United Finally Matches Competition, Offers 2 Free Checked Bags on Flights to China and Hong Kong

This is a minor news of sort, though I thought is something worth highlighting. For a while now, there is an interesting quirk in United’s baggage policies for passengers in Economy. Flights from China and Hong Kong to the US receive 2 free checked bags, but flights to China/Hong Kong only get one checked bag. Well, today United is finally fixing that, and has announced that flights between the US and China/Hong Kong will include 2 free checked bags in both direction for Economy passengers.

This change is most likely due to frustration to passengers originating in Asia who found it baffling that on their return journey they are charged $100 for a bag that wasn’t charged on the outbound. Additionally, the competition, both Asian and US carriers, have more consistent and more generous policies. Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, for example, both allow 2 free checked bags of up to 50 lb each. American Airlines also offers 2 free checked bags to all passengers to Asia, Oceania, and selected South America destinations. Even Delta, which has recently eliminated all free checked bags for Basic Economy passengers on transatlantic flights, offers 2 free bags to/from Asia.

A United 777-300ER. Source: United

A United 777-300ER. Source: United

The US market is pretty unique in that baggage operates on a piece concept. For most of the rest of the world, baggage policies operate on a weight concept. This means passengers are given a total weight limit, and can basically check as many bags as they want (within reason), as long as the total weight does not exceed the quota. Emirates, for example, imposes of 10-piece limit on the weight concept. Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific still imposes a 2-piece limit within the weight concept, making the 30-kg limit less generous than for flights to/from the US.

At any rate, I am glad United is finally getting on board with raising the baggage allowance on flights to/from China and Hong Kong. This should eliminate some confusion, and make buying and carrying extra stuff less worrisome for travelers.

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