Many airlines have classes of service that bridge the gap between coach fares and the much more expensive business and first class seats. In some cases there are a few types of fares that usually come with names like comfort and premium attached to them.
These fares are different from the basic fares that sprung up to compete with low-cost carriers. With those fares, which are generally the lowest offered on any route, you can’t pick a seat in advance and you need to pay extra for checked bags. You will also lose your money if you miss or cancel the flight.
But not everyone is looking for bargain basement fares. Some people just need a little extra legroom over what traditional economy seats offer, and they are willing to pay extra to avoid being cramped during their flight.
There are also some other fares that add extras. But it’s not always clear what you are getting for the extra price paid because many airlines use similar sounding names. There are also bundles that add extras to your flight experience which can make it all very confusing, and even subscriptions that allow you to book an Economy Plus fare class on all of your flights.
In this article we’ll take a look at United’s Economy Plus fares and outline what they include compared to other fare types offered by the carrier. We’ll also go over how much extra it might cost and whether it is worth it.
In this post you'll learn:
What is United Economy Plus?
Economy Plus was first introduced in 1999, so it has been around for over 20 years. The main thing you get with an Economy Plus fare on United is some extra space to stretch your legs. These seats come with up to six inches of extra legroom, and they may be wider or have extra recline though that varies by aircraft. You can check for specifics on a site like seatguru.com. They are also closer to the front of the economy cabin, which allows you to deplane sooner.
This type of fare is available on all United and most United Express flights, but not on Star Alliance partner flights. Don’t get it confused with Preferred Seating on the carrier. Those seats are actually located just behind the Economy Plus seats, but the preferred seat itself is the same as the one you get with a regular economy fare and even a basic economy fare. Preferred seats cost from $9 per flight to upgrade from Economy tickets and from $16 per flight for Basic Economy ticket holders.
Economy Plus vs Premium Plus
United also has a new class of service called Premium Plus. It is considered a premium economy experience, but is only available on select domestic flights including premium transcontinental routes and select long-haul international flights, as well as flights to Hawaii.
This level of service includes a better seat than Economy Plus. Premium Plus seats are made of plush materials and include adjustable foot and leg rests, and include a dedicated power outlet and USB charger in the arm rest.
You also get a larger entertainment screen and an upgraded dining experience complete with custom dinnerware, flatware and a cloth napkin. Complimentary alcoholic beverages are also included with this fare where it is available.
What is the Cost to Upgrade to Economy Plus?
You can book an Economy Plus fare when you book your flight, or you can choose to upgrade before your flight through the website, in the app or by calling customer service before your flight or at check-in online or at the airport if available.
There are two basic ways to purchase United Economy Plus. You can buy it for a single flight, or you can get a subscription for the year and upgrade every time you fly on United as long as the fare purchased is not Basic Economy. The cost to upgrade to Economy Plus from Economy ranges for a single flight ranges from $9 to $299 per person.
An annual Economy Plus subscription costs from $499 to $1,099. It can be purchased by region, and it can be bought for multiple passengers if they are traveling on the same itinerary. You can also upgrade to a different region or add passengers to an annual subscription in your account, but that will automatically extend the subscription for another year and any value on your existing subscription will be applied to the new price.
Another way to get Economy Plus seating is by bundling your trip. Bundles include a custom combination of Economy Plus seating, checked bags, Premier Access, a United Club trip pass, extra award miles, a seat assignment if you booked a Basic Economy fare and/or a Wi-Fi pass for the day. You can buy a bundle when you book your flight.
You can also switch from one Economy Plus seat to another prior to flying if the cost is the same as your original seat, but if it costs more than the original price will be refunded and the new seat must be purchased in full.
For United MileageClub members
If you are a MileagePlus Premier Platinum member, you can request access to Economy Plus seats for yourself and up to eight passengers traveling with you. Premier Gold members get advance access for themselves and one companion, and Premier Silver members can request the upgrade at check-in. If the fare you booked is a Basic Economy ticket, you have to wait until check-in to upgrade and pay the appropriate fee.
If you purchased the upgrade and the airline is unable to accommodate you in Economy Plus, the extra charge will be refunded. You can also purchase a subscription for someone else. If you are the recipient of a Comfort Plus subscription you can activate it here.
If you get upgraded because of your status and no longer need Economy Plus seating, it will be automatically refunded unless the upgrade is a complimentary Premier upgrade or if you are given a seat that is of similar or greater value because of an aircraft change.
You can purchase a Basic Economy, Economy and Economy Plus on just about any United flight, but the choice of premium cabins has a lot to do with the destination you are flying to. Depending on where you are headed, there are different upgraded options beyond Economy Plus including Business Class, Polaris Business Class and First Class.
If you’re flying on a transcon flight between Boston or New York/Newark and Los Angeles or San Francisco, you have two upgraded options. You can choose to fly in Economy Plus or Business Class.
Economy Plus vs Business Class
You can book business class on United for flights between the US and select cities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Business class tickets come with Premier Access, which will get you through airport security and check-in quicker, and you’ll board earlier.
Flying business class on United will cost a lot more than upgrading to Comfort Plus. Ticket prices for business class on international flights vary based on a number of factors, but generally cost between $3,000 and $5,000. A flight from New York to London in United Business Class runs around $4,000 for example.
Polaris Business Class
Premium cabins vary by aircraft, but you can book the United Polaris business class product on select long-haul international routes. This is the airline’s most premium product which includes a suite-like space with ergonomically designed seats that lie flat and privacy dividers.
You can customize the recline on these seats, and for entertainment you have a 16-inch HD monitor and a full library of movies and shows to watch. You also get noise-reducing headphones and elevated service.
You also get access to the United Polaris lounge before you board if it is available in the airport. Polaris lounges can be found at Chicago O’Hare, Houston Intercontinental, Washington Dulles, New York/Newark, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Most were closed during the pandemic, but have reopened. The two California are expected to reopen in 2022. At the lounge you can take a shower and get a multi-course meal to eat before you board so you can sleep while flying.
On board the flight you get restaurant-quality meals created in partnership with the Trotter Project and complimentary alcoholic beverages. Or you can slip into 100% cotton pajamas and enjoy Saks Fifth Avenue bedding including a mattress cushion, cooling gel pillow, duvet and throw.
Economy Plus vs First Class
United First will also get you extra space in its first class seats. These fares are available on flights throughout North America and Alaska and Hawaii. In addition to the added comfort of a first class seat in the front of the plane, you also get Premier Access. First class tickets on United also come with two free checked bags and priority handling of those bags.
These spacious leather seats have a six-way adjustable headrest and a padded seat cushion. They also have an in-arm slot for your tablet or laptop as well as a personal water bottle console and double pockets on the back of the seat.
The seats also come with a flip-up mobile device holder and charger, and a granite-topped table in the center of the console, which frees up the tray table for working or eating. You also get United Private Screening, which includes on-demand entertainment from DirectTV, and you can stream entertainment to your personal device. Youdo have to pay extra for United Wi-Fi though where available.
You’ll also get upgraded food and dining choices which vary depending on the length of the flight. They include a full meal with two entree choices, premium snacks, fresh fruit and Illy coffee. Alcoholic beverages are also included in the fare including On the Rocks Cocktails and craft beer selections.
Food and Beverages on United Comfort Plus
The meals and drinks served to Economy Plus passengers are the same as you would get in the rest of the main cabin. Flights that are less than two hours and 20 minutes don’t have any meal service or snacks, so bring your own or eat before you board.
If the flight is longer than that or you are flying on a premium transcontinental flight in United Economy, you’ll receive a pack with two snacks and an 8.5 ounce bottle of water. Passengers on international flights receive a salad, entree, snack and a cup of ice cream if available, and complimentary beer, wine, soft drinks and tea/coffee.
Snacks include chookies, pretzels or snack mix. You can also choose to purchase Choice Menu Bistro meals on select flights or Choice Menu Snack boxes.
Non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary for all passengers, but if the flight is less than an hour you will need to request them. Wine and beer are only complimentary for United Economy passengers on premium transcontinental flights and long-haul international flights, but alcoholic beverages including beer, wine and spirits are available for purchase on other flights.
With Economy Plus you also get the same allowance for bags as coach passengers. You are allowed to bring a carry-on bag and a personal item for no charge. The maximum size for the bag is 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches including the handles and wheels. Personal items like a shoulder bag, backpack or laptop must be smaller than 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches.
If you have to check an item at the gate, the first checked bag costs $35, a second one is $45 and a third one is $150. If you purchased a basic economy fare, there is also a $25 charge to check the bag at the gate.
There is a fee of $200 if the bag is oversized, which is more than 62 linear inches. Bags that weigh more than 50 pounds (but under 70 pounds) will cost from $100 to $200 each depending on the cabin, status level and itinerary. If the bag weighs between 70 and 100 pounds, it can cost up to $400 per bag.
If you have Gold elite status with the carrier, you are allowed two complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds each for domestic destinations and up to three checked bags to select international markets.
Is Economy Plus Worth it?
That depends on how much the upgrade costs and how much you need the extra legroom. United Economy Plus will definitely give you more room, especially on transcontinental or international flights. But it may not be worth it to upgrade on shorter domestic flights unless you need the extra space.
Also, if boarding or getting off the plane sooner is important to you, an Economy Plus ticket will get you in an earlier boarding group ahead of Economy and Basic Economy passengers. And you’ll be closer to the front of the plane when it’s time to deplane.
You also earn extra Premier qualifying points in the United MileagePlus frequent flyer program for the purchase of a one-time or annual subscription to Economy Plus, which will help you achieve elite status faster. So if you’re chasing a higher status tier, this will help you attain that goal and the cost may be worth it to you.