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United Airlines-booking economy plus questions

I’m a bit embarrassed to ask but as someone who travels a fair amount I’m a bit perplexed about booking our next flight to Europe. There will be four of us and I’m the designated planner. Flying RT to Rome from Sacramento. I’m using Skyscanner, Google Flights, Kayak and indicating “premium economy” (only choices are economy, premium economy, business, first). I’m just now waking up to the fact that premium economy means different things to different airlines. What I’m coming up with are flights, mostly on AA with BA, that connect domestically and that leg is economy. The premium economy is only the trans-Atlantic portion. United barely shows, and we favor United as we are trying to accumulate miles for future travel. So, I went on United and saw that Premium Economy is a separate cabin, not widely available on the flights we want. What we really want is Economy Plus but it looks like I need to go through the entire booking process on United and then find out if these seats are available and how much they cost. Does anyone know a way to get around that? I suppose I could find the flights I want and call them for the information but I’ve found customer service to be hit or miss. I just want to be able to tell my companions that if we fly AA it costs X and UA is Y with comparable seats.

Posted by
2505 posts

Thanks. But do I need to complete all the booking information (passports, etc) before I get to that step? That is what it seems.

Posted by
12544 posts

Most domestic flights have only two classes, First ( or Business on some AA routes) and Economy (which may be broken down into two types, Standard and Basic). So if you want Premium Economy or Economy Plus, you may be only to get that on the trans-Atlantic flight, which is where you will get the most benefit from it. On United these seats have 6" extra legroom, which is good for tall people.

If you want to earn United miles, you could also fly partners like Lufthansa or SAS ( which used to be my favorite airline, but they seem to have gone downhill a bit since I flew them in the 1990's).

I have read enough tales of people getting "bumped" out of Economy Plus on United by passengers with higher status that I would be a bit leery of booking that airline.* This may be why you find it difficult to see the available seats in Economy Plus.

Maybe take a look at Lufthansa?

  • Actually I have avoided United ever since a miserable flight back from Japan with my son 20 years ago.
Posted by
65 posts

Go on the United app and pick the flights you want. Under the flight will be something that says Seat Map. Choose that and you can see what seats are available and it is broken down by classes.

Posted by
614 posts

On google you can filter flights by airline groups (Star Alliance, one world) and class. Looks like you can go in Mid-May on United and Lufthansa codeshares for about $2100 pp in premium economy (economy in domestic legs). It’s two stops and almost all through SFO with a 2-1/2 hour layover and Frankfurt with a 70 minute layover.

Posted by
3183 posts

Once, out of multiple trips on United, we were asked if we would relinquish our economy + bulkhead seats to a couple with a baby who needed the crib attachment. I refused, and that was that. I didn’t know or care what resolution was found for them. Before anyone jumps in to attack my hard heartedness, my rationale was that we had planned in advance and paid for our special seats. Those people knew they had a baby and should have made appropriate arrangements. As a precaution, however, since then I have chosen economy + seats that are not bulkheads, because I have read that the crew on any plane can order passengers to change seats.
BTW, economy+ and premium economy are not the same. The airlines have continued their consumer-unfriendly practices by introducing more tiers and titles of service.

Posted by
2013 posts

Sometimes it's just better to speak with a knowledgeable human being rather than trying to work things out via a sometimes byzantine and confusing online booking process. This might be one of those times for you.

Posted by
154 posts

Hi Alan,

As others have said before me, your best option is to go to United's website and plug in the trip your looking for. You'll get a list of flights available. On each flight there will be 2 tabs; details / seats. If you click seats, it'll show you available seats for each segment of the flight, ONLY if it is operated by United. The seats will not show if it's operated by a sister airline. You can figure about an additional $150 per seat each way for your flight.

Happy travels

Posted by
12544 posts

Maybe it has never happened to you because with that many miles flown you have some degree of status with United.

It was on Tripadvisor that I saw the posts about this practice. I cannot find the specific ones ( their search function is about as useful as the one here), but I believe some of the reports were part of a 64-page discussion following the incident in which UA forcibly removed a passenger from a plane because he refused to give up his seat as ordered. ( In that case the seat was needed for UA employees, not an Elite -status passenger, but I believe the discussion triggered some reports regarding getting bumped for status passengers).

This amusing New Yorker article says he was told by another high status passenger that this is possible, but the author admits this "may be a myth).

On Flyertalk, one member says it does happen, but is a "unicorn event".

So nothing to worry about. Of greater concern is United's overall record of bumping people from oversold flights. In the attention that followed the 2017 incident above, it came out that United had bumped some 2500-3000 passengers from oversold flights in the year previous to that event. Afterwards, they apparently revised their practices in order to combat the extreme bad publicity. But one can still get bumped from their flights, so here is a guide to avoid getting bumped:

Basically, pay more for your ticket, check in early online, . . . And have status with United.

Posted by
89 posts

I usually book economy plus on United from San Francisco to Frankfurt or Paris. The cost is around $200.
My son and I were bumped from the bulkhead for a couple with a baby. We were put in different economy plus seats and United reimbursed us for the money we paid (I requested it via their online form and was surprised to receive it).
The couple who took our seats were headed to a funeral so I’m sure they couldn’t do advance planning.
My son travels with a baby and United will make a notation, but will not definitively reserve the bassinet.

My personal feeling is that I would always change to accommodate an infant. I’ve been there and it’s hard enough for the parents to travel. A lot of fellow travelers showed me kindness when I was coping with little ones.

Posted by
189 posts

If you are going to spend money on a certain airline like United anyway and a secondary goal is to accumulate miles on United,for example have you considered the United credit cards?
I just got United explorer card with Chase Bank.
If you spend $2000 in 3 months 40,000 miles acrues in your mileage account. This card also comes with 2 passes to the United club lounge and the annual fee of 95.00 waived the first year.
I do this routinely in order to fly in the class I want within my budget, primarily with United and American airlines.
Unless you travel extensively,it takes a long time to to accumulate enough miles to redeem for a trip just from miles earned with travel.

Posted by
6841 posts

I jusy booked United Domestic flights and only could choose what amount to Premium Economy by the seats I picked, paying an additional fee for those seats. On our two flights last Saturday, the difference in space, leg room was easy to see. Much better than Economy.

Posted by
2505 posts

Thanks to all! I followed Kaeluka’s instructions and all went well. The lesson I learned was don’t try this on an iPad. As soon as I switched to my laptop all went well and we are booked!

Posted by
649 posts

When you purchase United International seats far in advance, the equipment may change over time. I check my seat assignments monthly: United once changed my economy plus bulkhead seat to a middle seat (yes, really!). Immediately called and could only get an Econ Plus aisle. Called back a month later, and snagged a bulkhead back again. Seems like more work than we should have to do.

Also sometimes when you select economy plus International flights, United offers a “package” you can select for seat + checked bag. I always do the math before I accept it, and have found it not always a good deal if you only want the economy plus seat and the first bag that is checked free. Of course the package may change, just suggesting a math check.

Posted by
189 posts

My transatlantic flights using my United air miles have been on Lufthansa which is a code share with United. The Lufthansa business class is very nice. TAP airlines is also a code share with United. Planning to fly TAP business class out of Boston to Rome in May. They have added some new planes with lie flat business class seats and have positive reviews.

Posted by
660 posts


Glad the booking went well. I travel about 100k miles annually on United with 1/3 of the flights internationally. There are two additional pieces of advice I will give:

  • Sign up for notifications. You will get notice of any changes in your flight from the time of the flight to a seat change caused by a change in aircraft. Every time I have paid for an economy plus or premium economy, if they change the plane, they will try to seat you in an equivalent seat. However, if you are flying anyone on miles and the are not on your itinerary, those folks will get bumped back to economy. Upon getting the notification, you need to call the Mileage Plus desk and you will get your seats back. If you wait too long, then other customers who later pay for economy plus will get those seats.
  • Week before, check again that they don't change the plane. This has happen to me on the last 2 trips that I took family/friends on miles. Then check in 24 hours in advance. If there are any changes, you can call the Mileage Plus desk and gets your seats back. On the last flight this happened to London (traveling all on miles). I called and they actually upgraded me and my husband to premium economy.


Posted by
2505 posts

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