What You Need to Know About United Airlines Baggage and Other Fees

Keith M. Rosso, Sally FrenchSeptember 11, 2020
On a similar note...
On a similar note...

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

In 2018, United Airlines generated nearly $900 million of baggage fee revenue, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Transportation, a figure that topped $1 billion in 2019. Factoring in extra costs like paying to check luggage or to board early makes the fare cost only part of the equation when booking your flight itinerary these days.

But first, some good news: When it comes to change fees, United has you covered. Aside from basic economy airfares, United does not charge change fees on most domestic flights. They also allow passengers hoping to book earlier flights the ability to fly same-day standby for free, among other flexible, fee-free booking options.

And now for the bad news: United still charges fees for checked luggage, as well as other extras like priority boarding and preferred seating.

Here’s what you should know about United’s fees.

United Airlines checked bag fees

United’s checked bag fees vary depending on your route. In March 2020 the airline announced a $5 increase to checked bag fees for flights within the U.S. and to/from the Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America for passengers who do not prepay for their bags online. On certain routes, United offers the ability to prepay for your checked bags to save on fees. To confirm baggage fees for your itinerary, you can use United’s baggage calculator.

Here’s a summary of what you can expect to pay for baggage fees so long as your bag adheres to United’s size and weight requirements.

Flights within U.S. and to/from the Caribbean:

  • Basic economy and economy: 1st bag, $35; 2nd bag, $45.

  • Premium economy, business class and first class: 1st bag, $0; 2nd bag, $0.

U.S. to/from Canada:

  • Basic economy and economy: 1st bag, $30; 2nd bag: $50.

  • Premium economy, business and first class: 1st bag, $0; 2nd bag, $0.

U.S. to/from Mexico

  • Basic economy and economy: 1st bag, $35; 2nd bag, $60.

  • Premium economy, business and first class: 1st bag, $0; 2nd bag, $0.

U.S. to/from South America:

  • Basic economy and economy: 1st bag, $0; 2nd bag, $65.

  • Premium economy, business and first class: 1st bag, $0; 2nd bag, $0.

U.S. to/from Europe:

  • Basic economy: 1st bag, $60; 2nd bag, $100.

  • Economy: 1st bag, $0; 2nd bag, $100.

  • Premium economy, business and first class: 1st bag, $0; 2nd bag, $0.

U.S. to/from Africa, Asia and Australia:

  • Economy: 1st bag, $0; 2nd bag, $0.

  • Premium economy, business and first class: 1st bag, $0; 2nd bag, $0.

Besides flying in premium class or having MileagePlus status, you can save on checked bag fees as a United co-branded credit card holder. To enjoy the free checked bag benefit, you’ll have to link your MileagePlus account number to your reservation and pay for your flight using one of these qualifying cards:

  • United℠ Explorer Card (annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95) - One free checked bag for the primary cardholder and one companion traveling on the same reservation.

  • United Club℠ Infinite Card (annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $525) - Two free checked bags for the primary cardholder and a companion traveling on the same reservation.

  • United℠ Business Card (annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $99) - One free checked bag for the cardholder and a travel companion on the same reservation.

  • United Club℠ Business Card (annual fee: $450) - Two free checked bags for the primary cardholder and a companion traveling on the same reservation.

United Airlines change fees

United gives you lots of flexibility when it comes to allowing you to change your flight. In August 2020, United removed change fees permanently on most domestic flights, excluding basic economy fares. International flights are also excluded from the new change fee policy, but they are covered under the airline’s special COVID-19 fee waivers until Dec. 31, 2020.

Domestic change fees used to be $200; since the policy update, passengers can now change their flight at no cost. There's one caveat: You still have to pay for the difference in fares if your new flight is more expensive. And if your new fare is cheaper, you won’t get a refund for the difference.

United Airlines standby fees

Standby fees are gone now too. The airline used to charge $75 (waived with MileagePlus Gold status or above) to fly standby on the same day. Now, any customer can stand by for an earlier flight for free.

Other United Airlines fees

Want to board early or avoid a middle seat in the back of the plane? You’ll likely have to pay a fee. Here are other United fees to be aware of:

Excess baggage fees (overweight and/or oversized)

  • $100 to $200 depending on destination.

In-cabin pet fee

  • $125 each way on select flights.

Priority boarding

You can pay to board in Group 2 behind United Airlines elites and premium cabin passengers:

  • Starts at $15 per flight segment.

Preferred seat selection

  • Starts at $14 and varies by route.

  • Basic economy passengers are eligible to purchase preferred seating.

United offers customizable bundle packages during the booking process, which could save you money if you’re paying multiple fees. For example, you can bundle your checked bag fees and priority boarding. Keep in mind, these bundles are typically nonrefundable so be sure your travel plans are firm when booking.

There are many moving parts when booking any airlines reservation and United is no exception. Take the extra time to understand baggage and other fees as you plan out your bookings so you don't get caught by surprise.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet’s official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.