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I paid $300 to upgrade to premium economy on my long-haul United flight, and it's worth it for trips over 10 hours

Megan duBois   

I paid $300 to upgrade to premium economy on my long-haul United flight, and it's worth it for trips over 10 hours
  • I fly internationally at least twice a year, and I recently flew 13 hours from Japan to the US.
  • I upgraded my seat on the United Airlines flight to premium economy for $300.

Part of my job as a travel writer is hopping on airplanes on a regular basis.

I always try to fly on United Airlines because there are many direct flights from my home airport in Florida, and it's fairly easy to move up in the airline's loyalty program, MilagePlus. Basic memberships earn 5 miles per $1, and premier members earn 7 to 11 miles based on their status.

On a recent trip to Japan, I upgraded my flight home from Tokyo to Washington, DC, from economy to premium economy, which the airline calls Economy Plus.

Here's why the $300 flight upgrade was worth it.

I got to sit near the front of the plane

I knew the premium seats were closer to the front of the plane, but I was really surprised by how much closer they were.

I selected window seat 21A in the second row of Economy Plus. Once we landed in DC, I was off the plane and going through customs in less than 10 minutes.

I didn't have that much time to make my connecting flight, so being able to get off the plane quickly was worth the upgrade.

I enjoyed the amenities in my upgraded seat

On my seat, there were a handful of amenities I could use during my flight, including a decent set of over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones, a Saks Fifth Avenue pillow, and a cozy blanket.

The flight attendants told us we were allowed to take these things with us at the end of the flight, but I decided to leave mine behind.

I also got a complimentary felt pouch filled with hand cream, a facial wipe, lip balm, and basic essentials like earplugs, an eye mask, socks, tissues, a pen, and a toothbrush.

None of these amenities were available to passengers in economy, so it was a nice treat.

The extra legroom was helpful when I needed to stretch out

The premium-economy seats had plenty of legroom — 38 inches compared to 31 to 34 inches in economy.

The extra room allowed me to stretch my legs when needed without getting up and walking around the plane every hour or so.

I also loved the footrest that was attached to the back of the chair in front of me. This allowed me to rest my feet in a slightly elevated position, which I found comfortable for sleeping.

Unfortunately, the footrest blocked any underseat storage for my personal item. But I ended up placing my small bag against the wall of the plane without any issues.

Larger entertainment systems made watching movies and TV easy

Each premium-economy seat had a 13-inch seat-back entertainment system. Economy seats only have 9-inch screens.

The bigger TVs were easier to watch, and I didn't find myself squinting to read subtitles.

The premium seats also had a small remote control on the side panel of the seats, so I didn't have to reach up and touch the screen.

The food service was slightly elevated

I really hate airplane food, but in Economy Plus, the meals were a little better.

I skipped dinner to take a six-hour nap, but I woke up in time to get some waffles and fruit for breakfast.

The meals were served on real plates with cloth napkins and real silverware. Drinks were also served in actual glasses versus the flimsy plastic cups I'm used to in economy.

I'd pay to upgrade my flight again, especially for long-haul trips

The $300 upgrade was worth it for my long-haul flight from Tokyo to Washington, DC.

The extra room allowed me to get some much-needed sleep — which rarely happens for me in economy — and I loved the elevated food service and amenities.

I probably won't upgrade every time I travel, but it's a worthwhile splurge for flights over 10 hours.




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