Economy Plus is here to stay at the new United!

Finally there’s a positive thing we can look forward to after the merger: Economy Plus is here to stay!

United announced today that not only will the whole ex-United fleet retain Economy Plus, but starting in 2012 Economy Plus will be added to Continental aircraft as well, both domestic and international. No doubt this is a great move since United generates quite a bit of revenue through upsells to Economy Plus, not to mention it generates a lot of loyalty.

Not to take away from this joyous occasion, but I do feel like I have the obligation to mention that this might not be all good news, especially for top tier elites, as these Economy Plus seats will likely come at the expense of a row or two of first class seats, and I certainly can’t blame them if they do. Keep in mind that while United has had Economy Plus for years, they only have eight first class seats on the A319 and 12 first class seats on the A320. Compare that to many of Continental’s 737s, which feature up to 20 seats in first class. I just don’t see United keeping 20 first class seats and taking away a row of coach seats so that they can reconfigure the planes with Economy Plus.

So while this is great news for lower tier elites that fly lucrative routes where they rarely get upgraded, if United chooses to eliminate four (or maybe even more) first class seats from much of their fleet, that might be the difference between a 1K consistently getting upgraded on a lucrative route, vs. spending most of their time in Economy Plus. And the same is certainly true for Premier and Premier Executive members on less lucrative routes.

Anyway, not trying to be negative here, as this really is great news. If nothing else, it makes me feel like there is still at least a slight bit of customer focus at the new airline (in other words, they see the value of loyal customers, even if the value isn’t perfectly quantifiable).


  1. It sure is hard to buy a coach ticket on other airlines when Economy Plus offers just enough to make a significant difference in coach comfort. I didn’t even want to buy a Continental ticket the other day but couldn’t find what I needed on UA metal.

  2. Even if UA took out a row or two of F on some of the CO birds, there are many 1Ks that clear at 104 hours for A319 flights. I think it will be similar to how we clear UDU.. The biggest “shock” may be for the CO elites.

  3. Something I have always wondered about:

    The reasons Lucky states above (E+ generates revenue and loyalty for UA) seem to indicate that a product like E+ is a valuable asset for an airline, so why hasn’t AA introduced something similar?

  4. @ RDimperio — Well said. Lately it seems near impossible to find a reasonably priced flight on United metal, leaving Continental as the only option.

    @ FriendlySkies — Yes and no. We’ll have to see exactly what pricing model the new airline goes with. They’ve been shying away from the pricing model, but on Continental premium cabins have been consistently more full before the upgrade window even rolls around, because they actually sell premium seats, or at the very least “UP” fares. Continental flyers aren’t quite as used to getting upgraded as often as some United flyers, so I think we might potentially be more shocked… if they change their pricing model.

    @ crammer — Because it’s very hard to quantify “loyalty,” especially in a business where margins are as razor-thin as the airline industry. When American tried “more room throughout coach,” they realized people weren’t willing to pay an extra $10 for more legroom, so they got rid of it. With something like Economy Plus, it seems pretty tough to make a pitch for it at an airline, because they really can’t directly quantify how much better off they are because of it.

  5. @ u600213 — I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Most routes that have 757 frequencies also have frequencies operated by A319/A320 aircraft, which have far fewer first class seats. So it really is a balance, IMO. If you look at hub to hub flights nowadays, a majority of the flights are operated by 757s, with a few 767s, 757s, and even 777s mixed in. Continental is at least consistent in that they have 16-24 first class seats.

  6. One big question is whether 2Ps and CO Silver’s will continue to get access to Economy Plus, as CO only provides access to Golds and higher.

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