United has announced they will begin rolling out a Premium Economy product on international flights later in 2018. The following minimal information came from an email to Mileage Plus members:
Introducing United® Premium Plus
International premium economy is coming.
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.
United Joins the Party with a True Premium Economy
This shouldn’t come as a surprise in the “monkey-see, monkey-do” environment of the U.S. airline market. Both American and Delta are already rolling out Premium Economy, so it was only a matter of time before United would follow. United was an early adopter to offering more space in economy with their Economy Plus product. However, this is a true Premium Economy product, including meals served on china, and an amenity kit.
The seats look similar to the new United domestic first class seat, with the addition of a leg/footrest. Given how uncomfortable economy on long haul flights is becoming, with 10-across seats on 777s, this product could be compelling for a better experience on those flights.
Where Will United Premium Plus Be Available?
Currently Delta only offers Premium Economy on their A350s, which were delivered with the product. American receives 787-9s with the product already installed. The pace of modifying their existing widebody fleet with the product is moving quickly. I believe all A330-200 and many 777s already have been retrofitted.
Given how slow the roll out of United Polaris has been, I question how long it will take for this product to show up in any sort of numbers. Wandering Aramean shares a United internal memo about this product, and it appears that this will first show up on United’s 787-10 deliveries. According to the United Fleet Site, there are 2 deliveries scheduled in 2018, so presumably these planes will have both Polaris Business Class seats and a Premium Plus cabin.
Premium economy is a nice middle product between a cramped economy cabin and a flat bed in business class. I’m interested to learn more about United’s offering, and hope they can get this product into their fleet quickly.