United's Economy Plus - restricted access

20 Sep 2006 by business traveller

United has become fussy about which passengers can occupy its Economy Plus cabin. Until last week, the carrier's premium economy seating was open to any Mileage Plus FFP member regardless of the fare paid. It was also available to all others provided they held a full fare ticket.

Economy Plus consists of a few rows in economy class which boast an extra five inches or so of legroom. The product is available across United's entire domestic and international network and readers tell us it's a lifesaver on a long transatlantic flight.

But in an about turn, presumably designed to placate its most loyal customers, United has become more fussy. From last weekend only mid- to high-tier loyalty members can sit there. Ordinary passengers, even if holding a full fare ticket, are only given seats at the last minute.

According to a United spokesperson, "Having looked at the role of Economy Plus, we've identified a need to ensure that Global Service, 1K, Premier Executive, Premier and Premier Associate Mileage Plus customers receive this service having booked an economy ticket [at either the full or excursion rate]. Other passengers holding Y, B or M class economy class tickets [essentially the higher fare categories] will only be allocated a seat at the airport on the day of departure for a nominal fee."

Reaching any of these tiers requires you to be a good customer of United. For example, Premier (whose equivalent would be Star Silver) requires travellers to fly at least 25,000 miles, 1K (equal to Star Gold elite) requires 100,000 miles while Global Service is for million milers or executives with firms who have struck special corporate deals.

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Report by Alex McWhirter

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