What To Know About United Airlines Bag Fees

In modern airline travel, unbundled pricing models are the new norm. While you may notice cheaper airfare than usual, especially for basic economy seats, airlines supplement this low airfare cost with various add-on fees and incidental charges, from paying for selecting a seat to checking a bag. United Airlines is no different. While their baggage policies are pretty straightforward, current baggage fees are dependent on a number of factors, including fare type, route, your elite status, and if you use a co-branded credit card to purchase your ticket.

By knowing these factors and their associated baggage fees, you can avoid price tag surprises and better budget for your flight. In some cases, you may be able to avoid baggage fees altogether. Depending on the number of checked bags you have, there may be situations it makes financial sense to simply upgrade your seat. However, you'll need to be familiar with United's current baggage policy before making these decisions.

Baggage fees depend on class and route

If you're not an elite member and didn't pay with a United co-branded credit card, economy class passengers flying domestically can expect to pay a baggage fee for the first and second checked bag. Currently, this domestic baggage fee is $35 for the first bag and $45 for the second bag, though you can typically save $5 on each fee by prepaying.

On international routes, United's baggage policy is a bit more generous. However, this depends largely on your route and the type of airfare you purchase. If you purchase a basic economy flight, you can check one bag free if traveling to Asia, Africa, Australia, or South America. Checked baggage fees for flights to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Canada are similar to domestic fees ($30 or $35), but the first checked baggage fee for European routes is $60.

While there isn't a difference between baggage fees whether you choose basic economy or standard economy airfare on most routes, the standard economy seat includes one complimentary checked bag on European routes. In other words, the $60 fee is waived, so if checking a bag, choosing a standard economy over a basic economy may be worth it. Premium economy, business-class, and first-class passengers receive two complimentary checked bags on international routes.

Unfortunately, on United domestic flights, basic economy's low fare doesn't include carry-on bags, either, and currently costs $25, though all passengers are allowed free carry-ons for international flights.

Ways to avoid baggage fees

Passengers who fly in the premium economy, first-class, or business-class cabins receive two free checked bags on both domestic and international flights. When considering the cost-savings of basic economy, you may want to compare rates between cabins, especially if you plan on checking two bags. In some cases, the upgrade to premium economy may be cheaper (and more comfortable) than checking two bags in basic economy.

Along with cabin upgrades, the other way to avoid United's baggage fees is by becoming a United MileagePlus elite member. For Premier Silver members, the lowest tier, you'll receive one free checked bag for domestic flights, as well as flights to the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, and Central America. Silver members also receive two free checked bags on most other international routes, including Europe, Asia, and South America. Higher-tiered elite members enjoy even better baggage benefits.

Finally, you'll also receive free checked bags if you pay for your flight with a United co-branded credit card. Depending on the card, you can check either one or two bags for free. As an added benefit for cardholders, traveling companions on the same reservation also avoid baggage fees.