My 11-hour flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt aboard United’s new premium economy (“Premium Plus”) product was quite comfortable, though no replacement for business class.
MileagePlus members can upgrade to either (or both) Premium Plus or Polaris Business Class with a single Global Premier Upgrade (GPU). While using one to fly premium economy felt a bit wasteful, it represented a nice improvement over a full economy class cabin.
Premium Plus passengers do not enjoy lounge access, though I was still able to use the United Club by virtue of my Star Alliance Gold status. This lounge, near gate G98, proved a better option than the overcrowded American Express Centurion Lounge, especially because I was planning on eating onboard.
Premium Plus passengers board in Zone 2, though I was invited to board in Zone 1 due to my elite status in the MileagePlus program.
United Airlines 926
San Francisco (SFO) – Frankfurt (FRA)
Monday, April 22
Depart: 7:15 PM
Arrive: 3:15 PM+1
Duration: 11hr, 00min
Seat: 21K (“Premium Plus” Premium Economy)
Onboard, I turned right to find my Premium Plus seat in the cabin between business class and economy class.
United 777 Premium Plus Seating
The Premium Plus cabin onboard the 777-200 includes three rows of 2-4-2 seating. The seat itself is very similar in width and comfort to United’s latest domestic first class seat. However, the seat does have greater recline and a footrest.
Originally, I was assigned seat 20G, a middle seat in the bulkhead row. While the second and third rows of Premium Plus have a drop-down footrest to complement the footrest, the bulkhead row has a larger footrest that flips. I figured that would be the more comfortable option, though having sat in both seats I am not convinced this is the case.
Even in Premium Plus an aisle or window seat is far better than a middle seat. Thus, I was happy when the passenger in 21K scored a “battlefield upgrade” to business class and a flight attendant allowed me to pivot over to the now-open aisle seat.
The seat includes an upper literature pocket and a tray table that unfolds from the armrest. Part of the tray table flips up to create a stand for a tablet or mobile device. There’s also a power port and USB charger located just below the rear of the armrest and a coat hook beside the monitor.
In full recline mode the seat certainly does not approximate a bed or even United’s old business class product (circa 2007). But I did manage to sleep. The Saks Fifth Avenue blanket and pillow aided in that endeavor, though it wasn’t a sound sleep.
United 777 Premium Plus Amenity Kit
Waiting at each seat was an amenity kit: the same tin Polaris-branded amenity kit that United uses in business class. Contents included tissue, toothbrush, toothpaste, eyeshade, socks, earplugs, Cowshed skin products, and a pen.
United 777 Premium Plus Dining
Also waiting at each seat was a menu card describing the three meal services on one side and the available beverages on the other.
All alcoholic beverages are free in Premium Plus, though I stuck to water. Service began with a choice of beverage and a bag of unsalted, raw almonds.
The food is presented in a manner similar to domestic flights in first class on United. My choices were mushroom ravioli with asparagus or buffalo mac and cheese with chicken. While I quite like United’s mac and cheese, I had eaten chicken for lunch and ordered the ravioli. It needed a lot more sauce but was still very tasty. Pasta, it seems to me, is always a safe choice on an airplane. A green salad was served on the side as well as a bread roll from economy class (unheated). Main courses are served wrapped in foil. A moist towelette is also included on the meal tray.
Dessert included a cookie (from business class) and ice cream (from economy class). It actually made for a very nice combo.
Although I slept through it, a snack was offered midway through the flight that included a bottle of water and a turkey sandwich.
Prior to landing, breakfast was served. Although the menu indicated a choice of scrambled eggs with hollandaise sauce, the actual choice was a cheese omelet or fruit plate. The omelet came with a side of fruit, Greek yogurt, and a warm croissant. I held off on coffee, knowing I’d soon be in my favorite Lufthansa Business Lounge.
United 777-200 Premium Plus Lavatory
Premium Plus passengers use the lavatory behind their cabin in economy class. When United retrofitted the 777-200 with new seats it also updated the lavatory. I used the lavatory twice during the flight and both times it was clean.
United 777 Premium Plus IFE + Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi was available for purchase, though due to the late hour I skipped it. The 17-inch widescreen in Premium Plus was very nice and included both touch-screen capability as well as a passenger service unit (remote). Noise-canceling headphones were provided (the same as in business class). I appreciated that Air Traffic Control communications were available and enjoyed watching Peppermint.
United also offers the same content via streaming IFE over its wi-fi network.
United 777 Premium Plus Service
Here’s where I was most apprehensive. Would I have a flight like Zach Honig did on The Points Guy (very poor service)? Thankfully, the service was tremendous on my flight. The FAs were engaging and friendly, providing prompt service with a smile. The FA working my side of the aisle spoke both German and English and engaged in conversations with every passenger.
I wasn’t addressed by name like business class, but the service was more than what I typically receive in economy class.
So how much of a premium is United’s Premium Plus worth over Economy Plus? That depends on how full economy class is and how well you sleep on planes. But I certainly enjoyed the experience and would highly recommend it if you are looking for a hybrid between business and economy class. As for me, I’ll still take business class whenever available.
How far down were you on the Upgrade list? I assume you can upgrade any ticket other than basic economy to Premium with a GPU? In other words you don’t need “W” class or above.
Eighth. You are correct, no fare class requirement only to go to Premium+.
Your original seat, 20G, appears to be an aisle seat, not a middle seat, on the seat map.
Was 2oE. My mistake.
You didn’t change it in the body of the post though yet… 😉
Thanks for writing up this review.
When I’ve flown AF premium economy, I found my legs (32” inseam) did not get much support from the leg rest because the leg rest did not come up high enough.
Did you find the UA leg rest supportive?
I did find them supportive, unlike the Lufthansa and even Norwegian ones.
I’m sitting in one right now. It’s pretty solid. Even better if you can prop a small bag underneath to give it a bit more lift.
I have the same problem in just about all premium economy seats. The leg rests simply don’t go high up enough to provide any kind of support, so I tend not to use them.
How reasonable are buy-up prices to premium plus and biz investment flights where there is significant empty room? Is booking an economy ticket on a flight that frequently sees lots of empty biz seats and hoping for a cheap buy-up offer a reasonable tactic on United?
It is. Good luck!
I see some flights were Premium Plus is priced HIGHER than business…what’s up with that???
(See SFO – CDG Aug 26 for example)
Very odd, but happens on American and Delta too from time to time.
Thank you so much for your review. I just found out about premium plus and wanted to know more. I always fly premium economy on Lufthansa (20+ times) and twice on the horrible BA. United offered a better price for this fall and looks like it is going to be my choice. Thanks again.
My pleasure! Hope your flight turns out well.
Love the wine choices:
Really upping their game.
Thanks for the review.
I will be taking Premium Plus during the summer. What are your thoughts on Bulkhead vs Non-Bulkhead seats?
I prefer non-bulkhead. You can read my full review here:
Did united pay you to write this? I just upgraded with 35k points based off this review and my experience was
ABSOLUTELY not worth the price. The food was as exactly the same as economy. The ice cream and cookies you showed weren’t there. They didn’t have anything extra from economy plus. Really wish I just paid for economy plus and didn’t trust this review.
I’m certain Matthew isn’t paid by United but wishes he was.
@Tom: Kyle is correct. Do you have pictures from your review? Did you not get a wider seat and meals served on dishes with a menu? Better blankets and pillows? I find it very hard to believe you did receive anything different from Economy Plus.
Matthew Thanks for the review. I have to agree with Tom Seltzer. Yes it is nicer than economy plus. But that is a low bar. The price difference between premium economy and economy from SFO to FRA is nearly $2500 in some cases. Seat is marginally better (I am 6’5″). Food is the same but with a plate and utensils. Blanket and pillow are a bit better. But the value is not there. The problem is it is nearly $10K to fly biz to FRA. So options are not great.
I find bulkhead seats do not offer enough legroom for tall people 6’3”, to completely stretch out their legs. Is this different in pe? Nothing worse than being cramped on a long haul flight when you thought you’d have room. Can you comment please? I am about to select seats for ewr-hkg and would rather sit in a non bulkhead row on the 777 if the bulkhead row is not roomy enough. I can’t tell by your pics nor do I know your height. TIA.
FYI, the last row fully reclines.
Hello – I am flying Premium Plus EWR – >BARC on bard a 787. Do you know if the last row has a full recline? I have scoured the internet, but con’t find any reviews or photos with any definitive answer. Thank you.
Yes, full recline.
@Matthew, I agree with @tomseltzer
I have travelling Premium Plus as 1K. Believe me on EWR – MUM segment and worst than domestic economy. They at least acknowledge 1K in domestic flights and none of that happened on this flight. It is definetely not worth paying 3 times the economy price for 3 inches extra space and a little bit recline. They could have done much better in terms of service and recline. Even upgrade was a puzzle, despite using GPU and buying the most expensive ticket, I was number 7. While Global Services from regular economy were ahead of me. Just sounded ridiculous.
I am booked to fly in this very product from London to Washington Dulles in december. This review has eased a few concerns i had with the airline and what the Premium economy would be like. Have you tried the premium economy product on the 767? Are there any differences?