United Airlines

Premium Economy Class – Premium Plus on United Airlines

Review of United's Premium Plus Premium Economy features a dinner with chicken breast and vegetables and accompanied by a small bottle of red wine.

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I have always been a fan of flying premium economy class, which is known as Premium Plus on United Airlines. Today, I am on an 11-hour international flight from London back to Los Angeles, so this upgrade from regular economy class means a lot of extra comfort and perks.

Prices for United Premium Plus tickets are a lot more reasonable and affordable than business class tickets for a transatlantic or transpacific flight. The difference in costs is typically in the thousands.

Even for an 11-hour flight, if the flight leaves in the morning, I can’t sleep anyway, so I don’t need a lie-flat seat. I am seeking a middle ground, somewhere between business class and regular economy that provides good value, and the best bang for the buck.

With United, PP passengers also enjoy some of the perks that are usually reserved for elite frequent flyers or business class customers, such as priority check-in, express security line, and expedited luggage handling. So, there are very nice perks, especially for the non-frequent flyers who don’t have elite status with the airline.

However, you will not have lounge access to the United Club or any Star Alliance Clubs on an international itinerary unless you have Gold or higher status with the airline or Gold status with Star Alliance.

Seats and Amenities

Two purple United Premium Plus seats on the right side of the plane, with the two window shades closed.

Depending on the aircraft, the seat map of Premium Plus on a Boeing 777 or 787 is either 2-3-2 or 2-4-2. If you are traveling as a couple and you book early enough to secure the two-seater in either of the window sides, you enjoy a lot more comfort and privacy with your partner.

On Boeing 767 the configuration is 2-2-2 and, in this case, my wife and I prefer the middle section so each of us has our own aisle seat.

You get to enjoy a wider seat (approximately 19” vs 17”) and the space comes with a wider armrest as well. Even if you are seated next to a stranger, you won’t be rubbing elbows. The first row comes with a leg rest while the rows behind it come with a footrest.

There is a lot more space in front of you as well (seat pitch approximately = 38” vs 31”). Your seat also reclines further (approximately 6” vs 3”). You enjoy a larger seatback entertainment screen (13” vs 9”) as well as upgraded noise-reduction headphones.

The amenity kit is minimal, if compared to that from Polaris. But you have all the basics that you’ll need, such as a dental kit, lotions, eye shades, socks, etc.

Updated September 26, 2023

The slightly upgraded amenity kit includes a larger and better quality pouch but most of the contents are similar. The most significant addition is a packet of Therabody cleaning towelette. The eye shades appear to be better quality and feel softer.

Go here for a comprehensive review of all the features of the seat itself.

Beverage Service

Updated August 20, 2022

Premium Plus Beverage Service - a bloody Mary with small bottle of vodka and Mr. & Mrs. T mix.

Premium Plus offers the same beverage service as in regular economy class, but alcoholic beverages are complimentary. For transatlantic and transpacific routes, beer and wine are always free even in regular economy, but in the PP cabin, liquors and cocktails are also complimentary. However, the type and quality of wines served varies by the route, and sometimes by the crew, so there are some inconsistencies there.

Sometimes I was served the small bottle of the better wines that they sell, and other times I was served the same wine from the big bottles that they pour in the back of the plane. I don’t know whether this is route specific or just random inconsistencies.

In the spring and early summer months of 2022, there were more inconsistencies in the beverage service. Many flyers posted in various travel forums that only beer and wine were complimentary in PP and liquors were not available (despite the fact that they were available for sale in the back of the plane). However, some passengers also reported that hard liquors were available.

I checked United’s website, and it does say “free alcoholic beverages” without limitations to beer and wine only. I ordered a bloody Mary (pictured above) on two different international PP flights this month (August 2022) to verify it personally that hard liquors are indeed available.

Dinner Service

The biggest perk for me is the upgraded dining. As of this writing, United’s Premium Plus serves some of the same or similar meals as their Polaris business class (for transatlantic or transpacific flights). However, not all the selections in the Polaris menu are available in the purple seat cabin, and choices are usually only limited to a chicken dish or a vegetarian pasta.

Service in proper silverware and glassware is an added bonus. The feature picture of this article shows a mushroom-stuffed chicken breast with Bordelaise sauce, roasted potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. The small black box that you see on the top of the tray is a delightful chocolate truffle.

Midflight snacks are cheddar baguettes, which I think are the same packages as those served in regular class.

Updated August 20, 2022

A tray of Premium Plus dinner service consisting of chicken, salad with dressing, bread, and dessert.

The picture above shows one of the dinner options in the summer months of 2022. This was served on my flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Amsterdam (AMS). A grilled chicken breast was served with Bordelaise sauce, onions, carrots, and a medley of potatoes. The dish was accompanied by a green salad garnished with fruits and cottage cheese. It was served with my favorite sesame ginger dressing which was delicious. Dessert was a rich and creamy chocolate ice cream. It was served on the same tray in the beginning of the meal. It held up surprisingly well and was still mostly frozen by the time I enjoyed it.

As usual, a pasta dish was available as a vegetarian option.

Updated December 26, 2022

A dinner tray with the chicken thigh main dish was served with rice and accompanied by a salad, roll and butter, and a glass of red wine.

These are the most recent dinner choices on United’s Premium Plus flight from Tokyo (NRT) to Los Angeles (LAX). The picture above shows a grilled teriyaki chicken thigh with the skin on. This is typical for Asian routes as most Asians prefer thighs and legs rather than chicken breasts. Although I was hoping to get a breast filet, the thigh was actually fine as it was moist and tender. The chicken was served with steamed white rice and there was plenty of sauce to accompany the rice.

A dinner tray with the salmon main dish was served with risotto and accompanied by a salad, roll and butter, and a glass of red wine.

The other menu option was a grilled salmon filet with risotto and green beans. My wife ordered this, and she said the fish was very tasty. I sampled a bite of her entree and I absolutely agreed. The gravy appeared to be curry or a tikka marsala sauce, but it didn’t taste like either. It was like a tomato-based brown gravy, and without a menu (yes, menus have disappeared!) I cannot be more specific.

Both entrees were served with a dinner roll with butter, a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, and a chocolate brownie.

Updated September 26, 2023

A dinner tray with a plate of chicken with rice, vegetables and gravy is served with a green salad and a mini bottle of red wine.

One of the current entrées served on most transpacific flights is Thai chicken with steamed rice and Chinese vegetables. It was served with a green salad and a dinner roll. Ice cream has disappeared. For dessert, you now get a cookie known as a “milk bar” which is served cold, as it is supposed to be.

Updated March 5, 2024

A white porcelain dish contains cubes chicken meat covered in a white sauce with sides of potatoes and beans.

Another rotation that has recently been added to United’s Asian routes from its San Francisco hub is a chicken entrée in a rich cream sauce that is almost like chicken a la king. It is accompanied by roasted potatoes and sautéed green beans.

Pre-Arrival Meal

The pre-arrival meal service offers a choice of Margherita pizza or a cold-cut meat and cheese plate. I am getting the pizza. The meal is served with fresh fruits and yogurt. A tea and coffee service follows shortly afterwards, and we are about an hour away from LAX.

Updated August 20, 2022

Two baked eggs are topped with cheese and onions and garnished with cherry tomatoes.

Breakfast was a serving of French baked eggs topped with cheese, mushroom, and bacon, and garnished with grape tomatoes. A fruit plate and a pastry accompanied the main dish. This was really good, and I really enjoyed it.

Updated December 26, 2022

A slice of quiche is garnished with a broccoli floret and a cherry tomato. The plate was served on a tray with blue tablecloth and a silverware rollup.

On my most recent flight from Tokyo Narita to Los Angeles LAX, the pre-arrival breakfast was a ham and cheese quiche garnished with a broccoli floret and a cherry tomato. It was accompanied by a sesame roll and a fruit plate of cut melons and pineapples.

Updated September 26, 2023

A tray with a plate of sausage and scrambled eggs is accompanied by a fruit bowl and a packaged croissant.

I enjoyed one of the best pre-arrival meals on a recent flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG). Scrambled eggs and very tasty sausages were accompanied by roasted potatoes and sauteed mushrooms.

As usual, after the pre-arrival service, we were about an hour away from touch down.


My overall impression with United’s Premium Plus product is that it is a good fit for travelers who want more comfort, better meals and drinks, as well as a few other perks and are willing to pay the several hundred dollars in price difference. It is particularly worthwhile for a long-haul transatlantic or transpacific flight.

The bottom line is the price difference. Personally, I am willing to spend 20 – 25% over the price of a regular economy class ticket to sit in the purple seats. If you are using miles to upgrade, the miles are the same as the upgrade to Polaris but there is no copay, which can save you anywhere from $500 – 600 or more.

Read my review on the PP seat itself below:

Comprehensive Review of the United Premium Plus Seat

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