How to Get Free Checked Baggage on Major U.S. Airlines


checked baggage us airlines united

United Airlines

United Airlines is another major airline that joined the rest and changed their baggage policies late August of 2018. Their updated full baggage policy is detailed here, so you can get an idea of what their bag policies are and won’t run into any surprises.

Baggage Fees

  • First bag: $30
  • Second bag: $40
  • Maximum weight: 50 lb.

United Airlines baggage fees are complex. Instead of posting a long chart of where and how much their prices are, they’ve instead built an easy way to check how much your service charges will be.
checked baggage us airlines

However, their baggage fees are not much different from Delta and American Airlines.

For domestic flights and flights between Canada, the Caribbean and most of Central America, your first bag will incur a $30 fee and the second bag will be a $40 fee. Both ways cost $60 round trip for the first bag, and the second bag will be an extra $80.

If your flights are not within those destinations, you’ll need to use the fee generator pictured above or go your MileagePlus account. From there you can enter your flight number and find out exactly how much you will be paying.

How to Avoid United Baggage Fees

Just like the airlines mentioned above, United has a few specific ways to get around paying for your checked bags. In some cases, you are offered up to three bags for free.

Premium Ticket

There are business and first class tickets that will get you your bags checked for free.

The short-haul first class seats will allow you to fly with two bags for free with a generous 70 lb. limit. Long haul business class will let you fly with three 70 lb. bags free of charge.

Credit Cards

United has four credit cards that offer checked baggage benefits. If you are a holder of any of the following cards, you can receive these benefits. However, you must purchase the flights with this card, and the card must be eligible and functioning at the time of check-in.

The four cards are:

  • United Explorer Card or the United Mileage Plus Explorer Business Card: You plus one companion get the first checked bag for free. You must be on the same reservation.
  • United MileagePlus Club Card or the United MileagePlus Club Business Card: You plus one companion get the first and second checked bags for free. You must be on the same reservation.

Elite Status

Traveling with United as a member of their four different elite status means you can enjoy several perks when you fly.

There are four tiers of the MileagePlus Premier membership: Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, and Premier Platinum K.

  • Premier Silver: This tier waives the fee for you and nine travel companions on domestic flights. For international flights, you get two bags free.
  • Premier Gold: This tier waives the fee for two bags both domestically and internationally.
  • Platinum and Platinum K: This tier gives you three bags for free for you and nine travel companions for domestic and international flights.

Earning United Elite Status is calculated each calendar year by a combination of Premier Qualified Dollars, Miles and Segments or PQD, PQM, PQS:

  • Premier Silver:  25,000 PQM, or 30 PQS and $3,000 PQD
  • Premier Gold: 50,000 PQM, or 60 PQS and $6,000 PQD
  • Premier Platinum: 75,000 PQM, or 90 PQS and $9,000 PQD
  • Premier Platinum 1K: 100,000 PQM, or 120 PQS and $15,000 PQD

Special Circumstances

There are several exceptions to these baggage fee rules for United. United will waive fees when:

  • An active US military or their dependent is traveling. With a military order, you and your dependents are allowed up to 5 bags, up to 100 pounds for free. If you’re flying for personal reasons, you can travel with up to 3 checked bags, 70 lb. for free.
  • You have a medical assisted device that you need to fly with, such a wheelchair.
  • You have a stroller or car seat when you are traveling with small children.