United Premium Plus vs. Economy Plus: Does It Make a Difference?

Premium Plus flyers get an extra inch of legroom compared with Economy Plus. Both get two free checked bags.
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Written by Anya Kartashova

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Pandemic aside, flying induces many questions these days. Do I have to pay for a bag? Can my companion and I sit together? How many economy cabins are there? If you’re wondering what all the economy classes mean, you’re not the only one.

If you are buying a ticket on United Airlines, here’s what you can expect when traveling in United Premium Plus versus Economy Plus.

The main differences between Premium Plus vs. Economy Plus

United's premium economy option is called United Premium Plus, and it offers a significantly better experience than a United economy seat. Though these passengers fly in the same cabin, the main difference between Premium Plus and Economy Plus on United is more legroom and upgraded amenities (including free food and alcohol) on United and United Express flights.

  • Legroom: United Premium Plus seats, located at the front of the economy cabin, feature up to seven extra inches of legroom over a standard economy seat, while the Economy Plus seat offers travelers six inches of extra legroom. Premium Plus seats also recline up to three inches more than a standard seat.

  • Amenities. United Premium Plus seats offer features like an adjustable leg and footrest, an individual power outlet and USB charger, a larger entertainment screen and Saks Fifth Avenue bedding.

  • Service: Flyers with Premium Plus tickets receive upgraded dining options on select long-haul international flights, plus a complimentary hot meal and alcohol on premium transcontinental domestic routes. Meanwhile, Economy Plus flyers must pay for premium drinks on domestic flights.

Both ticket levels include the ability to check up to two bags for free.

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Economy Plus subscription

You can pay to upgrade an economy seat on a flight to premium economy at booking or any time prior to departure from your MileagePlus account. Depending on how often you fly on United, you might consider an Economy Plus subscription.

A subscription is valid for one year and is good for upgrading an economy seat (excluding basic economy) to Economy Plus on any United or United Express flight departing within that year.

Expect to pay the following for an Economy Plus subscription plan:

One person

  • $599 for domestic flights (excluding Alaska and Hawaii).

  • $699 for flights within North America and Central America.

  • $799 for international flights.

One person and one companion

  • $799 for domestic flights (excluding Alaska and Hawaii).

  • $899 for flights within North America and Central America.

  • $999 for international flights.

One person and up to eight companions

  • $1,099 for domestic flights (excluding Alaska and Hawaii).

  • $1,199 for flights within North America and Central America.

  • $1,299 for international flights.

United Premium Plus

Here's a closer look at the United premium economy experience.

Fare flexibility/ticket changes

All United itineraries for travel in the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii), Mexico and the Caribbean booked into economy or higher class of service are eligible for free changes and cancellations. You also won’t pay any change fees for international travel as long as it originates in the U.S. If you cancel an eligible reservation, you’ll be issued a future travel credit.

Baggage and seat selection

Those flying on a United Premium Plus fare get two free checked bags plus reserved overhead bin space for a carry-on.

United Premium Plus seats are located in the front of the aircraft ahead of United Economy Plus. A seat selection is included with ticket purchase.

Lounge access

Premium Plus ticketholders have access to discounted United Club passes when booking select long-haul international flights. For flyers embarking on a journey with multiple stops, the option to purchase a discounted lounge pass might be particularly attractive. You can purchase a pass during booking to guarantee access.

Earning rates

MileagePlus members earn miles based on a ticket’s cost, not the distance flown. Only the base fare counts toward rewards accrual, and Premier status helps with mileage multiplication. United flyers earn redeemable miles at the following rates.

Elite status level

MileagePlus miles you earn

General member

5 miles per $1.

Premier Silver

7 miles per $1.

Premier Gold

8 miles per $1.

Premier Platinum

9 miles per $1.

Premier 1K

11 miles per $1.

United Economy Plus

Next up, we'll dig into the Economy Plus experience for flyers.

Fare flexibility/ticket changes

Because an Economy Plus ticket is an eligible fare, it too can be changed or canceled without a fee as long as your flight travels within the:

  • U.S.

  • Alaska.

  • Hawaii.

  • Mexico.

  • The Caribbean.

Flights that depart the U.S. for an international destination are also eligible.

Baggage and boarding

Economy Plus passengers get to board the aircraft in Group 3, after Premier elites and co-branded credit card members but before regular economy flyers.

Those flying in premium economy with United also get to check up to two bags at no cost, saving up to $160 per trip.

Seat selection

United Economy Plus seats are located behind first class on domestic flights and behind United Premium Plus seats on international and transcontinental planes equipped with both cabins. You can pick an Economy Plus seat at no extra cost if you bought an Economy Plus ticket.

Earning rates

Whether you fly in regular economy or in Economy Plus on United, you earn the same number of redeemable miles per dollar spent on your ticket. However, because your ticket is likely more expensive, you’ll earn more miles as a result.

Upgradeability

You can upgrade a United Economy Plus ticket to first class on domestic itineraries and to United Premium Plus on premium transcontinental routes and to Polaris on flights overseas. If you choose to do so, you can pay a fee or use MileagePlus miles from the “My Trips” page when you’re logged in to your MileagePlus account.

Credit cards and elite status can improve your overall experience

United card members and MileagePlus Premier will notice improvements in their travel experience.

For example, Premier Silver and Premier Gold members can upgrade their economy seat to Economy Plus on domestic and international routes for themselves and one companion booked on the same reservation. Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members have the same privilege, but for themselves and up to eight companions booked together.

United flyers with Premier Gold status and higher have access to Economy Plus seating at booking, and Premier Silver members have access at check-in.

Additionally, Premier members receive free checked bags and Premier Access service at airports. Member also get access to early boarding groups:

  • 1K members get to pre-board.

  • Gold and Platinum members board with Group 1.

  • Silver members board with Group 2.

As a United MileagePlus credit card holder, you get up to two free checked bags for yourself and one companion, depending on the card you have, as long as you pay for the ticket (or taxes and fees on an award ticket) with the card. Remember that you don’t have to worry about bag fees for up to two pieces of luggage with an Economy Plus or Premium Plus ticket.

Additionally, if you hold a United credit card, you get to board the plane in Group 2 even if you’re flying on an economy ticket. Among credit card options:

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 on United purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 at restaurants and hotels (when booked directly with hotel).

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 3 miles per $1 on United purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 at restaurants, select streaming services and all other travel.

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 4 miles per $1 on United purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 at restaurants and all other travel purchases.

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 on United purchases, gas stations and 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

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

Limited-time offer: 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.

Limited-time offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Limited-time offer: Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. Learn more.

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If you’re considering an upgrade to United Premium Plus

If you’re still not sure whether United Premium Plus is worth the extra cash, consider the benefits you get with this type of fare. For longer flights, the more comfortable seating and complimentary food and drink may be worth the splurge. It’s up to you to decide whether an upgrade will make enough of a difference to make your trip more comfortable and enjoyable.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

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

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

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60,000

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

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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.

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Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

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Miles

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70,000

Limited-time offer: 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.

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See more United cards
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