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United Announces International Premium Economy Cabin

January 19, 2018

If you are a member of United's MileagePlus frequent flyer program, you probably received an email today with the following message:

 

That's right, United has finally confirmed that they will be adding a dedicated premium economy cabin on their longhaul aircraft, tentatively named "Premium Plus." By doing so, United becomes the last major U.S. carrier to add a true premium economy cabin to their widebody aircraft, after American and Delta both introduced Premium Economy and Premium Select, respectively. 

 

According to the email memo, United will put its "Premium Plus" offerings on par with other U.S. and international premium economy products, with "china dinnerware, free alcoholic beverages, a Saks Fifth Avenue blanked and pillow, an amenity kit and more." According to United, the new seat will be available on "select international flights." 

 

Based on the image that United provided customers with, it appears that this seat is the exact same model as what American and Delta both offer in their international Premium Economy products, the B/E Aerospace MiQ. This seat is also offered as a domestic First/Business seat for narrowbody planes, with American Airlines using a no-frills version of the seat as its new domestic first class product. 

B/E Aerospace MiQ seat. Courtesy of Rockwell Collins.  

 

This new premium economy seat will likely be replacing most of United's "Economy Plus" section on their internationally configured aircraft. Prior to this announcement, the only form of "extra comfort seats" came in the form of large, dedicated sections of extra legroom seats under United's Economy Plus brand. In fact, the pre-merger United 777-200 has more Economy Plus seats than regular economy seats! It is highly likely that most of the Economy Plus cabin on these aircraft will be removed to make room for Premium Plus, though bulkhead rows may be likely to remain under the Economy Plus branding. This move, however, could dissapoint frequent travelers. United MileagePlus members with elite status with the airline are eligible to select the extra legroom Economy Plus seats at no additional charge; with the removal of most Economy Plus seats, it looks like they will have a lot less seats to choose from. Furthermore, I doubt that elites on economy tickets will be able to select Premium Plus seats at no cost, since the services in both cabins now differ. I do expect, however, that it will be easier for elites to upgrade into these seats as compared to the current upgrade process for Polaris business class. 

 

Overall, I am excited that United is finally offering a true international premium Economy product on its long haul aircraft. Given that the launch is scheduled for "later this year," expect to see the product be deployed on the airline's new 787-10 Dreamliners, which will be delivered to United starting this year, as well as retrofit 777-200ER aircraft, which are scheduled to receive new cabins beginning later this year as well. Furthermore, the carrier's upcoming Airbus A350 aircraft will also be likely to receive this cabin. However, customers on the 777-300ER and 787-8/9 might have to wait a little while longer. These aircraft all have a fairly young age, and it is unlikely that they will be retrofitted any time soon. 

 

Cover photo courtesy of Itdccba via Flickr. 

 

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