Consistent with the rumor I reported on a few months ago, United Airlines has rolled out new travel packages for its economy class fares that include bundled perks like checked baggage, extra legroom, and United Club access. These are similar to the various Choice fares that American Airlines released three years ago. (HT to Travel Skills)
Unlike American, you won’t see these fare options on the search results page. Different packages will be presented after making a selection and moving to the trip summary page.
Economy Plus Essentials offers Economy Plus seating with extra legroom and a checked bag. United argues that customers can save 20% vs. purchasing these perks separately. However, it probably makes more sense to just buy the Economy Plus seating by itself (or earn elite status that offers it). I wouldn’t choose this package unless I knew I would need a checked bag at the time I booked the ticket.
Economy Plus Enhanced is a little more attractive with the addition of Premier Access (for faster check-in and boarding), a United Club pass, and some extra miles (500 for most flights in the U.S., and 1,000 for others). Again, priority service is not too difficult to obtain with status or a credit card, and the miles are overpriced. I’d only pick this package if I knew that I would want lounge access for that particular trip.
The value of Economy Plus Essentials is up to the customer. Though a checked bag is only $25, some would say $166 is still worth it for the extra legroom. However, the base fare in this example was under $300, making it a significant increase in the total fare. If you fly often enough I’d recommend you just buy an annual subscription to Economy Plus seating for $499.
I’m more confident saying that United is grossly overcharging for Economy Plus Enhanced. For $332 more than the original fare you get the extra legroom, checked bag, lounge access, shorter lines, and just 500 miles. You can buy lounge passes separately for just $50, and if you want the miles, Award Accelerator will let you buy 9,000 for $207.
United’s travel packages won’t appeal to most travelers with Premier status who already get most benefits. Finding ways to up-sell these passengers — other than the option to pay for first class upgrades — is a challenge that most airlines haven’t satisfied. United has done better than most, and I appreciate that they now have one page with a list of ancillary products. However, I am surprised the one perk that may appeal most to frequent travelers is missing: the United.com club, which provides a $5 credit for every ticket booked online.