While some airlines are finding ways to make economy travel more enjoyable for passengers, United is finding more ways to charge them extra, with seats at the front of the cabin going up in price. It often seems that airlines are willing to do just about anything to offer the lowest-priced seats, which is all well and good until passengers start to add up all the extra charges. Charging for entertainment, meals, checked bags, and more has become the norm for many airlines who want to offer lower prices, and seat selection is often another area where passengers can find themselves facing some extra costs.
It’s already fairly common to find that there’s a fee to choose your seat in advance and even then, it might not guarantee that you get it. Passengers willing to shell out a little extra can also choose seats with extra legroom, or ‘Economy Plus’ seats that come with slightly more space and occasional extra perks. Now, however, United is adding a new seat category, in between Economy and Economy Plus.
The new seat tier is being created in order for United to offer it as one of the perks available to members of the new Corporate Preferred Program (a benefit program for travelers flying with a company who has a corporate contract with the airline). For those passengers who are not members of the Corporate Preferred Program, seats at the front of the Economy cabin (but behind the Economy Plus seats) will be more expensive than those at the back.
United has not revealed exactly how much more expensive these seats will be, but they have confirmed that if the seats are not filled by the time check-in opens for the flight, passengers will be able to choose those seats without an extra charge. It’s also not confirmed if these seats offer any benefits other than location in the cabin, such as the extra legroom that Economy Plus offers, but it is doubtful that this would be the case, as that would require re-fitting the existing aircraft.
There are a few benefits to a seat further forward in the cabin, which could make these seats worth the extra cost to some. It means getting off the plane faster, which is especially helpful for tight connections, or when rushing to a meeting or event at the destination. If food is served, it is usually served front to back, which means more choices for those sitting further forward, and turbulence is felt the most at the back of the plane. However, these are fairly minor benefits, and because United boards WilMA-style (window seats, then middle, then aisle), a seat further forward won’t guarantee space in the overhead bins. For some, it may be worth the cost, and it is certainly a nice perk for the new benefit program, but for others, this may feel like just another way to gouge passengers on price.