United Airlines made a pretty significant baggage policy change last year (which they characterized as bringing their policy in line with other Star partners, which was true) that denied the baggage allowance to Star Gold members that their own mid-high tier elites got.
Big Initial Change – Gutting Star Alliance Allowances
That meant that the Star Gold member no longer received 3 bags at up to 70lbs a piece (like United Gold, Platinum, 1K, and GS members receive). Instead, it went down to 2 bags at 50lbs a piece. Basically, it allows the Star Gold to bring one extra bag over the normal allotment that any other passenger gets. The cost savings? $100 for that extra bag (which is what a general member would have to pay if checking 2 bags).
Not only for international trips, but even domestically Star Gold members were only allowed one bag – or the same amount that a general member with a United Airlines credit card was allowed.
It also affected Star Alliance Silver members (or people who credited only 3,000 miles to Aegean to reach their version of Silver). It went from giving them one bag for free on domestic flights to nothing. Not a very pleasant change!
Most airlines offer a table of their fees for baggage and what allowance people get. I appreciate that as it allows me to know at a glance what my allowance is and what has changed. United – not so much. They have a baggage calculator that you put your trip details in (including your ticketing date and elite status) and it will tell you what is allowed.
That is not convenient at all because you are unable to see what is available with baggage systemwide or what has been changed since the last change. And United has been making constant changes, but it is hard to identify just what they are. Since the big change of October 17, 2013, United has made three changes to their baggage policies in December, in June, and most recently, August 21. The changes are not mentioned as to what they are, United just tells us to “review all relevant baggage pages before you travel.”
What This Means For You
Before you travel, make sure you check the current baggage policy! It can be found here by inputting your travel details. I don’t know what changes United continues to make, but fortunately, they do not seem to affect routes that most US-based travelers travel on. However, it can be good for you and your time to determine what the policy is before you head to the airport.
When you are filling out the calculator, make sure that you specify the ticket date as whatever policy was in effect when you ticketed your reservation is what you will be assessed by. Believe me, you always want the earlier policy because United is not in the business of loosening the baggage allowance for their passengers. It is only going to get tougher!
Make sure you also specify the carrier that you are checking in on because they are the ones who the policy will be determined by as well. That can get very confusing so make sure you check this calculator before you book an award reservation! If you have several flight options, you will want to check what each carrier is allowing to make sure you get what you need. For instance, Air Canada, officially, only gives me the extra baggage allowance (as a United elite) and not my family , even though they are on the same reservation with me. In practice, that did not happen. 🙂 Another example is Turkish Airlines – they actually give all of their non-elite passengers two bags at 50lbs a piece across the Atlantic. That is very generous and is 100% more than other carriers will give you. So, do your homework!