United Airlines’ Basic Economy Carry-On Policy: What You Need To Know

Traveling can be stressful enough without having to worry about carry-on restrictions. If you’re booking a United Airlines basic economy ticket, you may be wondering – can I bring a carry-on bag? Here’s the quick answer: United Airlines only allows one personal item on basic economy tickets.

Read on as we dive into the details of United’s basic economy carry-on rules so you can travel with confidence.

What is Basic Economy on United Airlines?

Basic Economy is a fare option introduced by United Airlines that offers a lower-priced ticket for travelers who are looking for a budget-friendly option. It is designed to cater to customers who prioritize cost savings over additional amenities and flexibility.

While Basic Economy fares can be an attractive choice for some, it is important to understand the restrictions and limitations that come with this fare class.

Definition of basic economy

Basic Economy tickets on United Airlines provide passengers with a no-frills travel experience. This means that the fare is typically lower than standard Economy tickets, but it comes with certain limitations.

Passengers who choose Basic Economy will have access to the same flight experience and services as those in standard Economy class, such as in-flight entertainment and complimentary snacks and beverages. However, there are some key differences to be aware of.

One of the main differences of Basic Economy is that it typically does not include the option to choose a seat in advance. Instead, seats are assigned at check-in, which means you may not be able to sit with your travel companions or select a preferred seat.

Additionally, Basic Economy passengers are not eligible for upgrades or changes to their flights, and their tickets are usually non-refundable and non-transferable.

What are the restrictions?

When traveling on a Basic Economy ticket with United Airlines, it’s essential to be aware of the restrictions that apply. These restrictions vary depending on the specific flight and destination, but some common limitations include:

  • Carry-on baggage: Basic Economy passengers are only allowed to bring one personal item on board, such as a purse or small backpack. Full-sized carry-on bags are not permitted unless you are a MileagePlus Premier member or a primary cardholder of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card.
  • Boarding priority: Basic Economy passengers are typically assigned a boarding group and will board the plane after Premier members, eligible United credit card holders, and other priority groups.
  • Change and cancellation fees: Basic Economy tickets are generally non-refundable and cannot be changed or canceled without incurring a fee. It is important to carefully review the fare rules and restrictions before booking a Basic Economy ticket.

For more detailed information about United Airlines’ Basic Economy policy, you can visit their official website here.

United Airlines’ Carry-On Rules for Basic Economy

No full-size carry-on bags allowed

When traveling with United Airlines in Basic Economy class, it’s important to note that you are not allowed to bring a full-size carry-on bag on board. This means that you will have to check in your bag at the gate, and it will be stored in the cargo hold for the duration of the flight.

This policy is in place to ensure that there is enough space in the overhead bins for all passengers.

If you do bring a full-size carry-on bag to the gate, you may be required to pay a fee to check it in. It’s recommended to review United Airlines’ baggage policy on their official website to avoid any surprises or additional charges.

You can bring one personal item

While you are not allowed a full-size carry-on bag, you are permitted to bring one personal item on board with you. This personal item must fit under the seat in front of you and should not exceed the specified size restrictions.

Personal item size restrictions

United Airlines specifies that the personal item should have maximum dimensions of 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm). It’s important to note that these dimensions may vary slightly, so it’s best to check United Airlines’ official website for the most up-to-date information.

What counts as a personal item?

A personal item can include a wide range of items such as a purse, laptop bag, small backpack, or briefcase. As long as the item meets the specified size restrictions and can fit under the seat in front of you, it should be considered a personal item.

It’s important to pack efficiently and consider the items you truly need during your flight when traveling in Basic Economy class with United Airlines. By following these carry-on rules, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free travel experience.

Tips for Flying Basic Economy on United

If you’re planning to fly on United Airlines’ Basic Economy fare, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the airline’s carry-on policy. Here are some tips to help you navigate the restrictions and make your travel experience smoother.

Pack light and only bring a personal item

With United’s Basic Economy fare, passengers are only allowed to bring one personal item on board, such as a purse, briefcase, or small backpack. This item must fit under the seat in front of you. It’s important to pack efficiently and only bring the essentials for your trip.

Consider wearing your bulkiest items, like jackets or boots, to save space in your personal item.

Qualify for United elite status

If you frequently travel with United Airlines, it may be worth considering earning elite status. United offers various tiers of elite status, such as Premier Silver, Premier Gold, and Premier Platinum.

One of the benefits of elite status is the ability to bring a full-sized carry-on bag on board, even when flying Basic Economy. This can be a great way to bypass the carry-on restrictions and enjoy a more comfortable travel experience.

Pay for carry-on bag at booking or gate

If you need to bring more than a personal item with you, United allows Basic Economy passengers to pay for a carry-on bag. However, it’s important to note that the cost of adding a carry-on bag can vary depending on when you pay for it.

To save money, consider adding a carry-on bag at the time of booking rather than waiting until you get to the gate. This can help you avoid any last-minute fees or higher prices.

Check your bag instead

If you have more items than can fit in a personal item or carry-on bag, you can always check your luggage instead. While there may be an additional fee for checked bags, it can be a convenient option if you have larger or heavier items that you don’t want to carry around the airport.

Just make sure to check United’s baggage policies and fees beforehand to avoid any surprises.

Remember, each airline has its own specific policies and restrictions when it comes to Basic Economy fares. It’s always a good idea to check the airline’s website for the most up-to-date information and to ensure a smooth travel experience.

What About Connecting Flights?

Policy stays the same for connections

When it comes to connecting flights, United Airlines’ basic economy carry-on policy remains consistent. Regardless of whether you’re flying on a single nonstop flight or have a layover, the rules for carry-on luggage will still apply.

This means that if you’ve purchased a basic economy ticket, you will still be subject to the restrictions and limitations set by the airline.

It’s important to note that if you have a connecting flight with a different airline, you will need to familiarize yourself with their specific policies regarding carry-on luggage. Different airlines may have different rules and regulations, so it’s always a good idea to check with each airline individually to avoid any surprises or complications during your journey.

Store your carry-on at the connection airport

If you have a connecting flight and need to store your carry-on luggage at the connection airport, United Airlines provides options for you. They offer luggage storage facilities at most major airports, allowing passengers to securely store their bags during layovers.

This can be a convenient solution if you have a long layover and want to explore the city or simply don’t want to lug your bags around with you.

It’s advisable to check the specific details and availability of luggage storage facilities at your connection airport before your trip. This will help you plan ahead and ensure that you have a smooth and hassle-free experience during your layover.

Exceptions and Extra Charges

Military personnel can bring a carry-on

United Airlines understands and appreciates the service of military personnel. As a result, they have made exceptions to their carry-on policy for members of the armed forces. Military personnel are allowed to bring a carry-on bag, in addition to their personal item, without any extra charges.

This is a great way for United Airlines to show their support and gratitude towards those who serve our country. So, if you’re a member of the military, don’t worry about additional fees for your carry-on when flying with United Airlines!

Prepaid carry-on option at booking

For passengers who need to bring a carry-on bag but don’t want to pay extra fees at the airport, United Airlines offers a prepaid carry-on option at the time of booking. This allows travelers to secure their carry-on space in advance and avoid any last-minute surprises or fees.

By opting for the prepaid carry-on option, passengers can save time and money, as well as ensure that they have enough space for their belongings. It’s a convenient and hassle-free way to plan ahead and make your travel experience smoother.

Carry-on fees at the airport

While United Airlines offers exceptions and prepaid options for carry-on bags, it’s important to note that there may still be carry-on fees at the airport for certain passengers. Passengers who have not selected the prepaid carry-on option or fall outside of the exceptions policy will be required to pay a fee for their carry-on bag.

These fees can vary depending on the destination and fare type, so it’s always a good idea to check with United Airlines or visit their website for the most up-to-date information on carry-on fees. By being aware of these potential charges, passengers can plan their travel budget accordingly and avoid any surprises at the airport.


We hope this overview on United Airlines’ basic economy carry-on policy helps you understand what to expect when booking. The key takeaway is that you’ll need to pack very light and only bring a small personal item on board. Planning ahead for baggage will make your basic economy trip smooth sailing.

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