United Premium Plus vs. Economy Plus: Does It Make a Difference?
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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.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
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.
» Learn more: United premium economy — what you need to know
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:
$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.
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.
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
5 miles per $1.
7 miles per $1.
8 miles per $1.
9 miles per $1.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
» Learn more: What credit cards get me into a United Polaris lounge?
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.
» Learn more: Valuable benefits of United Airlines credit cards
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 our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card