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airport plane woman gate suitcase United Airlines generated a collective groan from travelers over the weekend by saying it will be strictly enforcing its carry-on baggage requirements, which limit each passenger to one personal item (like a purse, laptop or briefcase) and one carry-on bag with a maximum size of 9 x 14 x 22 inches.

The issue, however, isn’t with the size of the carry-on luggage allowed; other major carriers, including Delta and American Airlines/US Airways, have the same dimension restrictions. Instead, what’s upsetting is that United will now be charging checked-bag fees for any carry-ons that must be gate-checked due to noncompliance — even if passengers have used their carry-ons for years with no trouble fitting them in the overhead bins.

Of course it’s annoying when you see fellow flyers waddling onboard under the weight of a purse, a backpack, a computer bag and a carry-on that you can just tell exceeds regulation. But instead of making the boarding more efficient, charging for gate-checked bags is certain to slow down the process.

The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time

United also charges for the first checked bag for each passenger, so it’s understandable that many would attempt to bring slightly larger carry-ons to avoid baggage fees. (Meanwhile, two popular U.S.-based airlines — JetBlue and Southwest Airlines — allow each passenger to check at least one checked bag at no charge. To boot, the carry-on dimensions for both lines exceed those of United and the other major carriers at 10 x 16 x 24 inches.)

Ultimately, United’s decision to charge for the gate-checking of carry-ons reminds us quite a bit of the policy of ultra-discounter Spirit Airlines: one personal item can be brought for free, but passengers are charged as much as $100 per bag — each way! — for the privilege of boarding with a carry-on that won’t fit under the seat in front of them.

At this point, it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if United eventually starts charging for things like bathroom privileges (don’t laugh — this was proposed a few years ago by European discounter Ryanair) and oxygen.

4 Signs You Have a Packing Problem

— written by Ashley Kosciolek

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10 Responses to “United Sets Strict Guidelines for Carry-on Bags”

  1. acruiseguy says:

    I still say that CHECKING luggage should be free. Those passengers that want to be that close to their carryon and bypass waiting for luggage at baggage claim should be the ones that PAY for the privilege.

    The amount of time it takes to board with these carryons, plus the nonsense over space and people hoisting these huge, 30lb suitcases over my head (not to mention the crazed jumping up upon landing to get their stuff outta there) can totally be avoided if they charged $25 to for use o the overhead bins.

    • Toby says:

      that’s what i’ve been saying for years. you want convenience, you PAY for it. Just think how fast you’d get on and off the plane.

  2. MC says:

    I really dislike United more & more. Unfortunately, their regional line is the only one that services my small city. Otherwise, fuggedaboutit. This is just more motivation to use them as little as possible. But – if I DO want to leave from my city (vs. driving 2 hrs & parking the car at the distant, international airport), I am still stuck w/ United on the 1st leg of the trip, w/ all its fees & restrictions. Extremely irritating!!! Does nothing to create loyalty in me.

  3. Michael Puttick says:

    Its about time the airlines inforced the size carry on bags can be.Some of the bags are so Big you could stuff a body in them.Normal people follow the rules however there are many who think they don”t have to follow any rules.

  4. Sheila Gee says:

    I flew Southwest the other day, checking TWO big suitcases for free, and carrying on a bag that I’ve used for 10 years. My return flight in a few weeks is with United, but I will be returning with only one of those suitcases – plus my old and trusty carry-on. Why United? Because they fly nonstop to my home destination, and I will have only that one suitcase to check, which I don’t pay for because I booked the flight with my United MileagePlus card. But if they gate-check my carry-on – which exceeds the dimensions by one-half inch, I will never fly United again after I redeem my FF miles. And my credit card will be history, too. I’m totally fed up.

  5. Linda E says:

    I am happy to see United enforcing the carry on bag policy especially after what we just went through on a United flight. Out of 3 of us traveling we only had 1 small carry on bag but because everyone is trying to avoid paying a baggage fee they carry on multiple bags and stuff them in the overhead bins so by the time we boarded the plane the flight attendant informed that there was no more room in the overhead bins and that she would check the bag and we could retrieve it at our final destination….Singapore. Long story short, it took 3 weeks for us to get that bag and now United has to reimburse us for having to buy my daughter clothes, school supplies, toiletries etc. It was a nightmare trying to get that bag and it all could have been avoided if the carry on policy was enforced. Also, if you are going to fly United then it pays to get the United Plus Mileage card….you get your first bag free when you use it.

  6. Carole says:

    Yes, United has problems. I was a loyal Continental FF for years so inherited United with the merger. Can tell within a few minutes of talking to staff on phone or at gate if they are former United or Continental. That alone says a lot about United’s personnel who should be more customer friendly by now. I do encourage United fliers to get a Chase United charge card. There are a number of different ones and the perks they offer (first bag checked free/early boarding) are worthwhile. My favorite is my Presidential Plus but it is not offered anymore. Chase United Club card is the closest but not quite all the perks. Most of these cards offer trip insurance and that alone is worth the annual fee. Includes air, hotel, rental car, medical, etc. I never take trip insurance anymore and have been very happy with the reimbursements from Chase.

  7. John says:

    I have a carry-on suitcase that I have used for years. Flown on Jet Blue, Delta, Qantas and others. It is easily within the 14″x22″. However, upon reading about this with United, I measured and the one dimension is over 9″ (about 10″). But if you press it, it goes under 9″. I have put it in several of the test bins and never had a problem getting it in the test bins. I am wondering if I will have any issues when I fly United in September.

    Like others have said, if an airline does not want the cabin crowded with large bags, then they should make checked luggage free, at least 1 per person, and charge for carry-ons.

    • John says:

      I just went out to the airport in Ft Lauderdale, at the United terminal and at the entrance to the security line. They have a UNITED BAD SIZER TEST BIN and I put my same bag I have always had, mentioned in the original post above, in the bin and it fit in, pretty easily. I did have to make sure it was going straight in, not cocked at any angle. And I had to gently press the side pockets. There was a TSA Lady right there and I asked her, if I can fit it in, will I have any problems next month and she looked at my bag in the bin and said, “no, I should be fine, it fits in”.

  8. Noelene says:

    I think it is just a matter of time before all airlines see the sense and start charging people for the convenience of carry-on. More and more people (including myself) are opting to travel light with carry-on only and because of this it is getting harder to find space in the over head lockers. Not only this it seems to take longer getting into your seat because the aisles are blocked with people looking for a space to put their bag. I would be quite willing to pay for the convenience as long as it wasn’t an “over the top” price. Airlines should not be charging for checked luggage

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