Carry-on baggage

You must remove lithium batteries installed in any checked or carry-on bags. Once removed, you can bring these batteries on board. Smart bags that don’t have a removable battery cannot travel on any United® or United Express® flights.

Is your carry-on bag too big? Can you bring your golf umbrella on board? Does your laptop bag count as a personal item? We know packing can be a tricky part of your journey that brings up lots of questions. That's why we're giving you all the details about what you can and can’t bring on board when you travel.

Most travelers can bring on board one full-size carry-on bag and one personal item for free. However, there are important exceptions, including for customers traveling on Basic Economy tickets.

To help us make the boarding process as smooth as possible, make sure the items you bring on board are within our size limits. That way, they'll easily fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.

What can I bring on board?

On most flights, you're allowed to bring on board one carry-on bag and one personal item (plus other special items). Please make sure to read the exceptions though.

Carry-on bag

Your carry-on bag should fit in the overhead bin. The maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 centimeters x 35 centimeters x 56 centimeters). This includes handles and wheels.

Personal item

Your personal item should fit underneath the seat in front of you. The maximum dimensions for your personal item are 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 centimeters x 25 centimeters x 43 centimeters).

Other items

In addition to your one carry-on bag and personal item, you can bring the following items on board1:

  • A jacket
  • An umbrella
  • Reading material
  • Food or merchandise that you buy in the airport
  • Assistive devices (such as a collapsible wheelchair, cane, crutches, medical device for prescription medications, or portable oxygen concentrator)
  • FAA-approved child restraint system or safety seat
  • A diaper bag
  • A breast pump
  • A camera
  • A pet carrier (service charges apply for in-cabin pets)

You can always double-check the size of your items with our bag sizers at the airport.

If any bags are larger than the carry-on size listed above, or if you bring additional items, you'll have to check them to your final destination. Additional charges may apply.

Exceptions to our carry-on bags policy

Most travelers can bring on board one carry-on bag, one personal item and other special items. However, there are some exceptions:

 

Basic Economy

If you're traveling on a Basic Economy ticket, you can only bring one personal item on board. There are some exceptions, which we list below.

If you bring a full-size carry-on bag to the gate, you'll need to check your bag. You'll also have to pay the applicable checked bag fee and a $25 gate handling charge. To keep it simple at the gate, you'll need to pay by credit card.

If you're traveling on a Basic Economy ticket and one of the following exceptions apply, you can follow our normal carry-on bag policy:

  • Customers traveling across the Atlantic Ocean
  • MileagePlus® Premier® members or companions traveling on the same reservation
  • Primary cardmembers of qualifying MileagePlus credit cards2 or Star Alliance™ Gold members

Learn more about traveling on a Basic Economy ticket.

 

United Express flights

Our regional partner airlines use smaller aircraft. That means our United Express flights generally have less room in the overhead bins for carry-on bags. In some cases, roller bags and other larger carry-on items won't fit. You may need to check these items at the gate before boarding.

If you need to gate-check your bag, an agent will give you a green tag. Our baggage handlers will then place the bags nearby the aircraft during boarding. You can pick up your bag as you leave the aircraft rather than going to baggage claim.

For these flights, please put any medications or other items you may need on board in a smaller carry-on bag or personal item. That way, you can keep them with you during your flight. You should also pack personal vaporizers and e-cigarettes in your smaller carry-on bag or personal item. We won't allow them in checked or gate-checked bags.

Note: Aircraft with 50 seats have limited overhead bin space. On those aircraft, we may need to check your carry-on bag at the gate. We'll do this at no cost to you. As always, you'll be able to bring one personal item on board if it fits underneath the seat in front of you.

 

Fragile items

If an item is too fragile or bulky to travel as a checked bag, you can buy a ticket for it. You can then carry the item on board and place it in a seat. See our cabin-seat baggage page for more information.

Things to keep in mind

Help make the process smoother when going through security at the airport. Please pay special attention when packing the following items:

 
  • The Transportation Security Administration has some restrictions for packing liquids, gels and aerosols in your carry-on bag. These items must be in containers that measure 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less. They must also be inside a single quart-size or liter-size clear, sealable bag.

    Some exceptions apply, including liquids like baby formula and medicine. There are also exceptions for packing duty-free liquids in your carry-on bag.

    Read more about these exceptions and traveling with liquids, gels and aerosols.

  • We recommend you place any items that resemble powder in your checked bags.

    The TSA does not allow customers traveling to or within the U.S. to pack powder-based substances greater than 12 fluid ounces (350 milliliters) in their carry-on bag. Exceptions include medically prescribed powders, baby formula, human remains and duty-free powders. However, you must seal those in a tamper-evident bag.

    For more information, please visit the DHS website. You may also contact @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger with specific questions or visit TSA customer service.

  • You can carry a violin, guitar or other small musical instrument on board if it's in a hard case. These instruments will count as a carry-on bag if placed in the overhead bin. If placed in the seat in front of you, they'll count as a personal item.

  • Travelers can bring a breast pump on board as one of their special items. Visit our page about traveling with children to learn more.

Footnotes

  • The passenger must be the primary cardmember of an eligible United MileagePlus Card from Chase at time of check-in, and ticket(s) must have been purchased using their card in order to qualify.
  • For Basic Economy tickets for flights that are not trans-Atlantic, the limit is one personal item, no carry-on bag. Passengers on a Basic Economy ticket who bring a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate will be required to check their bag and pay the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 gate handling charge.

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