Gone are the days when airlines used to have only two options for travel: first class or economy. As airlines look for more ways to attract different types of travelers—and make more money, as the president of American Airlines has even said that premium economy is "the most profitable use of square footage on our wide-body aircraft"—the options available to customers have also changed. From economy and premium economy to business and first class, customers looking to book airline tickets now have a whole host of features available at their disposal.
Premium economy, affectionately dubbed as the in-between class among many frequent travelers, is a happy medium for those who want a more comfortable journey with a few basic upgrades without having to break the bank. More leg room is the main draw, but some airlines offer additional perks.
Here is a look at some of the most popular domestic premium economy and economy plus options and what each of them entails, from amenities to cost and everything in between. (And you can see our list of the best international premium economy options here.)
On select transcontinental routes, United has a true premium economy product called Premium Plus. It’s a separate cabin closer to the front of the plane with big cushy seats that have an adjustable headrest and leg rest, bigger in-flight entertainment screens, and includes hot meals served on real plates, plus free alcoholic drinks.
On shorter domestic flights, the product is known as Economy Plus and while it’s not its own separate class with special perks, it does offer an additional six inches of legroom as compared to their standard economy seats. For this, you buy an economy class ticket and simply pay for an Economy Plus seat assignment.
United Mileage Plus Program’s Premium members are eligible for complimentary upgrades to Economy Plus when seats are available. The public can purchase a seat upgrade. Customers traveling on a basic economy ticket can purchase an Economy Plus seat only at check-in.
The cost varies depending on the route and the original economy class airfare and can range from $20 to around $200 depending on the route. United offers an annual subscription for unlimited Economy Plus upgrades when available starting at $499.
Similar to United, American’s version of premium economy isn’t it’s own separate class. It’s really an extra-legroom section of economy, called Main Cabin Extra. It’s located in the same section as economy but the seats offer additional width (1.5 inches compared to regular economy seats) and seven additional inches of legroom. These seats also have a small footrest and an in-seat flat screen TV with USB port chargers.
Main Cabin Extra seats start at $20.
Delta Air Lines
Like United, Delta has two adjacent products it sells as "premium economy,” with Premium Select only available on international flights. Its domestic product is Comfort+, which is sold as a different class, but functionally is just an extra-legroom economy seat. This option offers up to three inches of additional leg room, dedicated overhead bin space, priority boarding, complimentary drinks on flights more than 350 miles, and complimentary snacks on flights more than 900 miles. These seats also have USB and AC power outlets.
The fees for upgrades on Delta vary according to the distance to be traveled and the fare class booked. For flights in between the lower 48 and Alaska, it ranges from $49 (< 500 miles) to $329 (> 3,000miles) for basic economy. For full fare economy it ranges from $120 to $399 based on the fare class.
Known as Premium Class on Alaska Airlines, these upgraded economy seats have up to four more inches of legroom, priority boarding, dedicated overhead bins, and complimentary beer, wine, and cocktails. Upgrades to Premium Class can be purchased either at the time of booking, or any time prior to the flight, even at check-in.
If there is upgrade space available, it can cost as little as $29 ( < 450 miles), $49 (451> and <700miles), $99 ( >701 miles and <1400 miles), $149 ( >1401 miles and <2100miles) and $199 (< 2101 miles or more) to upgrade at check-in or at the airport.
On Hawaii Airlines, Extra Comfort seats are another option that’s more a paid seat assignment rather than a separate class of service. These seats offer five additional inches of legroom, priority security line, priority boarding, and a personal electrical power outlet at every extra comfort seat. The meals are the same as those served in economy.
The Extra Comfort option can be selected at the time of purchase, any time prior to departure via the app/website, or even at the time of check-in. Upgrades to Extra Comfort depends on the flight routes and ranges from around $100 to $175.
JetBlue’s Even More Space option gives passengers up to seven inches of extra legroom, early boarding, early access to overhead bins, and even access to Extra Speed, which is a fast lane to security checkpoints (available in select cities). The Even More Space option is standard on all JetBlue flights and available as an add-on to your ticket purchase.
Because, as with options on United, Delta, and Hawaiian, it’s not really a different fare class but a paid seat assignment, this option is not available when customers search for flights. Instead, they will see fare choices like Blue, Blue Basic, and Blue Extra. Once the fare choice is selected, customers can upgrade to an Even More Space seat while selecting their seat. The price depends on the route and will need to be purchased for each connection of the flight route. Even More Space seats cannot be booked with points. They will require an additional form of payment upon checkout. Only TrueBlue Mosaic elites can redeem points for upgrades.