 9 inches thick.

  • Cindy

    I guess the thing that annoys me is I have a new (at Christmas) carry-on that I purchased for a trip to Europe this summer, that was compliant at the time I purchased it. It is a Briggs & Riley International Wide Body, so it’s shorter but a little wider than the now regulation 22 X 14 X 9 dimensions. The bag was not inexpensive, and when I purchased it United had an overall linear maximum instead of the “new” dimensions. I might add that the matching personal item is also 2 inches too tall, at 12″ instead of 10″, but I think that should be squishable as long as I don’t try to fit too much in it, and the other dimensions are all easily within the guidelines. So frustrating!

    I’m going out to the airport (IAH) for another reason on Friday, and I plan to take the carry-on with me and see if I can find a sizer. Does anybody have a wide body that they have used since the new enforcement/policy went into effect?

  • E. Eastmond

    Just checked United’s CC (page 21) and they’ve changed it to reflect their new baggage rules.

    After reading the comments, perhaps one of the probs is cranky travellers? I’m a bit confused by those who bring on way-in-excess baggage, yet also can’t really see the advantage of UAL tightening up their dimensions, if the old ones (properly enforced) worked okay. Perhaps they are trying to seamlessly merge the int’l/domestic flying experience by meeting Europe’s standards? But in Europe, I don’t mind checking as I don’t have to wait 35 minutes for a bag (exception: Italy), nor were they heavily damaged.

    Go easy on me, respondents. I’m new here.

  • Crissy

    While I wouldn’t be surprised if United is hoping to make money off of checked bags by only allowing smaller carry ons. I wonder if United is also hoping that by allowing smaller bags that more people may be able to fit their carry ons into the overhead – then spend less time trying to gate check bags at the last minute, slowing down boarding.

  • Crissy

    Just because you have or don’t have a large carry on has nothing to do with packing light. I could have the biggest bag under the plane and bring just a purse into the cabin.

    Or, I could be traveling with expensive camera equipment in my carry on and a carry on sized bag under the plane.

  • Eg713

    This is ridiculous. I have a backpack that is 20 inches long. It fits under the seat in front of me so when I board, all I have to do is get to my seat, take the backpack off, and put it under the seat. And now United is saying I can’t use it! That’s rubbish!!

  • peter trent

    Seems united read your article about the contract of carriage. They updated theirs effective April 10 with the new rules. ;(

  • Faye Green

    Issue solved.., I am going to Ohio to visit my mom and siblings for a month, so a week beforehand I am shipping what I need up there so I don’t have to worry about luggage and ship the stuff back to Key West, all I have to worry about is getting my butt on the plane.

  • mark craig

    hear hear Jason I agree with you about Southwet but on Monday of this week I have to Fly United to Africa and I am afraid of what I may come across. I need to have one change of clothes my laptop some snacks/food in my carry on

  • Zubair Gexton

    I have captured a trip coming up, and I truly don’t want to go over my backpack. I’m hoping they haven’t rolled it out at all airports and I can sneak it on the airplane! I am thinking about to send my baggage shipping to USA – services.

  • briandear

    I’m happy to comply with this policy when I stop seeing the baggage handlers throwing my bags under the plane from chest height onto the baggage belt as I sit in my seat watching then do it. Our bags aren’t bales of hay. Treat people’s stuff with respect and they’ll feel less obligated to take everything on board. I’ve flown from the US to Paris twice in the past month, IAH to MCO twice and US to Frankfurt once and every single trip, I’ve had at least one bag lost. The latest flight I had a child seat completely destroyed by the baggage ‘throwers’ all while watching from my seat window. On the Frankfurt trip my family of 4 was business class and they lost all 8 of our bags plus the gate checked carry ons and the gate checked stroller — for 6 days. I don’t pay for checked bags, so the fee concern isn’t applicable to me; but if you’re paying for a service, you expect reasonable care that your stuff isn’t going to be tossed like sacks of hog feed or constantly missing connections. I tend to travel light in the cabin but I completely understand the fear of checking anything. When United upgrades the quality of their baggage handling, then maybe they can start revenue grubbing over carry ons. Interestingly when I talk to United crews about this it almost always ends up being “Since the merger..” And inevitably the person to whom I’m talking is former Continental. Real simple United: I will pay for quality service; I resent bean counting revenue enhancement when it isn’t accompanied by an increase (or maintainence of) quality.

  • kate

    amen to this. here’s another thing people might not think about- people who are moving countries. I know when I moved from New Zealand to the US, we had to fit as much as we could in our carry-ons and personals, because we couldn’t afford to have 6 bags checked through. and

  • The Holy Truth

    When my bag is full, I just stuff all my pockets. No muss, no fuss!

  • Admiral Ackbar

    I do not fly united if I can help it
    have not been on one of their planes for 8 yrs now, hopping to make it the rest of my life

  • Admiral Ackbar

    take the train then

  • coachandrew

    I wish I knew exactly which Ciao bag you bought. The new size (as opposed to the new enforcement) is an awful development. I bought a wonderful Samsonite carry-on bag two years ago and have become great at packing light so I can save time and money and not have to worry about my bag. I believe this bag is just over the limit now. I’m flying United in a week, on a ticket bought before they changed the size, and if they make me check my bag, it’s my last United flight.

  • hapaomilu

    Flying in FC HNL-LHR, we took our Tumi 22″ bags. We like to travel light, no checked bag to lose. Lifetime expensive carryons with a million miles on them, fit straight in on all modern UA planes overheads, designed to meet the 22″/45″ total carryon rule. On the last leg, SFO-KOA, my bag was turned back because the handle doesn’t fit in the sizer. UA changed the rules mid-stream recently. How about reimbursing me for my now worthless 22″ Tumi bag?

    This will just lead us to push the secondary item rule to the max, using a Sportsac duffle to carry the excess. It flexes and fits in the sizer. Same total volume. The notch in the sizer is NOT designed to accommodate handles, as it is centered in the middle of the top, rather than the far side. Simply having a side notch would render all this upset moot. Rigid, tone-deaf policy implementation by new Continental management. Welcome to the new Friendly Skies.

  • Accipiter

    It’s not ‘scamming’ the system when it’s the airlines who made the ridiculous and arbitrary, money-making rule to charge for checked luggage. It’s the intelligent thing to do for travelers to take as much luggage as they can in their carry-ons. Why pay $25 for a bag that’s going to be thrown, slammed, crushed, stolen from and possibly delayed or lost when I could bring all my luggage on the plane and not have it manhandled or lost for free?

    The airlines CREATED this problem when they decided to charge for checked bags. If they want people to bring less in their carry-ons, they need to charge less for bags and treat checked luggage better. People aren’t scamming, they’re avoiding unfair practices and fees.

  • Accipiter

    I can easily fit my huge backpack under the seat in front of me, because it’s soft-sided. It leaves me with less leg room but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the safety of my items (and not paying $25 for my luggage to be manhandled)

  • Liliana

    I am traveling to Europe in a few days for 2 months. Just started packing. I am traveling with 2 kids ( 3 and 5). I plan on checking 2 suitcases plus 3 carry ons , one for each. I pay 3 full tickets, not kids in laps. Anyway my question is: I could check in 3 suitcases since there is 3 of us but since I am checking in only 2, …. can they be heavier? Instead 50 pounds each, can I do lets say 60 each? ….since I am checking 2 instead of 3 ?

  • liliana

    The carry ons are not being checked in, I did not make it clear above.

  • Jay

    I have the international wide body spinner from Briggs & Riley – I havent used the sizers – I’d expect it would peep out about 2 inchs over. But I am yet to be called out on it – we’ll see – maybe I just jinxed my self.

    And yes – same frustration as you – this B&R did not come cheap and it was compliant when I bought it – have used it twice in Europe on a few low cost carriers as well and I’ve not been told to check it.

  • Oldhalloween

    Changed a flight we purchased in February today. When I noticed the change in carry on dimensions I went to the Briggs & Riley site to find all the of the Transcend line has been discontinued. My Rolling cabin bags and shoulder bag are larger than the current dimensions so I sent a query to Briggs & Riley about what happens now if we have a large investment in our lifetime bags that are now obsolete. It would be nice if they at least offered a credit when the new bags come out.

  • multipurpose

    I feel terrible about this. Last Christmas my husband bought me a very nice Tumi lightweight carry on bag because I fly to visit grandchildren on United. It was expensive. I measured it and guess what, 15 ” wide. Even if I buy another (cheaper) bag, how do I know they won’t change their rules again? I would be glad to pay for checking a bag with these conditions:1) It is kept in a secure area until I come get it; 2) I don’t have to stand in a long line in any airport to hand it over if I paid to check it online; 3)AND they catch, fire and prosecute the the theives who work for them and pillage luggage. Is it so hard to do that?

  • Traveler

    I would take the train of America had them

  • Admiral Ackbar


  • Hunter Sheeks

    I have a duffel bag that is 48 inches all together but, all i’m putting in is a couple pairs of shoes. and there will still be a lot of room which means that it would be able to be flattened. would they still not let me on?

  • andrea t.

    We bought a nice, rather spendy carry-on specifically to fit the new United dimensions so we wouldn’t have to check. At a layover on his return trip, my husband was told that even though the bag fit fine overhead, the plane was too crowded and that he had to check it. You guessed it! They lost it! New suitcase, favorite hat, nice jacket, etc…. gone. Thanks a lot, United. Oh – and their lost luggage site is down so they can’t even look for it. After 40 years flying United, we’ll be looking around.

  • Jen

    I love the way that your stuff is “valuables” (as others claim above), but others’ is “10 days worth of junk”. I’m not criticizing you – just enjoying this little quirk of human nature! ;)

  • Jen

    That’s actually a pretty cool idea – load people by the weight of everything other than their body. Put it all on a large scale, get a ticket with the weight, retrieve it and get in line by weight! That would show these dimwits who bring 3 hardback books on a 2-hour flight!

  • Leenda


  • Quizcat

    If they would stop losing our bags so often, then some of us that travel, especially to foreign destinations, wouldn’t have to pack two bags, checking a clone of the one, hoping it will arrive, and then having a carry-on or gate checked bag, a duplicate bag of what is in the checked baggage. Besides, they do not take the length of stay into account. If a traveler goes somewhere for a week, especially and international traveler, and is only allowed one checked bag, that is preposterous!!! If you’re only traveling for a few days domestically, then one bag is fine. But, try replacing what they lost when you’re in a foreign country. Been there, done that. If they were not so incompetant at making sure bags arrive, then many of us would have less bags to check…Simple Solution, get some competance in making sure checked bags arrive without delay!

  • Cordirose

    What about those of us who fly SA? I am not checking a bag, can’t afford new carryon and won’t know if I get a seat til everyone else has checked in.

  • Cordirose

    Oh and does this mean flight crew bags don’t comply?

  • Ikerumbus

    I fly Southwest. Don’t care.

  • doodles

    You have the best reasoning of all entries thus far. Well summarized solution in your second brief paragraph! Bravo

  • puja

    Does United allow long umbrellas (22 inches long) as carry-on? I had previously been told by another airline that my umbrella is too long and pointy and they forced me to check it in.

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