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United Airlines

Upgrade Your United Seat. It’s Cheaper Than Ever

Upgrade Your United Seat. It’s Cheaper Than Ever
Joe Cortez

Have you noticed a ton of discounted United Premium Plus tickets for international trips? With prices the lowest they’re likely to be, is now the time to try the latest edition to the Premium Economy fare wars? Or is it all just a ruse to try “The Friendly Skies” once more?

While it’s been just under a year since the introduction of United Premium Plus, you can spot more and more discounted fares to United’s mid-tier upgrade. And, with upgrades to Premium Plus as cheap as they’re likely going to get, FlyerTalk Evangelist findark says “it’s a great time to check it out.” But, even cheap upgrades aren’t always worth it. If you’re still on the fence about upgrading, we’ve factored in a few variables to help you decide.


The Price of a Cheap Upgrade to Premium Plus

Let’s take this FlyerTalk forum question as an example:

Hello All:

We are considering purchasing two Premium Plus tickets from North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO) to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport. 

We normally travel on the cheapest fare available, so not familiar with the ‘better’ options. The Premium Plus fare is not a great deal more than the Economy fare, so it seems like a good option. 

The best available price for a Premium Plus trip from GSO to CDG is around $1337 flying between Feb. 26 and Mar. 4, including two outbound stopovers (in Newark and Frankfurt, Germany). Comparatively, the cheapest economy seat on that route is around $917, for a difference of $420 per person (no, we couldn’t make those numbers up).

For good measure, we checked out a few other, similar routes. For a trip from, say, Newark, New Jersey to Brussels, Belgium, the cheapest Premium Plus seat was $1,104 for a 7-day trip between Mar. 10 and 17, 2020. On the same dates, an economy seat was only $615 – a difference of $489.

And for a flight between Newark and Frankfurt, the cheapest Premium Plus flight cost $1,060, again flying between Mar. 10 and 17, 2020. The same flight in economy priced out as $633, for a difference of $427.

The pricing quoted was accurate as of the time of writing. As with all flights, your price may vary – but from the prices we found, the difference to upgrade from economy to Premium Plus was in the $400-range. At $200 each way, it may be enough to entice some flyers to move up to the better cabin.

And, in the FlyerTalk forum, some flyers were able to find roundtrip fares in Premium Plus for just $100 more than economy, each way.


United Premium Plus Reviews

Although it’s not as luxurious as the United Polaris experience, there’s something to be said for a nicer seat on long flights. Here’s what you get when you upgrade to Premium Plus from Economy:

Premium Plus Seats

  • Wider seats (than Economy), more leg space (than Economy Plus), more recline (than Economy Plus), plus an extendable leg rest
  • Saks Fifth Ave bedding
  • Larger entertainment screens and a set of noise reduction headsets
  • Priority boarding, quicker check-in, and shorter airport security lines (via Premier Access®)
  • Two free standard checked bags so you can pack more
  • Discounted United Club lounge access for a better travel experience
  • Reserved overhead bin space for your carry-on bag

Premium Plus Meals

  • Menus will be placed at each seat detailing the food options for your flight
  • Pre-departure water may be served in a blue cup, time permitting
  • Almonds will be served alongside a choice of beverage after takeoff
  • The main meal will include a choice of two entrees, plus a salad, bread, ice cream, and a cookie
  • Beer, wine (187ml bottles — about two glasses) and spirits will be available free of charge
  • You may choose a standard economy meal instead (if you prefer)
  • The pre-arrival meal will include a choice of two entrees as well, plus various side dishes, a biscotti and croissant

United promises a better seat with extra recline, two meals and “mid-flight snacks,” along with complimentary alcoholic beverages. FlyterTalkers who tried some of the early flights with the new seats pointed out notable pros and cons about the seating option.

These seats seem to work best for the tall. Said one FlyerTalker, “Lots of legroom! Even though I was in a middle seat, I never felt cramped (I’m 5’10). I’m one of those who has a hard time sleeping on planes, but I was able to get a good couple hours’ rest.” And that was despite limited under-seat storage and “typical economy food.”

But if you’re a larger person, it’s worth noting, as another FlyerTalker did, that “There is also about four inches less space between the tray table and the seat, compared with business first seating. As a larger person that makes a huge difference. No way at all I would ever pay for Premium economy or be upgraded into it unless Economy Plus was totally full and 3-4-3 seating.”


United Premium Plus Cheap Upgrade Amenity Kit

Is It Worth Upgrading?

In a word? “Yes.”

While the reviews of Premium Plus are mixed, even the tough critics on FlyerTalk agree that Premium Plus seat is at least marginally better than sitting in United’s traditional economy or Economy Plus. And, when you can find upgrades for as little as $200 each way when you’re flying far it’s worth the investment to get there and back more comfortably.

If you do decide to make the jump, be sure to share your experiences on the FlyerTalk forums after your flights!

View Comments (13)


  1. FlyingNone

    January 16, 2020 at 7:22 pm

    I would never pay $200-$400 more for the “upgrade” of sitting in a middle seat.

  2. cageordie

    January 17, 2020 at 4:39 am

    Two stops??!!! That means two short haul cattle class trips on a regional jet and a transatlantic hop on jumped up economy class? And the best of that is United, which my least favorite has-been airline. Is this an advert? On those dates I can do SFO-LHR on Virgin premium for about the same without dealing with a horrible airline. With one stop I can do SFO-LHR-CDG for just under $1100. This article is unrealistic.

  3. m44

    January 17, 2020 at 5:03 am

    The Economy Plus and Premium are just price increases beyond reasonable.
    Before the, now proven total failure, deregulation – today’s Premium would be considered borderline below the standard of safe and human service.
    Being 5’10” does not qualify you to talk about tall people experience. You are shortie. You need at least 2 more inches.

  4. toms663

    January 17, 2020 at 5:54 am

    Before anyone jumps and pays for an United Premium Plus seats I caution you. Yes, the seats are wider, great, and more leg room, and the tray tables actual are good size and I love the larger TV screens. All good and great job. However, the service, which I would think would be the easiest to do, was totally screwed up. I recently flew from Munich to Chicago Dec 31st. and upgraded to PP. I like to have a few drinks on my flight and looked forward to the ‘different’ menu. Well, no different food, and they only offered beer and wine. I dont blame the the flight attendants , but not only did the online presence said these things would be there, but also the commercial that ket running on my seat TV. It was like pouring salt into a wound. Now to United credit, I complained and got vouchers in less than 24 hours. So, all is well in my mind, but make sure before you invest that United is providing all its advertising for the up grade. I know its hard to run an airline, but its these little things that are like sticking a pin in your eye.

  5. ricardofel

    January 17, 2020 at 6:45 am

    There was no meal selection on the London/Houston flight. No water pre flight. No menus! Regular bedding!
    Seats were nicer than economy.

  6. jpr1953

    January 17, 2020 at 7:35 am

    I was in Premium Econ from FRA to IAD in late Nov. The food was exactly the same as econ – it was the same cart and same trays and nothing special….beer and wine are already free in econ…sure the seats are nicer and they have footrests…but the service and food on that flight was identical to econ. In Oct I was on Lufthansa flt in Premium Econ and it was much better than United by far…so United has a long way to go I think….

  7. Ripley62

    January 17, 2020 at 8:05 am

    One other benefit is an increase in frequent flier miles earned I believe it’s 150% PQM

  8. qofmiwok

    January 17, 2020 at 9:17 am

    Would be much more helpful if there was a photo of the seats reclined.

  9. allenaustralia

    January 17, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    So a budget airline gives some extras like water before takeoff, if you pay for it – exciting news!

    Amongst budget airlines such as United, Jetstar or AirAsia there no real difference, well except that in the emergency the crew will assist you in the event of an emergency on Jetstar and Airasia, whilst on United (since the crew is normal 60+) you will assist the crew in the event of an emergency.

  10. hyho61

    January 21, 2020 at 7:53 am

    For me the most important is the width of the seat, so I don’t have to bump my elbows with the next seat. Still an aisle on Eco plus is better than middle in Premium unless travelling with another companion who has the aisle seat. Been on Turkish and LH premium eco and had plenty of leg and elbow room.

  11. md125

    January 24, 2020 at 6:15 am

    Last year, I snagged an upgrade for $131 one-way Newark to Delhi. That was a steal, the next day, the same upgrade was going for ~$250.

  12. RUAMKZ

    January 24, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    Premium Plus didn’t exist until recently, and still doesn’t exist on all flights. Perhaps the price is a promotion deal.

  13. flyoftentoo

    January 28, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    What United wanted or promised is quite different from what flight attendants can deliver. Serving pre-flight drinks takes extra effort. United did not add more hands in the main cabin when PE class was added. United probably think replacing EP seats with PE seats will reduce passenger count in that section and therefore reduce the work load of FA. However, flight attendants in the main cabin are never tasked to provide pre-flight services such as hanging jackets and offering drinks. Reducing passengers count will not help. For food distribution, FA should have a bit more time to deal with special drinks and food selection in the PE section. This part I can confirm exists and I have experienced better services. The food served in the PE section is definitely better in quantity and quality than what is served in the economy and EP sections. It is a full tray comes with stainless utensil and cloth napkin.

    I noticed in trans-Atlantic flights, PE seats are sold better than trans-pacific flights. PE class as a product can really depends on the market.

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