United Airlines has launched an option for travelers to purchase annual subscriptions for access to its Economy Plus seats and pre-pay for checked baggage with a one-time fee. The cost for a subscription to Economy Plus starts at $499 and increases to include additional regions (North and Central America, intra-Asia, and global), as well as you and a companion or all travelers on your reservation up to nine total (which will cost around $1099). A subscription to Economy Plus will give you access to these seats with additional legroom at the time of booking, a perk now only available to United MileagePlus Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum, and Premier Gold elite members. MileagePlus Silver members can’t select Economy Plus seats until check-in. The Economy Plus subscription doesn’t grant you access to United’s Premier Access priority airport services (check-in, security, and boarding).
The checked bag subscription starts at $349 for one bag within the continental United States and increases to include additional regions (North and Central America, intra-Asia, and global). You can also pay more for two checked bags, bags for you and a companion, or bags for all travelers on your reservation up to nine total (which adds up to $999). Depending on how often you travel and pay $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second, it may or may not be worth the subscription price to pre-pay bag fees.
In addition, you can also now purchase a one-year membership to the United Club for $500 or 65,000 United MileagePlus miles.
All three United subscription services can also be given as gifts.
The trick with the Economy Plus and checked bag pre-paid subscriptions is determining whether or not you travel enough to justify the big one time investment. While the Economy Plus subscription may be worth it for $499 if you enjoy more legroom everytime you fly, the checked bag fee is steep when many of us have adapted to flying United with free carry-on bags and only occasionally check bags. For the United Club, it would be less expensive to sign up for the United Club Visa Signature card from Chase. For an annual fee of $395 (waived the first year for new cardmembers), you have access to United Clubs around the world (and Star Alliance partner clubs), you earn 1.5 MileagePlus miles for every $1 spent on all purchases, and the card has no foreign transaction fees.