United Airlines Selling Premium Economy On Domestic Flights

Filed Under: United

United is currently in the process of rolling out Premium Plus throughout their long haul fleet, which is the name of their premium economy product.

United’s Transcon 787-10 Flights

United has a fleet of 787-10s. While they largely use these for long haul flights, they also use them for select frequencies on their premium transcontinental flights, which sure is a treat, given that these planes feature true Polaris seats.

United’s 787-10 Polaris

Currently they fly the planes 2x daily from Newark to Los Angeles, and 1x daily from Newark to San Francisco.

United 787-10

The planes are also a treat, though, since they have Premium Plus premium economy seats. Up until now, MileagePlus elite members have been able to select these premium economy seats for free on domestic flights.

United Premium Plus

These seats are similar to domestic first class, so it’s nice to basically get a complimentary upgrade to a domestic first class seat on a domestic flight (minus the service).

United Starts Selling Premium Plus Domestically

Within the past few hours, United has started selling Premium Plus seats on their domestic 787-10 flights as of October 2, 2019.

Those who had previously assigned seats in Premium Plus for free are now finding that they’ve been kicked out of those seats and have been moved to “regular” economy, or Economy Plus (which is the same seat as economy with extra legroom).

So, what is pricing like for Premium Plus on domestic flights? It looks like in general, United’s entry level pricing on a Newark to Los Angeles flight is:

  • $119 for basic economy
  • $154 for economy
  • $413 for premium economy
  • $659 for business class

That pricing is about in line with what I’d expect. If the pricing is $413 for premium economy and $659 for business class I’d say business class could well be worth the premium, but you don’t always see that entry level pricing on these flights, and often the one-way tickets cost $1,200+, where the difference is huge.

United Domestic Premium Plus Questions

The way United is rolling this out sure leaves a lot to be desired. It’s normal for airlines to make schedule changes like this over the weekend, though I would have expected that an announcement would be made prior to that outlining this new service:

  • What kind of service should Premium Plus passengers expect on domestic flights? Will it be similar to economy or business class?
  • Will United offer upgraded amenities to Premium Plus passengers domestically, like blankets, pillows, headphones, and more?
  • How many PlusPoints are required to upgrade from economy to Premium Plus, and to upgrade from Premium Plus to Polaris?

The good news is that upgrades from economy to business class should work the same as before — you just can’t assign the Premium Plus seats for free anymore.

Bottom Line

If United is committed to keeping 787-10 on select premium transcontinental flights then I’m not surprised to see them start selling the cabin.

Arguably this is bad news for elite members, who previously got this product for free. For others it’s good news, since there’s a new type of product people can book that’s priced between economy and business class.

I do find United’s decision to roll this out without any sort of advance announcement a little strange, since they’re now selling a product, but people don’t know what to expect.

Lastly I have to say that I find United’s premium transcon strategy to be rather confusing. They fly a combination of 757s, 787s, and 777s on these routes. So on one frequency you have their great new Polaris seats, while on other frequencies you have eight seats per row in business class. If you’re trying to create a competitive advantage in a hyper-competitive market, I think a bit more consistency would go a long way.

Could you see yourself booking Premium Plus on a domestic United flight?

(Tip of the hat to @terryversay)

  1. I don’t see myself booking on United if there is any other option – including Spirit! What a train wreck of a company!

  2. Knew this had to come, but am bummed. I enjoyed it being free.

    Lucky, what’s the implication here for award tickets? I guess after November when it goes dynamic it’ll just be its own price, but will you even be able to book the cabin before that?

  3. Now not only is the seat inconsistent they throw in a new class of confusion.

    This is simply the way to lose on the cash cow premium market. Business travelers pay top dollars to not have to deal with good seats bad seats and just hop on any flight that is convenient. DL AA B6 all have the same product on its transcon route. It used to be the case when DL was flying 767 and 757, now all 757 goes to SFO and 767 to LAX. At least on the 757/321T the business class seats are almost the same. And I say thumbs up to UA for breaking the oligopoly with the 787. (but thumbs down for the 777)

    But then again there are probably enough lifetime UA loyalists out there who will say who cares, please take my money. I am willing to fly 2-4-2 as they seldom get inconvenienced by things like ‘2-4-2’ because they consider flying as primarily **transportation** that gets from point A to point B in relative comfort.

    So I guess its Definitely well thought and Creative revenue maximizing Scheme then?????

  4. well if it’s only the LAX/SFO-EWR flights, me living near IAH ain’t gonna see that. Hopefully it’s “just” this market.

  5. Preimum for 2.7 c the cost of economy does NOT seem like a good deal at all.

    Isn’t the yard stick premium is normally about 1.4-1.8 x Econ? (Internationally at least)

  6. I was on premium economy section at the price of economy, being platinum, for 10/3 flight to LAX from EWR and got kicked out now. Return flight too for 10/4. What i have learnt is that the RPU would put you to PE amd not necessarily business class. United should have courtesy to intimate when they make this change, but knowing United thats the last thing to expect, isnt it ?

  7. I was just forced to pay 400 dollars to secure the prem eco seats I had to pay 130 dollars for previously per person, per way, making my essentially economy transcon tickets 1k per person and I am extremely extremely not happy.

  8. Air Canada sells YYZ-YVR Premium economy at $700+ dollars one way. Seems like United is just copying them with lower prices and more inconsistency.

  9. Meh, hardly looks worth the price for a little shoulder room. Hopefully there’s some sort of PQM bonus too.
    These seats should be open to CPU for premier members same as business/first/Polaris/whatever it’s called for non-premium routes.

  10. @Siva

    I just noticed that for my itinerary too. I paid for the upgrade to that seat though. I would never have known they would do this if I don’t keep up with these blogs.

  11. Just got bumped from PE to E+ on two existing domestic B787-10 reservations. Could UAL have just let me, and others like me, simply keep our planned seats instead of reassigning new seats in the back without any advance notice? As a Platinum elite member I feel this was bad PR for United Airlines.

  12. @Nate

    What does “price difference between domestic and international.” has to do with “For a few hours, I can handle being in cattle class.”

    I think @Jeff is spot on for the reasoning but still incorrect on facts. LHR is 1,000 further than LAX.

  13. I had paid $119 for an E+ seat on a LAX-EWR leg on 787 in feb 2020 and chosen a Premium seat. Now I’ve been kicked out to a regular E+ seat

    The whole reason I chose united and this flight and paid $119 extra was to get a premium seat

    Do I have any recourse?

  14. @username Flying solo, I’d agree, but it’s a big plus when flying as a couple as you can get two seats to yourself.

    I wonder whether they’ll continue to offer meals and drinks for transcon EP on aircraft that has PP.

  15. @russell I just called and dealt with the same thing. They told me they’d refunded the money I paid for my seat assignment (they didn’t) before kicking me back to row 30. then they tried to tell me I had paid for the upgrade with miles (I didn’t) and they weren’t honoring it and that’s why lost my seat. It took three phone calls and asking for a supervisor and I eventually had to pay 200 bucks but I got my seat back (which they swear my initial seat assignment fee is being refunded, we will see). They are also listing the upgrade as “United business” but won’t let me assign a seat. Overall it’s a mess and I’m not flying United again.

  16. The ****ers changed my award seats on SFO-EWR RT to the middle of EP. I booked those flights because PP was available. Such a trashy airline. You think they have gone as low as they can go but then they find another way to take advantage of their customers.

  17. Despite all of the “gushing” over PremiumPlus and its new seats, I do *not* like those seats (they were available for “free” during roll-out periods on my prior trans-Pacific flights)! Access to the seat IFE remote is partially buried by the seat cushion. The service tray now comes out of the aisle-side seat “panel,” so it’s no longer possible to lift that legacy hand rest and “slide” out of my seat to walk somewhere when the service tray is in use for meals. There’s a mysterious swing “flap” on the tray that seems to be of no use, since it’s swing isn’t back-stopped to act as a back rest. The foot rest isn’t always well adjusted to work properly. The seat storage is awkward to use (in my opinion). The list could go on …

  18. Got one of these seats as a domestic E+ for free from UA Gold status back in July. Was just the seat, no PE service (the service menu from the inbound intl flight was still in the pocket, sounded decent). For those prices, it better include a meal and drinks. Even then, probably better value to fly first.

  19. Ben: per your questions/observations…
    -What kind of service should Premium Plus passengers expect on domestic flights? Will it be similar to economy or business class?
    -Will United offer upgraded amenities to Premium Plus passengers domestically, like blankets, pillows, headphones, and more?

    I recently flew this route EWR-SFO and was eagerly looking forward to and expecting an elevated experience. Outside of the seats, nothing was different than what is provided for in Econ+ on the P.S. route. At first I thought they were missing or forgot things, but after talking to the flight attendants, they said that nothing more is offered (e.g. amenity kits, food, seat linens, etc.) on DOMESTIC routes, it’s just for international flights. So outside of the seat itself, nothing is different…it’s just an extension of what you get behind in the blue seats. As such, there was no incentive to ever want to pay for it in the future.

  20. @Eskimo

    If the prices are too steep, I am not going to fly in PE. Often, the prices for overseas flight in PE is reasonable. I am not going to pay 800+ for RT for only for 12 hours seat time . When I am flying overseas, it’s to Asia, and I got a few ticket for a little over 1200 with a flight out of a small airport to LAX or SFO. That’s a good price for 27(give or take) seat hours in PE. If the price is right, I will try to get E+ to fly to the east coast. Cattle class isn’t that bad if you have a layover. USA airlines don’t make much for overseas flights but flying in USA, they make a killing.

  21. Interesting the value they place when purchasing. Three weeks ago I booked my daughter on LAX-EWR-BCN with return in reverse order. Booked her in Premium Economy. All segments on 787-10. The seats on domestic segments classified as Economy Plus. She has my lifetime Platinum status. On the BCN-EWR the flight was delayed to repair some seats. She boards. Her armrest won’t stay up in aisle seat. Two FA couldn’t fix, Captain comes back and says it won’t be any problem for the flight so she can change or stay in seat. She looked at app (she is 18) says nothing open in front of me and all I see are economy minus seats. She stayed since the options sucked. United offered $175 credit on future flight.

  22. Have talked to multiple 1K agents who have basically said “no worries those are just economy seats”. Shocking for the beat supposed people on the frontline.

  23. Based on status, was able to book seats in PP on a 777-200 for IAD-SFO for later this month. Any insight to when they will start charging for PP on this equipment/route?

  24. I dont really understand UA’s pricing for PE. Booked on UA flight EWR-TLV and was considering PE and they want an additional $1100 for one leg to upgrade compared to $1200 for Polaris. The seats look marginally better than econ yet the price difference is way too high.

    This pricing strategy they have reminds of what movie theaters do with popcorn. Small is $4.50, medium is 6.50 and large is 6.75, no one actually buys medium, but its just there to incentivize people to buy large.

  25. Do CPUs clear to PE if on an E ticket and Business if on a PE ticket? RPU clear from E to PE and PE to Business?

  26. The upgrade priority can be beneficial in PP. Ticketed PP-fare passengers clear prior to any Econ-fare passengers. I unexpectedly moved up to Polaris on my flight to Frankfurt last week (the only upgrades to process were from PP to Polaris so far as I could tell). My company will not pay for business but PP is OK, so for me it’s a win. (and bot Lufthansa and AC service in prem Econ makes UA seem fantastic: Lufthansa especially is only about the seat, nothing else is better).

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