United's Launching Premium Economy Sooner Than Expected
Earlier this year, United announced plans to launch its new Premium Plus cabin in 2018. The carrier's a bit late to the premium-economy game — American Airlines and Delta have both offered a true premium product on international flights — but better late than never.
In a note to crew members Wednesday, United confirmed that Premium Plus will begin flying later this month, initially on its retrofitted 777-200s followed by the one yet-to-be-delivered 777-300ER.
This version of the retrofitted 777-200 will offer 50 Polaris seats, 24 Premium Plus seats and 202 economy seats — a drop from the 242 coach seats on the configuration that excludes a premium-economy cabin. Internally, the premium-economy-equipped model will be referred to as "77N."
Since it'll take some time for premium economy to roll out throughout the fleet, the cabin will initially be sold as Economy Plus, with regular economy service. That means United elites will be able to select those seats free of charge — at booking for Gold, Platinum and 1K members, and at check-in for Premier Silver members. Non-elites will be able to reserve a Premier Plus seat with regular Economy Plus pricing.
Eventually, these seats will come along with enhanced service, including complimentary cocktails and improved dining. Once the hard product is installed, though, passengers can expect a leg and foot rest, improved recline, adjustable armrests and additional storage, in addition to a wider seat with more legroom. The airline does not expect to adjust staffing levels to accommodate the new cabin.
These new seats will be able to accommodate bassinets — at 20DEFG on the 777s, 21DF on 767s and all of row 20 on the 787-10, once that becomes available later this year. Unfortunately these new seats cannot accommodate an in-cabin pet in a carrier, as there isn't enough room underneath the seats, however emotional support and service animals can be accommodated in some rows.
While it isn't yet clear how United will process upgrades in the future, elites should be quite pleased to find this new cabin onboard initially, given that they'll be able to score a far better seat without any additional payment. It remains to be seen how this addition will affect frequent flyers in the long run, but for now, landing a Premium Plus-equipped aircraft should result in a more comfortable experience at no additional cost.