Many international carriers have a seating section between business and economy that is called some flavor of “premium economy.” However, what American, United and Delta offer on their flights (international and domestic) could not fairly be put in the same category as those “premium economy” seats because they are really just a slightly roomier economy seat with a couple of perks, unlike the international carrier’s premium economy that really offers a better seat.
As you can see in the photos above, Cathay Pacific and Turkish Airlines have premium economy seats that could actually be mistaken for regional business class seats given their recline, width, foot rest, etc! That is not the case with American, United, or Delta.
A Great Time To Purchase Economy Plus/Comfort/Extra
When it comes to purchasing the slightly better seats on American, United, or Delta, the pricing is different based on a variety of factors and you will know what the price is when you purchase/redeem your ticket. Higher elite members will get to select the seats as a perk of their status while lower tier elites will get them at a discount or be able to choose them at the time of check-in. For everyone else, you must pay whatever the price is to upgrade. You can do that at booking, check-in, or even on the plane (provided there is availability and depending on the airline).
Is It Worth It?
But, is it worth it to buy up? On a recent flight from Munich to Washington, DC aboard a United Airlines flight, they were advertising the opportunity to buy up to Economy Plus for the cost of $160 per person for that flight. That is certainly not cheap, especially if you are planning on purchasing for a roundtrip ticket – it would come to an extra $320 for that particular seat on top of your ticket price!
On a flight last year on an international Delta flight, I actually passed on buying up to Delta’s Economy Comfort even though as a Gold Medallion I only had to pay 50% of the rate. Obviously, everyone else may handle that situation differently but I really did not feel like paying that price for a Europe-JFK flight.
So, When Is A Great Time To Purchase It?
To me, one of the chief benefits of having such an economy seat is the fact that you are in a less-crowded section of the plane. Flight attendants police the upgraded economy section of the plane quite tightly, making sure that anyone sitting in such a seat as either paid or received the seat from being an elite member. Several times throughout the boarding process and during take-off, the announcements are made that passengers cannot move from the regular economy cabin to the Economy Plus part of the cabin unless they hold a ticket for an Economy Plus seat. That means that, even if the rest of economy is full, the “premium” economy section may be more empty.
That is what I believe is a great time to purchase such a seat. To me, it makes the most sense to purchase such an upgrade on the plane if there is a good deal of seat availability in the “premium” economy seating of the airplane. The reason for that is that you have a much better chance of roomy seating when the back of the plane is full and the Economy Comfort/Plus section is quite empty. In fact, on some of my flights, each passenger in Economy Comfort could basically have 4 seats to themselves while the rest of the plane is crowded. To buy up in a situation like that would allow you to have at least two seats to yourself or, an entire middle row to yourself!
That is the situation I had in my recent trip. I already had the seat next to me empty but chose after take-off to move across the aisle to take advantage of an entire row that was empty. Taking my blanket and using pillows, I had a very nice bed all to myself. It was certainly not a lie-flat business class bed but was comfortable enough to provide me with several hours of sleep in a reclined position.
I realize that there may be many travelers that feel that paying the fee for the United Economy Plus seats is worth if on the international itineraries, but the times that I have flown in Economy Plus (courtesy of my airline status), I have not found it to be anywhere near full. To me, that would suggest that there are many flyers on my flights that do not find it to be a good deal.
How about you? Would you consider paying $160 for an empty bench on an international flight a good deal?