United Airlines Review – Seats, Amenities, Customer Service, Baggage Fees, & More

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There’s no doubt you know United Airlines (and may have even flown with them before), but are you aware of their different fare types, the ins and outs of their baggage allowances, and all of their extra fees/add-ons? What about their seat specs and their consumer satisfaction ratings?

This helpful guide covers all you need to know about this large U.S. carrier so you hopefully won’t be caught unaware on your next flight.

In this post you’ll find a general company overview, ticketing/fare options, extra fees/add-ons (including baggage allowances), cabin class amenities, seat specs, and more.

Basic Info

Airline: United Airlines

Alliance: Star Alliance

Category: Legacy domestic and international airline

Frequent Flyer Program: MileagePlus

Tag Line: “Fly the Friendly Skies”

About/Mission Statement: “We are committed to providing a level of service to our customers that makes us a leader in the airline industry. We understand that to do this we need to have a product we are proud of and employees who like coming to work every day….” (source)

Daily Flights: 4,700

Fleet: 760

Main Hub: Chicago-O’Hare International Airport

Destinations: 356 (including 125 international)

United Airlines Route Map
United Airlines route map. Image courtesy of United.com.

United Ticketing Options

United’s fare types are pretty standard for a large U.S. carrier. But with stiff competition from lots of low-cost airlines, United recently introduced a Basic Economy fare — which pretty much just gets you a seat on the plane.

Handy for those traveling light, this reduced and restricted fare does not include any standard carry-on or checked luggage.

And for anyone part of United’s frequent flyer program (covered later on in this article), you won’t be eligible for premier qualifying miles that go toward your elite status when flying in this class.

Below are the additional differences in fare types and cabin classes, with inflight amenities covered later on in this article:

Basic Economy (most restrictive fare): 

  • Pre-assigned seat before boarding
  • Family or group seating not possible
  • First checked bag costs an additional $120 (round-trip)
  • Upgrades not available
  • Changes or refunds not permitted

Economy (standard): 

  • Seat selection at time of booking (if available)
  • Customize your booking with other options

Economy (flexible):

  • Refundable ticket (subject to change/cancellation fees)
  • Seat selection at time of booking (if available)
  • Customize your booking with other options

Premium Plus:

  • Spacious, larger seating with extra legroom
  • Complimentary food and beverage
  • Customize your booking with other options

Business:

  • Spacious, larger seating with extra legroom
  • Enhanced dining with complimentary food and beverage

The availability of certain cabin classes is dependent on the route and plane type. We’ve also covered how you can upgrade to business or first class on United Airlines.

Economy Plus

If you’re looking for a little extra legroom, you can upgrade your booking to Economy Plus. This will also seat you closer to the front of the aircraft so you can disembark quicker.

You can upgrade as a one-off, or subscribe to yearly upgrades when booking a regular economy ticket (where Economy Plus is available).

United Airlines MileagePlus
United Airlines MileagePlus frequent flyer program. Image courtesy of United.com.

United Frequent Flyer Program

MileagePlus is United’s frequent flyer loyalty program where you can earn miles to redeem against reward flights and work your way up membership tiers to gain elite benefits, such as priority check-in and additional luggage.

These reward miles can also be used against flights with other Star Alliance members. You can earn miles through flying, shopping, dining out, and spending on certain credit cards.

Hot Tip: For more information, check out our article on United’s MileagePlus frequent flyer program.

United Airlines Baggage Fees & Other Fees/Add-Ons

Baggage Fees

United Airlines Baggage
United Airlines baggage. Image courtesy of United.com.

United Airlines Carry-On Allowance:

1 personal item: FREE
1 standard carry-on bag: FREE (including Basic Economy Transatlantic flights but excluding all other routes for basic economy)

United Airlines Checked Allowance:

Max weight: 50lb (23kg) for all economy and premium plus fares and 70lbs (32kg) for business and first class fares.

Max size: 62 inches (158cm) linear

United recommends that passengers check their official baggage fee calculator tool to view baggage costs associated with their specific fare type.

We ran some basic route searches, and the fees appeared as the following (do a check on your specific fare before booking to confirm):

Domestic U.S. & Canada

  • Economy (Basic, plus and standard): 1st bag $30, 2nd bag $40, 3rd+ bag $150
  • Business and first: 1st and 2nd bags free, 3rd+ bag $150

U.S. to/from Mexico

  • Economy (Basic, plus and standard): 1st bag $30, 2nd bag $55, 3rd+ bag $180
  • Business and first: 1st and 2nd bags free, 3rd+ bag $180

U.S. to/from Europe

  • Economy: 1st bag $0 (£60 for Basic Economy), 2nd bag $100, 3rd+ bag $200
  • Premium Plus: 1st and 2nd bags free, 3rd+ bag $200
  • Business: 1st and 2nd bags free, 3rd+ bag $200
  • First: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd bags free; 4th+ bag $200

Additional and Excess Baggage Fees:

Oversized Fee: $200 per bag (up to 115in/292cm)

Overweight Fee (route dependent):

  • Bags 51-70lb: $100-$200 per bag
  • Bags 71-100lb: $200-$400 per bag

Mileage Plus Status weight allowance:

  • Silver, Gold, Platinum, 1K: 70lb
  • Star Alliance Gold (traveling in first, business or United Polaris Business): 70lb

Hot Tip: See our post on United Airlines baggage policy which details specific baggage allowances for all types of cabin class, status and personnel such as the military. 

United’s Other Fees & Add-Ons

Service Fees

All reservations on United.com can be made without incurring a service fee. For other methods of booking made within the U.S. or Canada, the service fees are as follows:

Reservations Made Outside of the U.S.: Fees vary according to country

Change & Cancellation Fees: (Cash Tickets)

  • Domestic Change Fee: $200
  • International Change Fee: Up to $400
  • Same Day Change: $75
    • Waived for Gold, Platinum, and 1k members
  • Cancellation: If you cancel a non-refundable ticket, no refund will be issued – but you can use the cost of the flight against a new ticket within 12 months. Change fees may apply.
  • Exclusions/Waivers:
    • If your departure or arrival time changes by more than 30 minutes (due to a schedule change), you can change your flight at no extra cost or request a refund.

We’ve also gone into detail on United’s award flight change & cancellation fees.

Seat Selection Fees

There is no charge to select a seat with United (where available), but you can opt for “Preferred seating” (closer to the front of the economy section) from $9 each way.

Economy Plus Upgrade: $16-$169 each way

Unaccompanied Minor Fee: $150 each way

Pet in Cabin Fee: $125 each way

Fare Holding Fees

If you’re not ready to book at the time of searching, then you can pay to reserve your fare using “Farelock.”

The fee varies by destination, but ranges from $5-$20 with the ability to hold a fare for either 3 or 7 days.

United Airlines Annual Subscription Fees

Economy Plus: From $499

Benefit from additional leg room and being closer to the front of the plane for quicker exiting when you reach your destination.

United Bundle Options

Bundles are offered during the reservation process combining different options, such as an Economy Plus upgrade and United Club trip pass. Prices vary per route, but United states that savings can be had by buying these bundles.

Wi-Fi: From $49

United Club Membership: From $550

Get access to all of the United Club locations and select partner lounges.

United Airlines Bistro Onboard
United Airlines “Bistro on Board.” Image courtesy of United.com.

Onboard Refreshments

For flights over 3 hours (within the U.S. and to/from Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America) customers can order from the “Bistro on Board” menu serving items such as a chorizo breakfast sandwich, pepperoni deep dish pizza, or a mezze sampler with prices ranging from $6.99-$9.99. Menu choices depend on the flight route.

On flights over 1.5 hours (within North America, including select Latin American destinations and the Caribbean, in addition to Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand) customers can order from the “Snack Shop” serving sweet and savory nibbles and snack boxes. Prices range from $3.99-$9.59.

Beer and wine are $8, while premium spirits range from $8-$9 and specialty cocktails will run you $10.

Onboard entertainment

Available on select Boeing 737 and 757-300 aircraft, customers can purchase access to DIRECTV with more than 100 TV channels plus movies.

This is complimentary for United first passengers, and $5.99 for United economy passengers on flights less than 2 hours ($7.99 for flights more than 2 hours).

How to Avoid Paying Excess Fees & Travel Expenses

Many travel rewards cards come with an annual airline credit and can be used to offset fees such as baggage fees, such as the Platinum Card® from American Express.

Cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve come with an annual $300 travel credit that can be used to offset almost any travel expense. See more info below:

In addition, if you have the United Explorer℠ Card you can get 1 free checked bag for you and a companion on your itinerary.

United Seat Specs & Inflight Amenities

United Airlines Fleet Seat Specs
United Airlines Fleet Seat Specs. Image courtesy of United.com.

Seat Specs

United Airlines has 14 different types of aircraft with varying cabin classes and seat specs.

Aircraft
Type
 FirstBusinessPremium PlusEconomy PlusEconomy
787-8/9/10 DreamlinerSeat pitchn/a6’6″ (198cm) sleeping area38″ (97 cm) (10 Dreamliner only)34″/35″ (86 cm/88 cm)31″/32″ (79 cm/81 cm)
Seat reclinen/a180°6″ (15 cm) (10 Dreamliner only)4″/6″ (1o/15cm)3″/5″ (7 cm/12 cm)
Seat widthn/a20.5″/20.6″ (52 cm/52.3 cm)19″ (48.3 cm) (10 Dreamliner only)17.3″ (43.9 cm)16.3″-17.3″ (41.4 cm-43.9 cm)
777-200Seat pitchn/a6’4″-6’6″ (193 cm – 198 cm) sleeping arean/a34″ (86 cm)31″ (78 cm)
Seat reclinen/a180°n/a5″ (12 cm)4″ (10 cm)
Seat widthn/a18.8″-22″ (47.7 cm-55.8 cm)n/a18.1″ (45.9 cm)17.2″ – 18.1″ (43.6 cm – 45.9 cm)
777-300ERSeat pitchn/a6’6″ (198 cm) sleeping space38″ (97 cm)34″ (86 cm)31″ (78 cm)
Seat reclinen/a180°6″ (15 cm)4″ (10 cm)3″ (8 cm)
Seat widthn/a22″ (55.9 cm)18.5″ (47 cm)17.05″ (43.3 cm)17.05″ (43.3 cm)
767-300ER/-400ER


Seat pitchn/a6’3″ (190 cm) sleeping arean/a18.5″ (46.9 cm)31″ (78 cm)
Seat reclinen/a180°n/a35″ (88 cm)5″ (12 cm)
Seat widthn/a20.6″ (52.3 cm)n/a6″ (15 cm)18.5″ (46.9 cm)
757-200


Seat pitchn/a6’4″ (193 cm) sleeping arean/a37″ (93 cm)31″ (78 cm)
Seat reclinen/a180°n/a6″ (15 cm)5″ (12 cm)
Seat widthn/a20.6″ (52.3 cm)n/a17.1″ (43.6 cm)16.3″-17.1″ (41.5 cm-43.6 cm)
757-300


Seat pitch38″ (96 cm)n/an/an/a30”-31″ (76-78 cm)
Seat recline5″ (12 cm)n/an/an/a2″ (5 cm)
Seat width20.4″ (52 cm)n/an/an/a16.3″-17.3″ (41 cm-44 cm)
737-700


Seat pitchn/a38″ (96 cm)n/a 36″ (91 cm)31″ (78 cm)
Seat reclinen/a6″ (15 cm)n/a5″ (12 cm)3″ (7 cm)
Seat widthn/a20.7″ (52.7 cm)n/a17.1″ (43.4 cm)16.1″-17.1″ (40.8 cm-43.4 cm)
737-800Seat pitch38″ (96 cm)n/an/a37″ (93 cm)31″ (78 cm)
Seat recline7″ (19 cm)n/an/a5″ (12 cm)3″ (7 cm)
Seat width20″ (52 cm)n/an/a17″ (43 cm)16″-17″ (40 cm-43 cm)
737-800


Seat pitch37″ (93 cm)n/an/a34″ (86 cm)30″-31″ (76 cm-78 cm)
Seat recline5″ (12 cm)n/an/a3″ (7 cm)2″ (5 cm)
Seat width20″ (52 cm)n/an/a17″ (43 cm)16″-17″ (41 cm-43 cm)
Airbus 319


Seat pitch37″ (93 cm)n/an/a34″ (86 cm)30″ (76 cm)
Seat recline6″ (15 cm)n/an/a5″ (12 cm)3″ (7 cm)
Seat width19″ (48 cm-50 cm)n/an/a17.7″ (45 cm)17.7″ (45 cm)
Airbus 320


Seat pitch39″ (99 cm)n/an/a35″ (88 cm)30″ (76 cm)
Seat recline6″ (15 cm)n/an/a5″ (12 cm)3″ (7 cm)
Seat width19″ (48 cm – 50 cm)n/an/a17″ (43 cm)17″ (43 cm)

United Express operates a further 5 aircraft through its partner airlines. You can view the aircraft and seat specs here.

United Inflight Amenities

United Airlines Business Class
United Airlines business class. Image courtesy of United.com.

United Business & First

  • Premium leather seat with extra space and comfort, featuring a headrest that adjusts 6 ways
  • Storage space for personal items
  • Universal AC power plug
  • Mobile device holder
  • United Wi-Fi (fee applies)
  • Complimentary inflight beverages including beer, wine, spirits, and illy coffee
  • DIRECTV with more than 100 TV channels plus movies
  • Dining options in partnership with The Trotter Project
United Airlines Polaris Business Class
United Airlines Polaris business class. Image courtesy of United.com.

Polaris Business & First

  • Saks Fifth Avenue bedding
  • Dining options in partnership with The Trotter Project
  • Sleep-inspired amenities (cotton pajamas on flights over 10 hours)
  • Soho House’s Cowshed Spa skincare items
  • Lie-flat beds
  • United Wi-Fi (fee applies)
  • 16″ HD monitor

Premium Plus

  • Larger seat with more legroom, leg and foot rests
  • Complimentary beverages
  • 13″ monitor
  • Power and USB sockets
  • Saks Fifth Avenue bedding
  • Noise-reducing headphones
United Airlines Economy Plus
United Airlines Economy Plus. Image courtesy of United.com.

Economy Plus

  • Extra legroom
  • Situated nearer the front of the plane for quicker disembarkation
  • Eligible to earn Premier qualifying dollars
  • All standard economy benefits
United Airlines Economy
United Airlines economy. Image courtesy of United.com.

Economy (Basic and Standard)

  • On domestic flights and to/from the Caribbean and Latin America, customers receive complimentary soft drinks (including illy coffee) and can purchase snacks/meals and alcohol.
  • On international flights, customers receive complimentary food and beverages including house beer and wine
  • United Wi-Fi (fee applies)
  • Entertainment varies by aircraft (details can be found on the Inflight Amenities tab on United’s Flight Status page)

Hot Tip: Check out our post on United Airlines’ boarding policy so you’ll know what to expect from the boarding process as almost all airlines have a different procedure!

United Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is a real mixed bag with United Airlines. Their social media channels and Tripadvisor reviews seem to attract many compliments from loyal customers, which is unusual as these outlets are often utilized to rant and rave about poor service!

Additionally, their PR team is pretty genius, sponsoring a number of great causes and shouting about their good deeds on social media — so even if the service was only mediocre for a customer, their philanthropic ways may improve consumer brand impression.

Lost baggage is a real gripe for United customers, being one of the most prominent issues on review sites. Also, inconsistencies of aircraft age can lead to disappointment in inflight amenities.

One customer complaint we found said they had experienced a seat-back entertainment system on once international flight and not on another. That’s going to disappoint any traveler.

United prides itself on their personal device entertainment, but this does rely on the customer having a smartphone/tablet at their disposal.

Most Common Complaints

United Airlines had 1,169 complaints lodged against them from January-September 2018 according to the September 2018 Air Travel Consumer Report. The chart below represents the complaints by category.

  • Flight problems (cancellation, delay, or misconnection): 292
  • Fares: 190
  • Baggage: 185
  • Customer service: 174
  • Reservation, ticketing, boarding: 110
  • Disability: 86
  • Refunds: 45
  • Other: 40
  • Oversales: 34
  • Discrimination: 8
  • Advertising: 5

Consumer Rankings, Ratings, Etc. 

There are a number of different review websites out there when it comes to airline ratings. Here are a few of the most popular so you can see the general consumer opinion for United Airlines.

Skytrax Ranking: 3 Star Airline (out of 5)

Skytrax Customer Rating: 3/10 (average from 2,594 reviews)

United Airlines Skytrax
United Airlines Skytrax Rating. Image courtesy of airlinequality.com.

TripAdvisor Airline Review Rating: 3/5 (average from 36,791 reviews)

Kayak Customer Rating: 7/10 (average from 61,414 reviews)

AirHelp.com Overall Rating: 7.59/10 (departure/arrival performance, service, and satisfaction of claims processing)

Safety and Performance

Airlineratings.com Safety Rating7/7 (takes into consideration whether the airline has an IATA Operational Safety Audit Certification, government and crash records, plus information from the World’s Aviation Governing Body).

United Airlines Charities
United Airlines charity partnerships. Image courtesy of United.com.

Charity Partnership

United Airlines supports numerous charities across their main hub locations and across the globe. It strives to be a more sustainable airline supporting environmental charities and operations such as Clean the World and Conservation International.

United also supports many youth projects, including Youth Guidance with the goal of inspiring future leaders.

Final Thoughts

Overall, customer satisfaction seems to be somewhere in the middle for United — and as with other legacy U.S. carriers, there will always be a place for the airline with reasonable fares and route availability.

United will never have the sass and style of Virgin Atlantic or the service and luxury of the Middle Eastern airlines, but it serves its purpose and does have a loyal customer base (although this may be dwindling slightly, with many referencing the “good old days” when United was great).

Their current focus seems to be on revamping their premium cabins, with their Polaris offering in business and first — but we’re hoping they don’t neglect economy for too much longer either.


Featured Image: Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Erin Miller

About Erin Miller

Erin currently maintains her status as Alex's adventure-seeking partner-in-crime and contributes to Upgraded Points through content creation & relationship management.
She caught the travel bug just after high school when her grandmother took her on a two-week, whirlwind trip around Europe. That was that - she's been gallivanting around the globe ever since (22 countries & counting)!

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