United Opens Premium Economy Seats For Awards, Prices NOT GOOD

by John Harper

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.

Premium Plus economy using United MileagePlus Miles

Premium economy award prices aren’t looking too pretty in their debut photo.

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.

United Premium Plus routes

United’s cash fares for Premium Plus flights, which start March 30 on some routes, are competitive.

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.

Using points and miles to fly United premium plus premium economy

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.

Earning miles premium economy premium select premium plus frequent flyer

United has already installed Premium Plus seating on at least a dozen-or-so refurbished Boeing 777-200s. Until the official launch, service is Economy Plus, and Premier Elites can select the seats as they would an Economy Plus seat.

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.

Right now, those United Explorer Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve points are much better spent in business class.

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.

Finding United Premium Plus seats

Up until the service launches, Gold, Platinum and 1K United frequent flyers can select the Premium Plus chairs for free on an economy award ticket (the 2-4-2 section behind Polaris Business Class).

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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henry LAX December 7, 2018 - 11:47 am

so something, that barely went into revenue sale and hasn’t actually launched in service yet, with very little actual purchasing data to model demand upon, is considered “shameful” because they don’t open saver awards on day 1 ???

Lyfesaver December 7, 2018 - 11:59 am

This is inaccurate. What you are seeing is the “Standard” award cost level for PremPlus. Had the saver inventory properly available, their saver award cost level between economy cabin and business cabin costs would have displayed. That column simply does not have 2 separate sections to display saver and standard.

Thomas December 7, 2018 - 4:00 pm

For April 5th, I did a test ticket from IAD to NRT with one stop at EWR. Premium Economy seat from EWR to NRT was showing 75K. So I figure they are using variable award prices, but no savers. It also said there was a 68K ticket from IAD to SFO to NRT. The SFO to NRT ticket being the premium economy.

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