By Geoff Witmore
Being able to fly first or business class all the time is the dream for many frequent travelers. But for those who need to be a little more budget-friendly, United’s Economy Plus is a great solution. Economy Plus is perfect for travelers who may not want to splurge on First or Business class, but need a little extra comfort for long-haul flights. (Such as the 17-hour direct flight from San Francisco to Singapore– imagine having limited leg room on that trip).
A few extra perks can make a huge difference when it comes to travel. Since airplane seats have shrunk since the 1980s in order to fit more passengers on one plane, travelers say it’s about time airlines offered more seat room outside of having to upgrade to the premium cabins.
But what is it like to fly as an Economy Plus passenger? Does upgrading to Plus really make much of a difference?
Starting with the factor that can make or break whether you have a comfortable flight, the seats in Economy Plus are the same width as Economy seats but provide an extra five inches of leg room. But considering that a person’s leg length is typically around half of your overall height, a little extra room definitely helps. The extra space also makes it much easier to stow and access a bag under the seat in front of you. This is a game changer for business travelers who have briefcases and want to make the flight productive, or families traveling with diaper bags or kids’ backpacks. In addition, having to stow less luggage in overhead compartments makes the whole experience a little more comfortable from the beginning of the flight to the end. Having this option is definitely a win for taller travelers and those traveling with extra bags, and can make air travel significantly less uncomfortable for those with conditions such as back pain or arthritis.
For the seats themselves, United reports that they recline four inches, so there isn’t much of a change from Economy seating. However, extra legroom and room between the seats means that the person in the seat in front of you can lean their seat back without making your tray table rest on your knees. Adjust the headrest so you can sleep a little more comfortably, and push the seat cushion forward for even more comfort.
Extra leg room for your own seat is just one perk of the additional space. If you have the middle or window seat, the extra room makes it easier to get past your fellow passengers to use the restroom or go walk around. If you’re the person who would need to stand up to let someone out, it’s more likely that you can tuck your legs to the side and give them enough room to comfortably let out. So overall, the extra room makes it feel a little less crowded all around.
For entertainment, the back of each seat has a 10-inch touchscreen equipped with some of the latest movie releases, TV episodes, and even games that you can play alone or with the person sitting next to you. Controls such as your personal overhead light, entertainment volume, and screen brightness are also controlled via the touchscreen. There is a USB port for charging phones or smaller devices, and each row of three seats has two universal plug outlets for plugging in larger devices. The universal plugs are a great touch in order to accommodate travelers from around the world. Make sure you load your device with entertainment if you want more options than the in-flight system– you need to pay for wi-fi, and the quality is subpar across United aircrafts.
In addition to the seat on a long flight, the choice and quantity of food is another significant factor to consider. Menus are not provided, so you have to choose between a meat and vegetarian entree. Portions are decent, but the quality of the food itself sadly fits the exact picture of dismal airline food. Longer international flights usually provide dinner, snacks, and breakfast. Beer and wine are complimentary, but liquor is not included. Hot food is only available for purchase on shorter, domestic flights. Overall, there isn’t any substantial improvement in food service if you compare Economy and Economy Plus.
So is it worth the price? Travelers say that upgrading to Economy Plus is definitely worth it for longer international flights, but this upgrade by not be as enticing or worth the upcharge for shorter domestic flights. The upcharge varies depending on the length of the flight and destination but usually ranges from $20 to $200. United also offers a tiered subscription program with unlimited annual upgrades, which starts at $499 for flights around the continental United States and $699 for a global pass.