United Economy Plus Upgrade Tips
Hilary Stockton

My Award Booking Service helps travelers book first class and business class with miles and points. As an independent affiliate of Cadence, I also have access to Virtuoso, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Peninsula Hotels PenClub, Dorchester Diamond Club, Ritz-Carlton STARS, Starwood Luxury Privileges, Rocco Forte and other 5-star hotel partners, so I can book, for no extra cost, your perfect luxury hotel or luxury cruise with VIP amenities not available anywhere else. Become a client and upgrade your stay!

Have a travel question we haven't covered yet? Want to share your secrets for traveling well for less?

United Economy Plus Upgrade Tips


TravelSort reader Mike writes "What are the ways to get a free upgrade to United Economy Plus? I'm 6'3 and am really tired of having my knees jammed up against the seat in front of me (and of course the guy or gal in front of me is even less pleased) but would like to avoid paying the additional fee for Economy Plus if I can."

Mike's question is probably common to a lot of folks that fly United even occasionally, and would love a free upgrade to United Economy Plus, with more legroom. Unfortunately a free upgrade isn't that easy. Here are the top ways to get it:

1. Be a United Premier Gold, Premier Platinum or Premier 1K to Upgrade to United Economy Plus at Time of Booking

On both paid tickets and award tickets, United elites with Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K or Global Services status are able to upgrade to United Economy Plus at the time of booking.


2. Be a United Premier Silver to Upgrade to United Economy Plus at Time of Check-In

United Premier Silver members are only able to upgrade to United Economy Plus at the time of check-in (24 hours before departure), *not* at the time of booking.


3. Be on the Same Reservation as a United Elite

If you're traveling on the same reservation as a United Elite, you're able to upgrade to United Economy Plus with the same time frame as that members. Note that United Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members can upgrade up to 8 people traveling on the same reservation, but United Gold and United Silver members may only upgrade 1 person traveling on the same reservation.


4. Be Star Alliance Gold and Get Lucky 

Officially, even with Star Alliance Gold status, you're not entitled to United Economy Plus seating. In practice, some Star Alliance Gold members are lucky enough to be able to select a United Economy Plus seat at time of check-in, similar to United Premier Silver members.


5. Be on a Business or First Class Award Flight and Ask Nicely

If you booked an international business or first class United award ticket with the requisite number of United miles, but a segment didn't have award availability so you're seated in Economy, you may have luck by asking nicely at check-in, the lounge or the gate. There's no guarantee, but also no harm in asking.


6. Be Bumped Up Because There's No Space in Economy

If you have no United elite status, you could get very lucky if on a full flight such that you have a ticket but don't have a seat assignment. 


7. Pay and Get a Free United Economy Plus Upgrade with the Barclays Arrival Card

If you don't qualify for United Economy Plus for free via one of the above ways, you'll need to pay if you want it. If the Economy Plus section isn't full, you may even be able to pay with a credit card on board.

The good news is that if you get the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard with a 40,000 points bonus and pay for your United Economy Plus upgrade with it, you can get a statement credit that refunds your United Economy Plus upgrade fee. The 40,000 bonus equates to $440 in free travel, when you rebate charges from these travel categories: airlines, travel agencies, tour operators, hotels, motels, resorts, cruise lines, passenger railways, and car rental agencies.



Isn't There a United Economy Plus Annual Pass?

There used to be one; as of March 2012 United stopped selling these.


If I'm a United Elite But My Non-Elite Partner is Traveling on the Same Flight but a Separate Ticket Can I Get a Free United Economy Plus Upgrade for Him or Her?

Officially, no--your elite status allows you to upgrade up to 8 companions traveling on the *same reservation* to United Economy Plus. Companions on other tickets, even though they're on the same flight, are not eligible. That said, you may be lucky and get a sympathetic United agent to upgrade your partner anyway. 


How Do I See What United Economy Plus Will Cost?

Simply mouse over an Economy Plus seat while making your reservation, and you should be able to see the additional cost. The price is added to your total reservation cost.


Why Are There Different Prices for Different Economy Plus Seats?

United varies the pricing of Economy Plus seats even within the same cabin on the same flight by row and type (window, aisle, middle) and also varies the pricing over time, just as it does with other seats on the plane.


Can I Get a Refund of My United Economy Plus Seat?

Only if you weren't actually seated in Economy Plus, for example due to an equipment change, etc. Unfortunately, even if you paid more to select a certain Economy Plus window seat but were reseated in an Economy Plus middle seat, you wouldn't be entitled to a refund. The United terms state: "An Economy Plus purchase reserves a seat within the Economy Plus seating area. Specific seat assignments are not guaranteed." Seems somewhat unfair, but those are the terms.

The good news is that you may even receive goodwill compensation in addition to your United Economy Plus refund. See United Economy Plus Refund and Goodwill Miles for Downgrade.

Do you have other tips for scoring United Economy Plus upgrades?

Related Posts

Best Premium Economy Airline Seats

United Business First Review

United Club Card Annual Fee Waived: Worth It?

Flying with Kids: Tips for Taking Toddlers on Long Plane Flights

Best Airlines for Kids and Families


Need Award Booking Help? Our fee is as low as $75 per ticket if you book your hotel through us.

If you enjoyed this, join 150,000+ readers: please follow TravelSort on Twitter or  like us on Facebook to be alerted to new posts. 

Become a TravelSort Client and Book Your Hotel with Virtuoso or Four Seasons Preferred VIP Amenities!

  • |
  • Print
    print |
Related Articles
  This Sofitel Berlin Kurfurstendamm Review is part of a trip report including Berlin, Vienna, and luxury hotels and dining in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. Visiting Berlin? See all our posts tagged Berlin. For the previous posts please see:...
  Etihad A380 First Class Apartment Award Availability--where is it? A TravelSort reader writes "I read your posts Etihad A380 First Apartments and Etihad A380 First Apartment: 2 Award Seats Between NYC and Abu Dhabi but I can't find any award space...
Picture?type=large Ella B. commented 25 Jun 2014
Hi all, FYI: My mom just flew away for vacation using UnitedAirlines service on June 11, 2014. She is 66 years old and she has her knee problem. So, I bought her Economy Plus seats within her booked tickets on United.com. When my mom reached to destination, she called me and I asked her about how was the seat. She told me that the room between all seats in the entire aircraft absolutely the same and there was no reason to buy Economy Plus seats... so we paid money what for?... (it was aircraft Boeing 747-400, flight UA903, from San Francisco, at 2:10PM.) I'm so disappointed and I want to get my money back. I'm going to open claim to United, and if the will not refund, I will sue them.
Picture?type=large Richard P. commented 25 Nov 2014
Hilary, Thanks for the article! You wrote that with "the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard...you can get a statement credit that refunds your United Economy Plus upgrade fee." That sounds great but I can't find confirmation of that. Where did you get that from? Thanks, - Rich
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 26 Nov 2014
Richard, the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard comes with a 40,000 point signup bonus after meeting minimum spend of $3000, so after meeting minimum spend you'd have 46,000 points that can be used as a statement credit for $460 for a travel expense incurred on the card. That could be a United Economy Plus upgrade fee or any other qualifying travel expense you put on the card--hope that helps!
Leave a Comment
Get Free Email Blog Updates
Popular Articles
  A 70K United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card is being targeted to some applicants, apparently. TravelSort reader Nick writes "I recently received a 70,000 bonus offer for the United MileagePlus Business Explorer card in the mail. I have the personal...
Declined for the Citi Prestige card? You may actually have been approved, and the declined message may be a system glitch. At least, that's what happened with both my husband and me. Since neither of us was targeted for the...
Which travel credit card will maximize miles earned for for American Airlines flights? TravelSort reader Kenji writes: "I'm writing to glean some of your travel savvy expertise. I'll be flying from Washington DC DCA to Memphis MEM once a month...
Will your family earn 1 million frequent flyer miles and points this year? Since we're over 6 months into 2015, I thought I'd do a mid-year post on our progress so far with our miles and points earning. For new...
  We love redeeming frequent flyer miles and points for award flights, and have already redeemed nearly 800,000 miles and points for our own travel next year, in addition to the many miles and points I've redeemed for clients via...
    With Chase Refer a Friend you can earn up to 50K Ultimate Rewards points by referring friends as new cardholders to a Chase credit card such as the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus (my referral links). I noticed these...
  Should you keep or close credit cards after you receive the bonus? TravelSort reader Jason commented on my post Redeeming 800K Miles and Points: Why We Don't Save Our Miles "What do you do with the cards that you sign...
  U.S. AMEX cardholders can get $400 off $2000 or more in Qantas flights, booked on the Qantas U.S. Web site, via AMEX Twitter Sync Offers or via your AMEX Offers when logged into your account. Here are the details:...
  The Hyatt Visa offers 2 free nights at any Hyatt (including Park Hyatts), and for awhile there's been an offer when booking a Hyatt property online that gives you a $50 statement credit. But the above-linked offer also gives...
  American AAdvantage award ticket change fees are different from most other frequent flyer programs, so I often get questions about AAdvantage award changes by readers and my Award Booking Service clients. Now I'll be able to just send folks...