The news that the new United is keeping Economy Plus and expanding it to the former Continental fleet comes as a welcome relief to United fliers, including this one. While one can never be certain what’s in the mind of an airline lately, for some reason, I felt that the new United would maintain Economy Plus all along. It appears to me that United did a good job of monetizing the Economy Plus section of its aircraft, and I cannot fathom that E+ would’ve survived United’s multi-year bankruptcy if the accountants hadn’t bought into the idea that Economy Plus must be revenue (and profit) positive overall. I’m a little surprised that the financials work on the regional jet platform, but I’m no finance guy.
Make no mistake, this is a real differentiator for the new United product. As an elite, the ability to confirm a seat in Economy Plus is a big deal. If your upgrade doesn’t clear, you’ve still got a seat with extra legroom, which can make all the difference in the world for inflight comfort. As a non-elite, the ability to upgrade yourself to a more comfortable seat for a reasonable fee is attractive for many. I know the couple of times I’ve flown Frontier, I’ve gladly paid extra for access to their “Stretch” seating.
I’m anxiously waiting to see what else the new United has in store for us. It will be interesting to see if others in the industry respond in some way.