What Does “Premium Economy” Really Mean?

May 25, 2018

Ready to throw down a few non-refundable bucks to get some extra legroom on your next flight?  Before you do, make sure you know what you’ll be getting in return.  It’s really confusing to figure out what “premium economy” is versus “plus seat” or “preferred.” And if what you wanted was a wider seat and got only extra legroom, you might be disappointed.

For instance, United Airlines is talking about a new product they call “United Premium Plus”—not to be confused with United’s current “Economy Plus” and “Premium Economy” seats for which they’ve been charging extra for years.  But these are pretty much the same seats as are found in the rest of the coach cabin-- just spaced further apart for more legroom. And they can cost you upwards of $150 or even $200 for international flights. So—not wider or plusher.

So far, the United “Premium Plus” product sounds like it might be more like you see on foreign air  carriers like British Airways, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic—seats that are wider and plusher and that come with extra amenities like separate check-in and extra baggage allowance—and maybe a glass of Proseco after you board. (Almost like you get in First Class.) We’ll have to wait to see when United rolls it out late this year.  Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, other airlines like Delta and American have two premium economy products—extra legroom in American’s case, and on Delta flights, “dedicated overhead bin space” and a separate cabin and seats on international flights. But it will take some sleuthing to figure out if the seats are wider and plusher, or just the same seats placed a little farther apart. You can try calling the airline and asking about this, or get an assist from a travel agent.

For my extra money plunked down, I want more cushioning in my airline seat AND a wider seat that will let me have access to my own armrest, thankyouverymuch! I’ve actually taken an extra cushion along with me on long flights because economy seats can be so un-cushy. Hey, it can’t hurt to call and find out what the real deal is before you pay the upcharge for “premium” economy seats.

Happy Travels!