How Strict Is United About Personal Item 2024?

So how strict is United about personal items? Is United strict about its personal item size?

Just like most of the majority of US airlines, United now states that they include one carry-on bag and one personal item on passengers’ tickets ( except basic economy tickets that are only allowed one personal item).

The carry-on bag and personal item will both be placed in a sizer at the airport to make sure they are compliant with the airline size limits, if you are a basic economy ticket holder you are only allowed to have one personal item free of charge.

How strict is united about personal item

United Personal Item Policy

United Airlines allows one personal item, in addition to your main carry on bag.

Your personal item should be stowed perfectly under the seat in front of you.

The maximum dimensions for your personal item are 9 x 10 x 17 inches (22 centimeters x 25 centimeters x 43 centimeters).

United uses a backpack example as a personal item, and seems that the backpack is nicely big with more space that you can take advantage of.

Besides, the seats in front of you have more space than you think, it’s an opportunity to pack some further essentials for your trip.

For more details on your overall allowance free of charge please check out this page on their website.


Just like most airlines United follows the TSA ( The Transportation Security Administration) restrictions when transporting liquids.

Liquids gels and aerosols need to follow the TSA 3-1-1 liquid rule and be in containers that measure 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less, they must also be inside a single quart sized bag.

You can find more on the TSA liquids rules here.

Additional objects

In addition to your personal item, you can bring the following items on board and they don’t count toward your carry on luggage policy:

  • A jacket
  • An umbrella
  • Books
  • Food or merchandise that you buy in the airport
  • Assistive devices (such as a collapsible wheelchair, cane, crutches, medical device for prescription medications, or portable oxygen concentrator)
  • FAA-approved child restraint system or safety seat
  • A diaper bag
  • A breast pump
  • A camera
  • A pet carrier (service charges apply for in-cabin pets)

How Strict Is United About Personal Item Size?

This what United displays in its website:

You can always double-check the size of your items with our bag sizer at the airport. If any bags are larger than the carry-on size listed above, or if you bring additional items, you’ll have to check them to your final destination. Additional charges may apply.

United Airlines

If you are flying basic economy and you don’t want to upgrade, I’m sure you will want to maximize your personal items.

It is rare when airlines do investigate the size of a personal item, but for United Airlines they will make sure that the bag is within the size limits.

Especially in busy fights, they will ask to place your bag at the luggage sizer, and if your personal item is more than the allowed size it may be subject to additional fees.

Without being said, it’s worth checking your personal item size just in case – as you should try and stick to the allowed dimensions to avoid any hefty charges at the airport.

What Happens If My Personal Item Is Too Big Or Oversized?

In the real world, you wouldn’t worry too much if your personal item is slightly over the exact allowed size.

Ensure that you pack your items wisely and your personal items don’t look so bulky. when your carry on looks light It is obvious the airline staff will not need to place it in the sizer.

Suggested: What if my carry on is one inch too big?

Why United Are Strict About Their Personal Items?

Almost any airline is strict about its luggage size limits.

The airline can get themselves into big trouble if large suitcases are in the cabin.

And if your personal item didn’t fit in either under the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartment there would be chaos on board the airplane.

My Personal Item Is Slightly Oversized, Should I Risk it?

If you have a soft sided bag or a backpack, there are more chances that you won’t face any issues fixing the bag under the seat in front of you.

But, we have did a research for some new psychological tricks and here is what we found:

Bags that are brightly colored, red, yellow, orange and blue, will appear bigger and more obvious than beige, brown or black bags do. These darker colors tend to make the shadows caused by bulges less significant.


Using these tricks will not guarantee that you will sneak to the airplane with your large big personal item; but it sure will make a difference when your personal item is slightly big.

Many professional passengers are using this technique to get on board the plane with a bag that really other passengers consider large items.

OOPS !! It is worth considering though what you would do if you were caught.

Is a Backpack a Personal Item United?

Yes the majority of passengers use small backpacks.

And if you want to travel light and only one bag, you will be surprised how much you can fit on it and still within the allowed dimensions.

I have a friend that succeeded one time in sneaking a 30L backpack as a personal item, but I feel it is just luck.

The Best Personal Item For United Flights

If you’re looking for a carry-on bag which is the perfect fit for United and many other airlines , we recommend this great value range of bags on Amazon.

This Rangeland New Business Trip Backpack 21L, is 12 x 7 x 16 inches and even though is a few inches bigger will perfectly fit under the seat

How strict is united about personal item - backpack
Veegul Stylish Doctor Style backpack / image Amazon

The above Veegul Stylish Doctor Style Multipurpose Travel Backpack is designed and meets the size of United personal item; fits under seat storage in flight, with the dimensions 14.6×10.6×7.1 inches / 37x27x18 cm, and it is a Lightweight Backpack only 1.54 pounds with Adjustable Padded Shoulder Strap.

But because Veegul Stylish is currently out of stock we recommend this BRINCH Laptop Backpack which is 12.5 x 9.5 x 17 inch (LxWxH).

You can also check out this Rangeland new business trip backpack 21L, is 12 x 7 x 16 inches and even though is a few inches bigger will perfectly fit under the seat, and it is a lightweight backpack only 1.10 lbs.

United Baggage Fees

As stated above, if you are traveling on Basic economy class, you can only bring one personal item on board.

If you show up to the airport with an additional carry-on bag, you’ll need to check your bag at the gate. 

You’ll also have to pay the applicable checked bag fee and a gate handling fee.

You can find information regarding all of United’s baggage fees on this page on their website.

Does Checking In Online Make a Difference?

Yes, checking online is cheaper than the airport, especially if you want to take more bags.

In addition checking at the airport will give the airline staff more time and chance to ask questions about your luggage weight and size.

Besides, airlines love checking in online because you will save them some time and money, and you don’t need to wait at the check in desk.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, United are fairly strict when it comes to their personal items size.

So please make sure to adhere to their personal item policy size limits.

Otherwise you never know what will happen until you experience it, go for it and experience it with your oversized or large personal item and talk nicely with the airline staff.

We hope this helps

Happy travels

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