United Airlines is now making its new premium economy seating class, Premium Plus, available for MileagePlus award redemption. I was excited about this development for the two-or-so seconds it took price information to load.
On many days, business class awards are far cheaper than Premium Plus. The airline started selling Premium Plus fares Dec. 3. The cash prices appear far more reasonable than what United is asking for in MileagePlus miles.
Perhaps United hasn’t settled on a “Saver” award price for its middle cabin. At the Everyday price, the premium plus seats price out about 20 percent less than Polaris Business Class seats. There are plenty of dates when business class seating is available for far less, however.
These rates are a shame for United frequent flyers otherwise hoping to cash in on a new “middle class” of service.
Like the multitude of premium economy options now available internationally, Premium Plus seats resemble the business class seats of the 1990s, with domestic first-class legroom, adjustable leg rests and relatively deep recline. A dedicated cabin crew serves plated meals and upgraded beverage selections.
Optimistically, United will eventually find a middle-ground price level for these seats, providing frequent flyers with a new award outlet during times when business class seats are pricing high. When Delta started selling its Premium Select premium economy seating last year, SkyMiles awards were reminiscent to Delta One prices from a year ago.
In the meantime, Premium Plus seats are being assigned as Economy Plus, which can make for a great value. Elites could potentially snag a free Premium Plus recliner at the saver level rate. Just check out the seating chart in advance and look for the 2-4-2 economy seating behind Polaris.
The seats are already appearing on many of the longest-haul routes to be served by United’s 777-200s, 777-300s, and 787-10 Dreamliners. Scheduled routes include:
- Newark to Hong Kong, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, and Tokyo; later Frankfurt, Paris, Barcelona, Brussels, and Dublin.
- San Francisco to Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, and London; later Auckland, Beijing and Paris.
- Washington Dulles to Brussels, Paris and Tel Aviv.
As an Economy Saver add-on, these seats should be fantastic. Otherwise, wait until United figures out some Saver pricing before considering a points and miles redemption on Premium Plus.
Nonetheless, I’m excited to see what United does with its new offering.
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