Last Updated on September 8, 2020 by Jeremy
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On our flights home from Uganda in February 2019, we were fortunate enough to be seated in a new class aboard United flights. Aptly named United Premium Plus, the seats are somewhere in-between normal economy and long-haul business class.
But are they worth it? We have some thoughts.
United Premium Plus – A Good Medium Between Economy and Business
When we were handed our ticket on Brussels Airline (a Star Alliance partner) from Entebbe to Brussels, we were confused. We were upgraded to a row on the plane that didn't exist in official seat maps, and our ticket was still stamped economy.
Once we boarded, we realized we were among the first travelers to get seats on the new Premium Plus cabins being rolled out across the United and Star Alliance fleets (later that travel day we were on an official United flight in the same seating area)- seats that weren't officially supposed to be out for several more weeks.
These are interesting seats located towards the front of the plane that include just about three or four rows in a quasi-pod like format offering more reclining space, more leg room, a footrest, and a much more business class like experience.
Think of it like business on most domestic flights with seats designed a bit more like an international flight and you wouldn't be too far off.
Even better? The seating was in 2 x 4 x 2 configuration whereas regular economy on the planes we were on were 3 x 4 x 3- extra width and privacy for us!
Since we were just coming off of a 12 hour car ride, and poised to endure two eight-hour flights back-to-back, Premium Plus was a welcomed upgrade we had no idea we were going to get.
But it does not come without its quirks, and today we wanted to dive into those (plus a larger explanation of the setup) a bit more.
Premium Plus Seating is Weird
If we were to be upset with anything on the Premium Plus seating, it would be that the layout of the seats are, well, odd.
I used the word clunky while on the flight to which Angie got very upset with me (as she liked it more than me), but I think it is a fair statement.
On our first flight we were in the first row, which in typical airline fashion means no below-seat storage (which was fine) and a different kind of footrest system.
The seats try to mimic the pods of business class with a fold-out footrest, but for anyone over about 5'8 has the awkward position of being nice but just a bit off.
I couldn't quite place my finger on why, but two things I would say are that the legrest/footrest does not go up as far as it should to be comfortable on a long-haul, and that it was a bit short- such that I was propping my legs up against the front wall more often than not when in the front row. A slight leg elevation is nice when sitting, but not really helpful if you want to sleep.
On our second flight we were in the last row, which had nice extension of the seats when reclining (just as in the front) and ample room between you and the seat in front. However, the space was narrow enough that climbing over the large and unmovable armrests was a bit of a challenge.
We got over it since we sat next to each other, but if I was next to a stranger I'd be in a very awkward situation on many occasions.
My only two real complaints, however, are that the area under the seats are too small to place our nominally sized backpacks, and that the headphone jacks and power outlets are crammed inside a small nook under the armrest (behind you) that is impossibly hard to get into without having cords on top of you (not to mention, our power outlets did not work for anything larger than a cellphone- so much for working on the flight).
While the armrest folds up and down to help with this, it is still highly unusual.
Overall, I felt like I spent a fair bit of time adjusting to try and get used to the unconventional setup.
But since I adjust often in economy and only rarely in business, it's not surprising that Premium Plus is somewhere in between. That being said, I think it does detract from the experience if we're looking at it as an extra cost.
On the plus side, the seating area is typically just a few rows and has curtains separating the class from business in the front and economy in the back. So not only do the 25 or so people get a lot of privacy, no one really walks through the aisles as well other than flight attendants and the guests in Premium Plus themselves.
Even better? You get served food first and are off the plane quickly as well. Minor perks, we'll be the first to admit, but quite nice all the same.
The Food and Beverage Service Will Make It
As our first instance of being seated in Premium Plus was a complimentary upgrade before the official rollout of the seating areas, a few services were missing- namely special food and drink services.
If the hosted information is to be trusted, the meals here are going to end up being more like a business class experience than economy, with higher-end food, plates and silverware, and full liquor availability as well.
But sadly, during the initial roll-out we were unable to experience this and had the basic economy meals instead. In fact, we were upgraded to Premium Economy again on a flight several months later and still were served a regular economy meal, so I'm not entirely sure whether this will be happening or not. If it does, we will be sure to update this post.
Overall, I'm really happy that United has introduced a class that is somewhere in the middle between economy and business. Depending on price points, especially with regards to points redemption (which appear horrible right now without good saver rates), we could see it as an option for times when we want an upgrade but can't justify business class alone.
But for now, we'll simply hope to get another complimentary upgrade. Premium Economy is simply just ok.
For frequently asked questions about United Premium Plus, check out the following.
What is United Premium Plus?
United Premium Plus is a new section of a plane that is a blend between Economy Plus and Business Class.
What is included in United Premium Plus?
United Premium Plus includes pod-like seats, more leg room, a private cabin area, and a few extra amenities here or there.
Is United Premium Plus worth it?
At this time, United Premium Plus is at a fair premium over economy and may not be worth the extra cost. However, those who have status have had luck getting complimentary upgrades to this section.
About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.
15 thoughts on “United Premium Plus – Is The New Seating Area Worth It?”
Also, does front row still get a TV screen? I dont see any in the pictures.
Fellow Pittsburgher here. I’m traveling to Italy next month and i’m 6’2. Do you think I should choose the front row in PP?
I generally find that the front row of all sections often allow for more legroom, but the foot rest situation may be different especially in PP. Generally speaking, they make customizations to the front seat since there is not a seat in front of it (e.g. TV folds into the arm rest, no room to store bags below the seat in front of you, etc.). I generally like the front better when I can get it, but there are tradeoffs- I don’t think there is anything unique to PP here though as all those are the same changes they make in economy.
Are you able to go through the Premier Check-in line to check bags and go through its security with the Premium Plus ticket?
That is a good question. We’ve always had access to Premier Check-in due to status so I am not 100% sure. Theoretically you should, but we’ve not been able to check this first hand.
Can you use credits for an upgrade from economy to PP?
I believe there are ways to upgrade to Premium Plus, but I’m not sure it is worth it tbh unless you have no other use for those points. I personally would rather save money to use for business class.
Reminds me of the “Red Carpet Service” that United used to have in the 1970’s and ’80’s on certain long flights. The more things change, the more they stay the same!
I’ve flown in premium plus twice, the 1st time it was just a fluke. I had no idea there was even a cabin. when I got on the plane i was hummm…what is this. As far as I can recall it was a domestic transcontinental flight it was last year. Last month I flew back from CDG to SFO and I purchased a rather expensive (3k) premium plus seat. Being a 1K i used a global upgrade I’m A1K 1.6 million mile flyer. the upgrade never came through I was number one on the list but the Polaris business class checking in full.
Well the seats are quite comfortable they have a good recline. I was in the 2nd of 3 rows (all P P is 3 rows w/ 2-4-2 seating) I’d always take a window seat. as mentioned the power outlets are laid very stupidly placed lol.
Yes we were served on China real silverware and real glasses, however, they offered only one white wine, 1 red wine served with dinner. there was no pretake off drink offered, not even water. They did have beverage service before and with the meal.
Sadly that is more or less where the beverage service stopped, until it was time for the before arrival meal. never once was my glass offered to be refilled with wine or anything. It got to the point where I finally went into the business class cabin and I saw one of the FA’s and asked him may I please have a glass of red wine. they had 6 separate different bottles to choose from! I mean really? and there’s nothing being offered in premium plus after the meal. I was very disappointed, however he was very accommodating and gave me a nice glass of wine…in a plastic cup! oh my God. There were also a lot of passengers ‘transiting’ through the P P cabin to Polaris for what ever reason. I got up to use the restroom and thought well I’m just going to go up to business because the closest restrooms were at the back of the bus and I was not going to work my way through all of that mess with elbows sticking into the aisles, you know what I’m talking about! So there I am and one of the flight attendants looks at me and she says Aren’t you in the PP cabin? I said yes I am and she said well I will let you use the restroom this time but if you need it again use the other ones! I mean really… There had been actually dozens of people transiting through the PP cabin and no F A said a word… So that was my basic experience the food was OK but just OK the wine well I’ve already mentioned that I was very disappointed that there was no FA coming around offering refills of wine or any beverage to the PP passengers. All in all I would give it a 6.5 rating… Most of that rating is based on the lack of service after the meal service…
Aloha from a Maui frequent flyer…
Hi. Did you find the footrest configuration in the last row more comfortable than in the first row? Even with a row in front of you versus the bulkhead? Traveling family of four (2 adults, 2 adult-sized teenagers) SF to Paris next month. Thanks!
I think it depends on how tall you are. I definitely appreciate that I could brace myself against the front wall in the first row over the footrest, but I suspect that could vary considerably depending on height.
Overall, 1st or last row was better?
I’d put them equal, but depending on your height I could see a sell one way or another due to the foot rest / front wall configuration.
I have premium plus booked on a flight on 6/28/19. Do you recommend the last row?? It reclines all the way? I prefer no one to sit behind me. Thanks.
We didn’t think that the last row reclined any less than the others, but the seat does hit the wall at the end of its recline so we can’t be 100% certain. If it is any less it is very minor. Just estimating based on our experience in the first row, last row, and seeing the seats in front of us recline too.