United Premium Economy: What You Need to Know

United's premium economy fare offers discounted lounge access and free alcohol, among other perks.
May 3, 2022

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Are you looking for an upgraded experience when flying United Airlines but not ready to shell out for first class just yet? United premium economy service, which is called Premium Plus, may be the experience for you. With larger seats, complimentary alcohol and two free checked bags, it’s available on select long-haul international flights and some transcontinental domestic routes.

Here’s what to expect with United Premium Plus and how to book with MileagePlus miles.

What to expect flying premium economy with United

What is premium economy on United and what does it offer? While your exact United Premium Plus economy experience may vary depending on your route (the class of service is currently available on select long-haul international, premium transcontinental and Hawaii routes), there are still a few things you can count on no matter what:

  • Bag allowance. Those flying on a United Premium Plus fare get two free checked bags plus reserved overhead bin space for your carry-on. Regular economy seats don’t offer any free checked bags on domestic flights and only one checked bag on select international flights.

  • Premier Access. Premium Plus passengers also get Premier Access, which offers dedicated airport check-in lines, exclusive security lanes at select airports and priority boarding.

  • Seats. Premium Plus seats are up to 19 inches wide and feature a 38-inch seat pitch, providing up to seven more inches of legroom than most standard economy and Economy Plus seats. Seats also recline six inches, meaning you have more room to spread out and get comfy. Premium Plus seats are closer to the front of the plane so you can get to your seat and off the plane faster, and each has an adjustable leg rest, footrest, power outlet and USB outlet.

  • Lounges. With a Premium Plus ticket, you’ll also have access to discounted United Club passes when booking select long-haul international flights, so you can kick back and relax in style before, after or during a layover on long travel days.

  • Entertainment. Don’t worry about bringing your own technology for entertainment purposes — seatback screens in Premium Plus are up to 13 inches (compared with the standard nine inches). You’ll also get premium noise-reducing headphones and a Saks Fifth Avenue blanket and pillow on select long-haul international flights.

  • Food and beverages. Alcoholic beverages are free in Premium Plus. There are also upgraded dining options on select long-haul international flights and complimentary hot entrée, fruit and dessert on the airline’s premium transcontinental routes. Menu items may include chicken katsu or portobello mushroom and caramelized onion ravioli.

How to book a Premium Plus ticket with United

It’s not as easy or straightforward to find a Premium Plus fare as it is to locate, say, a business or first class ticket. Start on United.com and enter your travel dates and destinations.

Make sure to choose “Premium economy” where you see the cabin class and, if you want to book an award ticket, choose “Book with miles.” Then, hit “Find flights” to start the search.

When the flight options populate, look under the premium economy column to see if a Premium Plus seat is available. You may encounter a ticket with the label “Mixed cabin.”

Some flights that include connections may not offer Premium Plus seating on all flight segments. It’s a good idea to look more closely at the ticket to view the seat type offered with the premium economy ticket. Click on “Details” for any flight you’d like to view, and you will see the available seat type listed for each flight segment.

After choosing your flight, you’ll be able to select your seat choice as you complete the booking process.

United Economy Plus vs. Premium Plus

United’s economy cabin has three ticket types: basic economy (the most restrictive), standard economy and premium economy (Premium Plus). So then what is United’s Economy Plus, and what’s the difference between Economy Plus and Premium Plus?

While Premium Plus is United’s premium economy fare and comes with the perks mentioned above, Economy Plus is a seat choice you can purchase during or after booking a standard economy ticket. If you’ve booked a basic economy ticket, you can purchase an Economy Plus seat at check-in only.

Here’s what Economy Plus offers over economy seats:

  • Available via one-time purchase per flight or as a year-long subscription.

  • Seats are near the front of the plane.

  • Larger seats with more legroom.

What about United economy versus premium economy? Unlike the benefits of Premier Access and upgraded dining that come with premium economy, United standard economy has benefits like:

  • Option to bring a full-size carry-on.

  • The ability to purchase preferred seating.

  • Complimentary snacks and beverages, with meal service on select international flights.

  • Less legroom than both Economy Plus and Premium Plus.

Ways to get good value

Here’s how to get the most out of every Premium Plus award booking on United.

Book with miles

Booking with miles is typically a great way to save money and get the best value out of points. In one search for flights from LAX to London, an economy ticket cost $2,288 for a refundable fare or 30,000 miles for a valuation of 7.6 cents per mile. A Premium Plus fare cost $2,714 or 56,600 miles for a valuation of 4.8 cents per mile.

Since NerdWallet values United miles at 1 cent per mile, both of these tickets offer a great value for your miles. But ticket prices can vary greatly, so make sure to do the math before booking to see if you’re getting a good return on your mileage investment.

Book international travel on partner airlines

You may be able to find a good deal on award flights with partner airlines, too, since United is a member of Star Alliance. Avianca LifeMiles, Air Canada Aeroplan and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer are some of the most popular programs.

Take advantage of lounge pass discounts

Especially if your flight includes multiple stops, the option to purchase a discounted lounge pass may come in handy to assuage the pain of long-haul international flights and extended layovers. You can purchase a pass during booking to guarantee access.

Travel off-peak to save miles

United doesn’t publish a set award chart. Instead, mileage requirements for award flights are based on a variety of factors, including demand. So booking during off-peak times and seasons may provide you with a better deal.

The bottom line

Hovering somewhere between business class and regular economy is United Airlines Premium Plus. It offers roomier seats, free alcohol, upgraded meals and free checked bags, but may come at a cost when booking with miles.

Additionally, flights that offer this class of service can be tricky to find. But if Premium Plus is available, it’s worth checking to see if you can score a good deal for long flights.


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