Elite Status Travel News

United Changes Baggage Policy On Award Tickets And For Gold Elites

Seriously, no one changes their baggage policy as many times as United does. They have changed/updated their baggage policy at least 7 times over the past year. Many of those changes have not been noticeable to the US-based traveler, but a couple have stood out. The first was from last October when they gutted the extra baggage allotments for Star Alliance Gold members. One that came about just last week as they announced they will stop checking bags through to your final destination when traveling on non-Star Alliance carriers (but checking in with United).

United Changes Baggage Policy On Award Tickets

But, the most recent change is one that puts down a very generous policy that United has had in place for some time. Beginning April 15, 2015, baggage allowances for travelers on United award tickets will be based on the elite status of the traveler, not the status of the account holder that the award was ticketed from.

Here is what that means – as of now, if I book a flight for a friend or family member from my United 1K account, they will get the same baggage allowances that I would get. So, I get three bags in economy for the US to Europe. A person booked from my award account would get the same, regardless of their elite status. If they had no elite status and booked the ticket from their own account, they would only be eligible for one bag.

Beginning with tickets ticketed on or after April 15, 2015, each person will receive an allowance at check-in based on their own elite status. That not only gets rid of the generous allowance extended to passengers booked from an elite’s account (even when the elite passenger was not flying), but it also eliminates the ability to have everyone in a party to receive the same allowances as the elite member on the same itinerary.

So, if my family and I are traveling from the US to Europe on award tickets from my account, instead of each receiving three bags for free, I will be the only one to receive that allowance. My wife and children would only be eligible for one bag each (and that at 50lbs instead of the 70lbs that I receive).

Here is the text from their website:

Baggage service charges are based on the date of ticketing and on the ticketed cabin as well as the traveler’s status or membership on the date of travel. Eligibility for the checked baggage service charge waiver for travelers on award tickets issued or re-issued on or after April 15, 2015, is based on each traveler’s Premier status at check-in, rather than the status of the member whose miles were used to purchase the award ticket.

United Also Changes Baggage Policy For Premier Gold Members

United Premier Silver members really receive the fewest benefits in the area of baggage. In fact, you can have the same baggage benefits (domestically) if you have a United credit card as you would with Premier Silver status.

The real benefits kick in with Premier Gold and above. For the purposes of baggage allowances, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K and Global Service customers all receive the same baggage allowance (three bags at 70lbs each). That is, until February 1, 2015. After that, for all travel between the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands, Premier Gold members will only receive two bags at 70lbs. They will continue to receive the three bags on select international routes. Unfortunately, they do not write out which routes those are – you must use their baggage calculator to find out.

I did some cursory checking on the calculator and it appears as if most major international destinations (from the US) will continue to give the 3 bags to Premier Golds. So, the bulk of the changes must be for other point-to-point destinations. Still, they have opened the door and they never detail the changes to their frequent baggage policy so we do not know how long they will continue to give US departures the 3 bag limit.

Here is the text on this change:

For all United Economy® tickets issued or re-issued before February 1, 2015, Premier® Gold members are eligible for three complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds (32 kg) each. For United Economy tickets issued or re-issued on or after February 1, 2015, Premier Gold members are eligible for two complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds (32 kg) each for travel between the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For travel to and from select international markets, Premier Gold members are eligible for three complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds (32 kg) each. To determine specific checked baggage service charges, please use the baggage calculator below.


While most passengers are likely not taking advantage of the 3 bags at 70lbs, it must obviously be enough that United wants to make some more money off of those customers. I know for us, it is a big deal. Whenever we are in the US, we always are bringing back clothes or other items that we cannot get here in Europe. We do max out out baggage allowance and have enjoyed being able to save some serious money on bags because of my elite status. With the new changes, we will lose the ability of having 2 extra bags per person (and the 20lbs on the free bag). That means that each member of my family will go from 210lbs of baggage allowance to 50lbs – a loss of 160lbs in baggage per person!

The baggage allowances for business class/first class passengers will remain the same, so that is helpful. But, for people that travel in economy and trying to pack for the long-haul, this will definitely affect them.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • This would be understandable, but there are 2 potential issues: 1) People will now have their elite travel partner check the bags (violating the law), and 2) If you book on an award ticket, the additional people you book for cannot put their frequent flyer number in the system if you need to make any changes. Hence, the additional people would have no status. I wonder if United will fix this bug?

    • Good points. Obviously, it is something that will need some work, but the biggest problem may be at the outlier airports where the agents might not be as well versed in the policy. Could be good or bad, depending!
      I am surprised that it lasted this long that my family gets the baggage allowances – even when I do not fly with them!

  • I think all those changes are certainly fair. I wouldn’t be one to push for them, but I don’t mind that they are making the changes.