United's New Packages Include Lounge Access, Extra Miles and More
We've heard rumblings that something along these lines might be in the works, but now it's official: United is launching new fare bundles that include a variety of add-ons to enjoy before, during and even after your flight.
As you can see above, these new packages come in two tiers. The first, called Economy Plus Essentials, includes an Economy Plus seat plus one checked bag. Economy Plus Enhanced, meanwhile, includes an Economy Plus seat, a checked bag, expedited check-in/security/boarding, a United Club pass and 500 extra award miles for flights within the 48 continental United States, or 1,000 extra miles for flights to other destinations.
I booked a sample flight from Newark to Los Angeles in order to get a look at the new packages. As you can see, the package prices don't make a whole lot of sense, particularly because United is charging more for the same packages on the return flight, which is an hour shorter than the outbound. Digging into the breakdown a bit more, the discrepancy is due to the fact that United's charging more for Economy Plus on the LAX-EWR leg, for one reason or another.
Should you add a package?
For a transcon flight, the cheapest package adds $96. Based on the 74 additional PQDs you'll "earn," it's clear that United is breaking this out as a $74 Economy Plus charge, plus $22 for your checked bag, so you are saving a small amount over the regular price for an extra-legroom seat and a checked bag. Considering it's relatively easy to avoid checked-bag fees, this first package doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Meanwhile, using this same round-trip as an example, the Economy Plus Enhanced package adds at least $191 to the price of the ticket, more than doubling the cost of that leg. That's a lot of extra money in United's pocket. Let's break down the cost of the package if you were to purchase everything individually:
- Cheapest Economy Plus seat - $59
- First checked bag* - $25
- Premier Access - $59
- United Club pass - $50
- 500 bonus miles - $7.50 value, based on TPG's valuation
*Note: Per the terms and conditions, both packages include an extra checked bag, so if you already receive a free bag from a credit card or status, you can check another (up to 50 lbs.).
This adds up to $200.50 for the outbound flight, which is a hair over the $191 package price, so you are saving a little money. Still, chances are you wouldn't be purchasing all of those add-ons for the same flight. Also, given that United elites get all of these benefits for free, excluding the United Club pass (unless Gold or above on an international flight) and additional bonus miles (above those you'd receive as an elite), there's no reason for anyone with status to purchase one of these packages.
So, in the end, no — these packages don't make a whole lot of sense. If you happen to come across a better deal than what's outlined above or someone else is picking up the tab, that may change, but leisure travelers should generally stay away, and take advantage of credit card perks or even purchase these add-ons piecemeal rather than buying into a package.