Reader question: is United’s $500 Economy Plus subscription worth it?

United Airlines offers Economy Plus seating on all its mainline fleet, giving you a few extra inches (generally about two inches) of legroom compared to its standard economy class for. Generally speaking, those two inches can be great, especially on transcontinental and on international flights.

To get these extra inches, you generally have to pay a fee (depending on how long the flight is, $25-$129), have a ‘subscription’ (starting at $499 for U.S.-only flights, other regions have additional costs), or have elite status with United (starting at 25k miles flown in a year).

Now here’s the thing: while the Economy Plus seats are very worthwhile in terms of comfort, it’s important to do some calculations to see if $500+ a year is worth it.

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  • How much do you fly? If you don’t fly much, buy it on a case-by-case basis. $500 is a lot of money that could be spent elsewhere.
  • How close are you to elite status? $500 is roughly half a trip to London on a decent fare, and that generally earns about 12,000 miles from the U.S. west coast. If you’re nearing 15,000 elite qualifying miles, consider spending that money on a trip to Europe, earning you more miles, and giving you a chance to also score upgrades on future flights with United. Keep in mind, if you have Marriott Rewards Platinum Elite status with, that automatically qualifies you for United Premier Silver.

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United's Economy Plus cabin features a few extra inches of legroom.

United’s Economy Plus cabin features a few extra inches of legroom, and is generally very worthwhile.

Note: having United Premier Silver only allows you to select Economy Plus seats at check-in, leaving the possibility there won’t be any left when you go to try, or the possibility that it’s a middle seat. Premier Gold, Platinum, 1K and Global Services all can select Economy Plus seats upon purchase.

Carpe Points reader Sidney asked us on our Facebook page if the subscription was worth it. She’s Premier Silver – giving her access to Economy Plus upon check-in, but not close enough to Premier Gold to make it worthwhile to make a mileage run. On the upside, her employer has agreed to pay for the subscription!

She also had a question about one of the terms and conditions: “Economy Plus seat requests and specific seat assignments are not guaranteed.”

It’s true: there’s always a chance that you may get moved to another seat because of an aircraft change, or because your flight was changed, or any other number of things. But ultimately, for the very most part, when you select a seat online, you probably won’t get moved. I wouldn’t worry about it.

So, again, is Economy Plus worth it? Yes.
Is it worth a $500+ subscription? It depends on your situation – just make sure you figure it out before forking over your hard-earned money!