United Airlines Premium Economy: What You Need to Know

United's premium economy fare offers seats in a separate cabin, discounted lounge access, free alcohol and more.
Elina Geller
Alisha McDarris
By Alisha McDarris and  Elina Geller 
Updated
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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Are you looking for an upgraded experience when flying United Airlines but you're not ready to shell out for first class just yet? United premium economy service, which is called Premium Plus, may be the right fit. With larger seats in a semi-separate cabin, 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 it 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

The United Premium Plus baggage allowance is 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.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You can also get a free checked bag (or two) if you hold certain United Airlines credit cards. More on that below.

Premier Access

Premium Plus passengers also get Premier Access, which offers dedicated airport check-in lines, exclusive security lanes at select airports, priority bag handling and priority boarding. Those flying in economy or Economy Plus do not get Premier Access benefits unless they have United elite status, Star Alliance Gold status, an eligible United credit card or have purchased the Premier Access add-on. Passengers flying in business class, first class or United Polaris also receive Premier Access.

Seats

United’s Premium Plus seats are up to 19 inches wide and feature a 38-inch seat pitch, providing up to 7 more inches of legroom than most standard economy and Economy Plus seats. Seats also recline 6 inches, meaning you have more room to spread out and get comfy.

Since the seats are bigger, there are also less seats per row compared to economy. As seen in the image above of United’s Boeing 777-200, the Premium Plus cabin has eight seats per row while the economy cabin has 10 seats per row. Note that depending on the plane, the number of seats per row may differ, but there will still be less seats per row in Premium Plus vs. economy.

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.

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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 9 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. In regular economy, alcoholic drinks are only free on transatlantic flights, flights between the U.S. and some South American countries, and certain transpacific flights.

United’s Premium Plus food choices are also different from those provided to economy passengers. On select long-haul international flights, there are upgraded dining options. On premium transcontinental routes, passengers get a complimentary hot entree, fruit and dessert. Example menu items may include chicken katsu or portobello mushroom and caramelized onion ravioli.

How to book United Premium Plus

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, select “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. Select “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. However, you can also preview the seats available by selecting “Seats,” which is right next to “Details.”

United Premium Plus vs. Economy Plus

United’s economy offerings are divided into four ticket types:

  • Basic economy (the most restrictive).

  • Economy.

  • Economy Plus.

  • Premium Plus (premium economy).

So then what is United’s Economy Plus, and what’s the difference between Economy Plus and Premium Plus?

Premium Plus is United’s premium economy fare and comes with the perks mentioned above, including Premier Access, upgraded food, free alcoholic drinks, discounted United Club lounge access, baggage allowance, roomier seats in a separate cabin and enhanced entertainment options.

Economy Plus, on the other hand, is an economy seat with more legroom that’s located near the front of the economy cabin or by the exit row. Economy Plus is an option that you can purchase during or after booking a standard economy ticket. You can also purchase an annual Economy Plus subscription. If you’re a United elite member, you can select an Economy Plus seat for free when you buy a standard economy fare.

Worth noting, when you're in Economy Plus, you don't get a free checked bag. However, if you use a United-branded credit card, you can get your bag fees waived, as well as enjoy priority boarding and, depending on the card, even access the United Club airport lounges. Credit card options include:

Chase United Airlines Mileage Plus Credit Card
United℠ Explorer Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Chase United Quest Credit Card
United Quest℠ Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Chase United MileagePlus(R) Club Card Credit Card
United Club℠ Infinite Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

United Gateway Card
United Gateway℠ Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $95.

$250.

$525.

$0.

Earning rates

• 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 at restaurants.

• 2 miles per $1 on hotels (when booked directly with the hotel).

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 3 miles per $1 spent on United purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel (including other airlines, hotels, car rentals and more).

• 2 miles per $1 on dining (including takeout and delivery).

• 2 miles per $1 on select streaming services.

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 on all other travel.

• 2 miles per $1 on dining.

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 at gas stations.

• 2 miles per $1 on local transit and commuting.

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

Other benefits

First checked bag free for you and one companion on your reservation.

2 United Club one-time passes each year.

• Credit of up to $100 every four years for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or NEXUS.

Priority boarding.

• No foreign transaction fees.

First and second checked bag free for you and one companion on your reservation.

• $125 United purchase credit per year (good on airfare).

• Two 5,000-mile award flight credits per anniversary year.

• Credit of up to $100 every four years for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or NEXUS.

Priority boarding.

• No foreign transaction fees.

First and second checked bag free for you and one companion on your reservation.

Access to United Club airport lounges.

• Credit of up to $100 every four years for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or NEXUS.

Priority boarding.

• No foreign transaction fees.

• No foreign transaction fees.

Bonus offer

Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open..

Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

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4 ways to get good value from United Premium Plus

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

1. Book Premium Plus using United 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 1.2 cents per mile, both of these tickets reflect a great use of 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.

2. Book Premium Plus using Star Alliance partners

Since United is a member of Star Alliance, you may be able to find a good deal on award flights when booking a United Premium Plus ticket using partner airline miles. You can search for United award availability using Avianca LifeMiles, Air Canada Aeroplan or Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

3. Take advantage of lounge pass discounts

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.

4. 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.

Final thoughts on United premium economy

Hovering somewhere between business class and regular economy is United Airlines Premium Plus. It offers roomier seats in a separate cabin, free alcohol, upgraded meals, free checked bags and discounted United Club lounge access, but it 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.

Frequently asked questions

United’s premium economy product is called Premium Plus. It is available on select transcontinental domestic routes and some long-haul international flights. Premium Plus seats are larger and in a separate cabin.

When flying Premium Plus, passengers get enhanced food options, free alcoholic beverages, discounted United Club lounge access, Premier Access, additional baggage allowance and upgraded entertainment options.

Yes, those flying in Premium Plus receive discounted access to United Club lounges. United doesn’t disclose the cost of lounge access for Premium Plus passengers, but the price of entry should be lower than the $59 United Club day pass.

Unless it's an involuntary change imposed by United (e.g., oversold flight, canceled flight, flight change or inability to accommodate a passenger in a premium cabin), Premium Plus seats are nonrefundable if canceled more than 24 hours after booking.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

United Cards from our Partners
Chase United Airlines Mileage Plus Credit Card

on Chase's website

United℠ Explorer Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-2x

Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays and United® purchases. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

Miles

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Miles
Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer Business Credit Card

on Chase's website

United℠ Business Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-2x

Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, dining, at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting. Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Miles

Intro offer

100,000

Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

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Chase United Quest Credit Card

on Chase's website

United Quest℠ Card
4.6
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-3x

Earn 3x miles on United® purchases, 2x miles on dining, select streaming services & all other travel, 1x on all other purchases

Miles

Intro offer

70,000

Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Miles
See more United cards
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