Continental to adopt Economy Plus seating

18 Feb 2011 by AndrewGough

Earlier this month we reported (see online news February 7) on how US carrier Delta is introducing Economy Comfort seating across its large international fleet. Delta seemed to have followed in the footsteps of its alliance partner KLM which offers a similar product.

Now comes news that Continental Airlines (now owned by US carrier United) will adopt Economy Plus seating from the beginning of next year.

Economy Plus seating is provided in a separate area of the economy cabin. It offers passengers up to five inches of extra legroom for a modest fee. In other respects the seating and inflight service is exactly the same as normal economy class.

United has successfully offered Economy Plus on its main international and domestic fleet for 12 years. Says Jim Compton, chief revenue officer of United Continental Holdings, “Customers who sit in Economy Plus are significantly more satisfied with their travel experience.”

Like its rival Delta, Continental is a two-class carrier. So by offering a “third” seating option it can narrow the gap between the lie-flat comfort of business class and the more cramped conditions found in economy class.

Continental says it will install Economy Plus across its mainline fleet from early 2012. It will cover both international and domestic destinations and be fitted to the carrier’s large fleet of B777s, B757s and B737s.

The extra legroom seating is offered to passengers holding high tier status in either carrier’s loyalty schemes or it can be purchased at the time of booking, at time of online check-in or at the airport on departure.

Surcharges per flight range from US$9 for a short domestic flight like Chicago-Madison up to US$119 for a transpacific sector such as Los Angeles-Tokyo.

Economy Plus is especially worthwhile on long flights. Sectors over Continental’s transatlantic network routinely involve flight times of between seven and 12 hours. Transpacific flights are longer still. Witness the 12 hours and 35 minutes it takes to fly Tokyo-New York or the 15 hours 55 minutes you need for New York-Hong Kong.

By simply offering extra legroom rather than create a proper Premium Economy cabin (like British Airways, Air France, Qantas and so on) Continental (like United, Delta and KLM) can offer passengers more comfort at minimal cost.

For more information, visit

Report by Alex McWhirter

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