United Airlines plans 'premium economy' for domestic US flights

United Airlines plans 'premium economy' for domestic US flights

United Airlines is considering whether to add an upgraded economy section to domestic U.S. flights – a feature typically reserved for overseas markets.

The Chicago-based carrier for months has been readying a new Premium Plus section with bigger seats and improved dining options.

While the company previously said it would add the class to international routes, it’s now considering it for domestic ones, too, President Scott Kirby said at a JPMorgan Chase investor conference Tuesday.

“We look forward to announcing that, if we can get to a great product at some point,” Kirby said at the event. A United spokeswoman declined to provide any details about the premium features in the domestic version.

United would be unique among the major U.S. carriers if it goes forward with a domestic version of premium economy.

While other carriers have extra-legroom seats, such as Delta Air Lines' Comfort Plus and American Airlines' Main Cabin Extra, they typically are the same size as regular economy seats. True premium economy seats are typically wider, requiring more extensive renovations of a plane.

In the case of United's international Premium Plus seats, this means not only wider seats with more recline and legroom but the promise of an "upgraded dining on china dinnerware, free alcoholic beverages, a Saks Fifth Avenue blanket and pillow, an amenity kit and more."

United has had to play catch-up to its rivals in developing a premium economy section for overseas markets. Many foreign carriers have offered the product for years, while American and Delta each announced they would add the sections to international planes ahead of United.

 

19 comments

  • reeves35

    reeves35

    14 Mar, 2018 05:05 pm

    If they add an international standard Premium Economy to their domestic flights, I cannot see how that will differ from their domestic First Class product. I could understand if their first class was a "Mint"style but it is typically just a recliner except for a few 757s that are basically concentrated on LAX-EWR.
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    mallee

  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    14 Mar, 2018 07:49 pm

    International-standard premium economy seats could fit comfortably at 5-abreast in a 737 so that's a bit less generous than a US-domestic-first product.
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  • MarkJohnSon

    MarkJohnSon
    Banned

    14 Mar, 2018 08:50 pm

    It's easy to be an "armchair CEO" and make suggestions like that, but it won't work from a safety point of view.

    The group of 3 PE seats will be several inches longer than the Y class group, meaning that the PE block of seats would be jutting out, which will be problematic in an emergency "deplaning" scenario.
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  • JackB

    JackB

    14 Mar, 2018 10:37 pm

    actually you'll find its probably doable. virgin australia did it on their e-jets and so did air canada. its just called a dog leg isle.
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  • kimshep

    kimshep

    15 Mar, 2018 11:09 am

    This will not happen 'overnight'. Remember, that Boeing is finalising the plans for the B797 next gen short-hauler - which may well be a twin aisle frame. Such a configuration could be entirely feasible on such a frame. Either a 1-3-1 or 2-1-2 config could emerge .. and no 'dogs-leg' would apply.
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  • FLX

    FLX

    16 Mar, 2018 04:15 pm

    @kimshep:
    "This will not happen 'overnight'."
    But if UA decide to go ahead, it'll clearly enter service yrs b4 797 even if that new aircraft family was launched yesterday.

    A 797 program will take @ least 7yrs to go fm launch to cert. In contrast, a new seat program typically takes around 17mths(only 7mths if it's an off-the-shelf design) to go fm development to 1st deployment and airlines never plan such seat program 7yrs in advance....

    "the B797 next gen short-hauler"
    This is a funny claim as the lowest performance variant of this bird is now planned to fly @ least 4,500nm(or 8hrs+ sectors a.k.a. classic Trans-N.Atlantic mission type) @ full pax. 1st time ever I hear someone describe the 797 as a "short-hauler".

    99% of the industry media news I've read described the 797 as a medium-range aircraft family....even if Alan Joyce intends to deploy it also for the BNE-SYD-MEL triangular trunk.
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  • kimshep

    kimshep

    18 Mar, 2018 10:46 am

    1. UA has a history of introducing upscaled elements on new delivery aircraft. Refit of existing frames is usually way down the list. Precisely what is happening with the new 'Polaris' product, too.

    2. "A B797 program will take @least 7 years ..." only if Boeing is content to see the market consumed by the Airbus A321NEO.

    3. Airlines considering the 797 will be buying it for capacity first, not for range. Yes, QF may choose to 'abuse' it .. as will many other carriers. However. the additional range may well be a benefit to QF - in that it will be able to be swapped in / out between domestic and international operations ie: just as QF did with the B767's a whole lot of years ago.

    Remember, Boeing decided to a) drop the B787-3 completely and b) not revamp the B757 family .. so they are a bit behind the 8 ball with capacity in-between the B737-800 and the B787 family.

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  • FLX

    FLX

    16 Mar, 2018 03:53 pm

    @MarkJohnSon:
    "..it won't work from a safety point of view."
    U mean this 5->6 abreast layout on 737, as reviewed by ausbt.com.au 3yrs ago, won't work for UA domestic?

    To the best of my knowledge, JL hv been offering this product, branded Class J, in Japan domestic mkt for nearly 14yrs.

    Your claim is valid if either JCAB hv been sleeping re emergency evac requirement or Japan hv far more lax safety std than FAA, EASA or ATSB.....
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  • romaau

    romaau

    14 Mar, 2018 09:20 pm

    I imagine these would be for the widebodies and cross continental track. For those that don't want flat beds but want something more than economy.
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  • johnnypc67

    johnnypc67

    14 Mar, 2018 06:05 pm

    If only European airlines upgraded their Business class inter-euro flights to International Premium seats standard
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  • GBRGB

    GBRGB

    14 Mar, 2018 07:36 pm

    Have any airlines ever looked at a 3-2 layout in a 737 for example as a domestic PE offering, more pitch and obviously a slightly wider seat, they all seem to be stuck trying to offer little more than extra legroom in a standard configuration.
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  • Packetman21

    Packetman21

    14 Mar, 2018 07:57 pm

    I know that JAL Express have done it. AusBT has reviewed he product, and it doesn’t mention anything about the seat being too narrow, so it is possible.
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  • Fqtv

    Zac

    14 Mar, 2018 10:30 pm

    It sounds like a good idea. I suspect it will be full of complimentary FF upgrades on every flight, but that may free up some headroom to make Domestic F (ie J) more exclusive and a more truely premium product.
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  • kimshep

    kimshep

    15 Mar, 2018 11:23 am

    Bingo - we have a winner. US carriers for years upgraded anyone with status to their 'First' cabins as a retention tool - and American travellers became very used to it. Trouble was, those 'First' cabins didn't generate incremental income.

    Over the past 4-5 years, airlines have had to 're-educate' their loyalty subjects and have greatly restricted the dishing out of award upgrades. UA / AA and DL still 'upgrade' their Y status passengers but only within the same cabin. The introduction of a true PE will see some (non-status) Y fliers bite (additional comfort / space / perks for additional revenue). This will allow the lifting of F (and J) fares marginally .. and will allow the heavy-hitting loyalists to be upgraded to either MCT or PE.

    It also allows better control of J class / status pax being upgraded to F on major domestic long-haul routes.

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  • V1213

    V1213

    14 Mar, 2018 11:59 pm

    Air Canada already does this.
    When they fly their wide bodies domestically Premium Economy is now sold as such. They used to sell it as Economy, but made the switch last year.
    Interesting, Qantas do this on the MEL-PER legs of QF9/10, however only as part of an international itinerary.

    I'd be surprised if United install it on their narrow bodies, but it makes sense for domestic flights on international aircraft that already have the seats.
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  • Jason Hamilton

    JKH

    15 Mar, 2018 05:22 pm

    It’s be great to see the new gen 3-class on all QF a/c. Not sure of viability or how fare structures would work. An eventual 797 with variants could be part of consistent class/seating configs across an airline network.
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  • Joe

    Joe

    15 Mar, 2018 08:34 pm

    The name United and the word "premium" make my brain hurt. This carrier never has, never will know what premium is.
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  • kimshep

    kimshep

    16 Mar, 2018 12:00 pm

    .. actually, UA sorta does know, but it's problem has been how to image and sell a premium product.

    Years ago both United and Continental had good F class products. Anticipating the potential demise, Continental decided to axe its F and cleverly call their J product 'Business First'. Later, when UA and CO merged, United adopted the concept of Business First. Failing to realise that this was predominantly a USA-only appeal term, UA then created 'Global First' and 'Global Business' for long-haul. Frankly, none of these Firsts and Business were never well-sold, marketed or imaged in customer minds. Hence, confusion.

    Frankly, UA's premium product is industry-standard good. It is not extravagant, or leading edge. It's problems with 'premium' products have been more to do with the American concept of Y+ and their constant back and forth policy over free alcohol (or not) in Y and Y+.

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  • Herman  G

    mancho90

    23 Mar, 2018 04:03 pm

    DL has COMFORT class that is the same for International and Domestic... priority boarding, free alcoholic drinks, some food on domestic routes and full service on long haul flights. AA still not doing it on domestic flights. AC is horrible..and they seems to use it so badly to "upgrade" from economy to that area where is just an Economy Plus... then use the "bidding" for Business Class (almost impossible to use miles to upgrade to Business Class because they are keeping seats for hte bidders) Yes Economy Plus as UA not much as Premium Economy class... first meal is different, after that is the same as economy and even passengers from economy moves freely to PE in AC after the first service...crew doesn't do anything to stop that, after you paid almost double AC together with SAS, CA and CZ are the worst quartet in Premium Economy you ever possible take.
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25 Sep, 2018 04:01 pm

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