July 18, 2021
Today, I am flying from LAX to JFK on board United Airlines Premium Transcontinental flight in premium economy class, which is known as Premium Plus. The class of service is actually very confusing, so I am going to explain this in great details.
What are United’s Premium Transcontinental Flights?
First of all, United’s Premium Transcontinental flights are primarily coast-to-coast flights on specific routes. Specifically, they are services between Los Angeles (LAX)/San Francisco (SFO) and New York (EWR or JFK). These flights are typically operated on one of United’s widebody aircrafts, such as the 767, 777, and 787 with Polaris configurations, as well as the narrow body 757 with regular lie-flat seats.
United Business on Premium Transcontinental Flights
These particular routes offer an upgraded Business Class experience that far exceeds that of a typical domestic first-class cabin. As of this writing, the re-configurations of United’s fleet for these routes have been fully completed and all widebodies serving this route have Polaris seating. The 757 retains the old configuration but also offers lie-flats. When flying as a couple, I actually like the 757 more as their business class seats are more couple friendly than the cubicle like Polaris seats.
United Business class passengers have access to the United Club before and after their flights. Other benefits include priority check-in, boarding, and luggage handling. Your checked baggage will have a “priority” tag on it and will be among the first ones to arrive at the baggage claim carousel.
Other perks include an amenity kit, beddings by Saks First Avenue, a larger entertainment screen, and upgraded noise-reduction headphones.
During the flight drinks are free, and you also get to enjoy an elevated dining experience – and that, to me, is the biggest difference.
Why I Choose Premium Plus Instead of United Business
Since I have a United Club membership, I already have access to the club before and after the fight anyway. Moreover, as a United Mileage Plus Platinum member, I already enjoy all of the priority benefits even when flying economy.
That is why I decide to save a few bucks and fly premium economy instead. United Premium Plus offers wider seats with more legroom and better recline compared with regular economy and economy plus seats. The seats come with either a leg rest (first row) or a footrest which are adjustable. On a daytime flight, I can’t sleep anyway and have no use for a lie flat. Moreover, it’ a relatively short flight with only about 5 hours in the air. The entertainment screen is bigger than economy but a little smaller than Business (9” vs 13” vs 16”), and that’s really good enough for me.
Go here for a comprehensive review of the seat itself.
So, the food and drinks are really the only significant differences for me. As of this writing, on United’s Premium Transcontinental flights Premium Plus offers the same food as United Business, and alcoholic beverages are complimentary.
The flight attendant takes my drink order shortly after boarding and I am going to have a glass of white wine. My wine arrives in a small bottle together with the dinner tray.
Today, the dinner choices are grilled chicken breast or cheese ravioli. It is very typical for United to offer a vegetarian pasta dish as an option on their premium cabins. I am getting the chicken.
As you can see from the picture above, during the pandemic, all food items are served on one tray. The bread and salad are wrapped. The entrée is covered by aluminum foil which I remove prior to taking this picture. Inside, the side dish and gravy are also covered. It is a great idea that the gravy is served on the side so that the polenta does not get all mushy sitting in the gravy for hours before being served.
The mushroom gravy turns out to be really delicious, with a strong hint of red wine. The broccoli is fresh and crispy. The chicken is not bad, albeit slightly dry, but I always keep my expectations reasonable for airline food. For dessert, we get a mango sherbet which is yummy and refreshing. I ask for a second glass of wine during dinner service which the flight attendant delivers promptly.
Overall, I am really enjoying this flight and I find the comfort and space in United Premium Plus adequate for me on a 5-hour flight. The elevated dinner service is quite delightful, and I am actually quite pleasantly surprised. If you are willing to spend a little more than regular Economy Class but not ready to splurge for Business Class, then United Premium Plus is a good value that I highly recommend.