United Airlines Makes a Stunning Turnaround, Will Offer Bigger Seats (Yes, There’s a Catch)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

If there’s one thing that annoys airline passengers — and there’s never just one — it’s the fact that planes have become painfully claustrophobic.

Airlines are stuffing ever more seats onto planes

And the seats themselves are shrinking.

Which is why you may need to sit down right now.

You see, United Airlines just announced that it’s going to start flying planes with bigger Economy Class seats.

Please pause before you leap. There are caveats.

As Bloomberg reports, United intends to debut something it calls Premium Plus.

Apparently, airline employees were told about it today. Not that they were told everything, of course.

What’s known for now is that it will have, dare I even utter the words, bigger seats.

Then again, this will only be offered on international flights and seems to be a response to other airlines finally grasping that flying internationally in something no bigger than a potty is, well, potty.

At heart, this is the sort of Premium Economy Class which more intelligent airlines — well, sometimes — like Virgin Atlantic have been offering for many years. (Virgin’s Premium Economy launched in 1992.)

Indeed, as someone who regularly flies internationally, I couldn’t believe how superior European airlines were to American ones, until I was once forced to fly from New York to London on, oh, United.

When it comes to Premium Economy — or as Delta calls it Comfort+ and American calls it, um, Premium Economy — American and Delta have been rolling it out. Slowly.

You get seats that look nicer and are a couple of inches wider. More legroom, too.

And, if you’re really lucky, there are only two seats together by a window instead of three. 

It makes a vast difference if you’re sitting by a window and you only have to say “excuse me” to one other person when you go to the restroom.

The class also offers slightly better food and free wine. 

I contacted United to ask what had spurred it to this sudden magnanimity — there’s usually a financial incentive — and will update should a reply seat itself before me.

Still, FlightGlobal teases a touching element to United’s new offering: meals served on china. 

Of course, these seats are more expensive. They can be between 1.5 times to twice as expensive as regular old Economy.

This, though, is the point.

These airlines know that their Economy is so awful that people will pay more just to get out of it.

Indeed, in a quite staggering turn, Delta recently admitted that corporate flyers in the U.S. can’t stand even the slightly more premium domestic Economy offering and are actually using their own personal cash to upgrade to Business.

Give a little more, charge a lot more. 

It’s a fine revenue strategy, isn’t it?

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