United operates daily non-stop flights between San Francisco and Sydney, Australia using Boeing 747-400 aircraft. This plane has an upgraded economy section, called Economy Plus, that is a much different product than international airlines’ premium economy class.
Seats are arranged in a 3-4-3 layout. United’s seats for both economy and premium economy class are 17 inches wide with the economy seats offering a 31-inch seat pitch. Economy Plus seats offer a much more comfortable 34-inch seat pitch.
The in-flight meal options are standard United fare with efficient service from the cabin-crew. Both economy and Economy Plus passengers are offered the same meal selections.
However, both economy and Economy Plus passengers do not get individual seat-back in-flight entertainment screens. The only provided entertainment option is movies/TV shows on in-cabin overhead TV screens.
The aircraft cabin was clean with the additional benefit of having the crew collect trash frequently during the flight – a factor that adds to passenger comfort on a long flight.
Overall the flight experience was good although personalized in-flight entertainment was sorely missed during the nearly 13-hour long flight.
As an additional note, United also does not provide a means on the airplane for economy or Economy Plus class passengers to charge their mobile devices.
United’s version of premium economy is merely a section in front of the economy class seating that offers additional legroom during a flight. Meals and other amenities are exactly the same as economy class.
Travelers can choose to sit in the Economy Plus section by paying an additional fee after purchasing their economy class ticket.
For a lengthy flight, such as from San Francisco to Sydney, United’s version of premium economy offers a substantially lower cost option for more comfort than a premium economy seat on one of the international airlines – Air New Zealand, Qantas or Virgin Australia.