United Airlines announced to its employees earlier this week that the airline plans to introduce a new Premium Economy product (known as Premium Plus) to its fleet during the second half of this year.
“International Premium Economy is coming,” read an internal memo at United that was leaked by aviation writer Seth Miller. “Later this year, we’ll begin to introduce United’s Premium Plus. Available on select international flights, United Premium Plus will give you more space, comfort, and amenities. The seats will be more spacious and you’ll enjoy upgraded dining on china dinnerware, free alcoholic beverages, a Saks Fifth Avenue blanket and pillow, an amenity kit and more.”
After Miller leaked the information, Maggie Schmerin, a United spokeswoman, confirmed that the cabin is in the works.
— Edward Russell (@e_russell) January 18, 2018
United has yet to announce more plans for the Premium Economy cabin (the story, at the time of writing, has not been published on United’s website or online newsroom), but many speculate that, besides the features mentioned above, the cabin could also include nicer food and a more generous baggage allowance than that allowed in normal economy. There is speculation that a domestic Premium Plus product will be similar to the full international premium economy product with extended leg room, unique seats, advanced in-flight entertainment systems, and meals. United’s current Economy Plus cabin only features more legroom than regular Economy seats, without any additional amenities.
“We will have additional details to share at a later date,” said a United spokesperson.
The new United Premium Plus product will first be installed in upcoming 787-10 deliveries, but it still isn’t clear as to which routes the product will be offered on.
Investing in Premium Economy can help both United and its passengers. While customers will get a promise of additional in-flight comfort, United will be able to ensure that the seats will sell out. Passengers have been known to be willing to pay more for a Premium Economy seat (which can cost up to $2,000 round-trip) without needing to make a larger investment for a fully lie-flat bed in business class (which can come with a price tag four times as high on some international routes).
The new cabin will help United to catch up to many rivals who already provide a similar product. Foreign carriers have included separate-cabin Premium Economy sections on flights mid-haul and longer for years; American Airlines was the first American-based airline to roll out a Premium Economy product when it announced the installation of the cabin on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft in 2016. Delta also has a Premium Economy cabin, which it announced in in the 2nd quarter of 2017.
United expects one 787-10, its first, in 2018 – could premium economy debut on it? https://t.co/KeHoLFcB9C
— Edward Russell (@e_russell) January 19, 2018
United’s late announcement doesn’t mean that it will be the last to offer Premium Economy. If it moves quickly enough, it may be able to beat Delta to the punch of widespread installation the cabin, as the airline is moving exceedingly slowly in inaugurating the product across its entire fleet. American, on the other hand, seems to be speeding toward flying Premium Economy on all its international flights. And, while many European and Asian competitors have already started service with Premium Economy offerings, Middle Eastern airlines are lagging in offering an upgraded Economy product.
This is a developing story. Please check Aeronautics Online later to see when new details are released.
Featured image by United Airlines