Economy Plus Survives the United/Continental Merger

The news is over a day old now and Damian has already nicely highlighted United's decision to retain and expand Economy Plus across the Continental fleet. I just want to add my two cents.

With Delta's announcement of a "premium" economy product (again, premium is not the best term to use to describe either of these products) that will not be free for gold and silver SkyMile elites, I anticipate a similar move by United by the end of next year, at least on international flights. Of course any change in policy will be branded as a positive enhancement. Liquor, or at least one drink, will be free for passengers in Economy Plus but Premiers and Premier Executives will have to pony up to gain access. Somehow, I don't think they'll be pleased. But they should not be surprised.

Delta is offering their own enhanced economy seats at a discount to gold and silver members, which helps to take the sting out of it a little, but Economy Plus has been free for all United elites for the last 12 years. UA's Economy Plus section is quite large compared to what Delta has planned, so if UA does indeed begin to charge, perhaps they will make seating for all elites in Economy Plus free on day of travel. Hey, they can label it as a "free" upgrade to their "valuable" elite customers.

Lucky points out another critical point that has yet to be decided: will Continental remove a row of seats in economy class or in first class to make room for the extra seat pitch? Continental's 737s have up to 20 seats in first class, which seems a tad bit too much, but certainly nice for upgraders. Eliminating a row of first class seats could make upgrades much more difficult for low fare-bucket travelers like me.

It's my job to analyze the potential downside of situations, but I was relieved when I received word that Economy Plus would stay. United has made the right decision and I look forward to enjoying Economy Plus (well, I actually hope to be in first class instead...) on the new UNITED.


Sean February 18, 2011 at 09:12 pm

I don't see united charging Premiers and Premier Executives for E+ on international flights. It's a lot easier to never offer a benefit as Delta than it would be for United to take a benefit away. Also I don't know if it would make as much sense for United given the size of their E+ cabin (much bigger than Delta E+).

However if you read between the lines of the Economy Plus announcement you can see one "enhancement" that could be awaiting Premiers: E+ might no longer be available in advance of checkin. This I can see as a reasonable compromise between charging for E+ and giving it away for free. It would allow UA to monetize a larger percentage of the E+ cabin by allowing them to offer upsells to choice E+ seats that could have gone to Premiers.

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