Delta treats their extra legroom (“Comfort+”) coach seats as a separate cabin. They have their own fares customers can buy. And elites don’t get ‘free Comfort+ seat selection’ instead they get upgraded into the extra legroom section of the plane.
This gets messy on several levels. Elites who have an aisle seat in regular coach and don’t want to be ‘upgraded into’ an Extra Legroom middle have to make that preference known. And Gold elites no longer get free upgrades into Comfort+ seats at time of booking. Since these are upgrades, as well, they can be capacity controlled.
United has now done something that seems like it could be following Delta’s model. They’ve filed Economy Plus fares that treat their extra legroom seats as a separate cabin. These fares come with free Economy Plus seat assignments, rather than paying extra for extra legroom seats.
These fares were filed on Monday with no announcement from United. They haven’t been officially rolled out, in the sense that you cannot search for Economy Plus fares at United.com – however if you going through a search and specify you want to book into B class, these will generally be the lowest B fares. (They’re premium economy fares that book into B on non-premium economy equipped aircraft.)
These appear to be available at least for:
- Los Angeles – Chicago
- Los Angeles – Newark
- San Francisco – Newark
- Newark – Chicago
Fare rules are clear that these are Economy Plus fares.
NOTE – THE FOLLOWING TEXT IS INFORMATIONAL AND NOT
VALIDATED FOR AUTOPRICING.
ECONOMY PLUS OW/RT
CLASS OF SERVICE
THESE FARES APPLY FOR ECONOMY CLASS SERVICE.
TYPES OF TRANSPORTATION
THIS RULE GOVERNS ONE-WAY AND ROUND-TRIP FARES.
FARES GOVERNED BY THIS RULE CAN BE USED TO CREATE
SEATS ARE LIMITED.
Economy Plus fares appear to have a specific price increment over the lowest economy fare available at the time. Buying these fares could be advantageous to non-elite business travelers whose employers will reimburse a ticket but not a seat selection fee.
A United spokesperson offers this comment,
We’re running a very limited test in a small number of markets that displays EconomyPlus as a booking option during shopping to allow customers to easily shop and compare different seat offerings. EconomyPlus continues to be a part of the Economy cabin and is not a separate fare.
A year and a half ago United Airlines President Scott Kirby shared a plan with investors to offer a separate ‘domestic premium economy’ product. It’s a plan he had when he was still at American. This ‘very limited test’ could be related to that plan. At American he said that when they finally did it, there’d need to be some time for elites to get used to it, as it would effect elite benefits.
With United’s new revenue-based elite status starting in 2020 the airline would be wise not to take benefits away, because that more expensive status has become barely worth it as it is. And it seems silly to do so when they’re already discounting economy plus.