United Airlines Launches Economy Preferred – Just Like Coach, Except You Pay More. Here’s My Trick for Avoiding the Extra Fee

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United Airlines has fallen in line with other goose-stepping US airlines who continue to compartmentalize every aspect of air travel into different echelons with different price points.  It’s getting old, annoying, and a little confusing.

Here’s the latest.  On December 14, 2018, United Airlines began charging extra for regular old coach seats that are slightly closer to the front of the plane.  No increased legroom, no improved cabin experience, no priority boarding.

That means we now have 4 levels of United Airlines coach seats:

  • Economy Plus – more legroom, located near front of plane
  • Economy Preferred – regular coach seats located directly behind Economy Plus
  • United Economy – regular coach seats
  • Basic Economy – regular coach seats with no seat selection, no carry-on for domestic flights, dead last boarding group (though you can avoid these last 2 restrictions if you pay with the United℠ Explorer Card.
You Get to Sit Right Behind This Woman When You Book the New United Airlines Economy Preferred

Both American Airlines and Delta already have their own version of Economy Preferred.  It only serves as another attempt by airlines to charge extra for something that used to be standard under the auspices of “more choices” for the customer.  This isn’t an addition of “preferred” seats, it’s a reduction of coach seats.  It won’t be surprising to see Economy Preferred as an award flight option in the future.

We don’t know how much more these seats will cost, but based on the Economy Preferred tickets sold by American Airlines and Delta, it’s safe to bet that these seats will cost an extra $80+ for a long-haul flight.

It’s extremely rare that I see lots of Economy Plus seats sold when I’m choosing my seat on my phone.  So I can’t imagine folks paying extra for these inferior seats.  There must be some kind of data to warrant this change, though.

For what it’s worth, if you check-in for your flight and see that there are very few regular seats left, I’ve found a good strategy is to NOT choose your seat.  The regular cabin may very well fill up, and you’ll be assigned to a paid seat by default, free of charge.  I did this on my most recent flight on American Airlines, and received a seat with extra legroom.

What do you think of the new United Airlines Economy Preferred?  Would you pay for a seat closer to the front of the plane?

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Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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