United Airlines announces Economy Plus will live on & Virgin America enters the Chicago market

A mere hours after I posted my noteworthy news items for the week yesterday, two more even bigger announcements came down.

First, and absolutely most exciting for United flyers is the welcome news that Economy Plus will be a part of the NEW United Airlines. Many loyalists have been waiting for this decision, and had it gone the other way, some were ready to defect to American Airlines. Sighs of relief could be heard on the boards of Flyertalk and MilePoint (a NEW Flyertalk alternative).

a blue squares with red linesa blue squares with red linesEconomy Plus is a section of coach seating in the forward part of the cabin featuring up to 5 inches of additional legroom. It is definitely not a “premium economy†product, but simply seats with sacred room to cross or stretch your legs. When United launched this offering, they simply removed a row of coach seats forward of the first overwing exit row and spaced them out as evenly as possible. It will take some time for all of Continental’s aircraft to be fully converted, and that process will begin in 2012. While it hasn’t been decided if they will remove a row of economy seating, or instead reduce their first class cabin capacities, I’ve illustrated on the left what Continental’s Boeing 757-200 looks like today, and on the right is possibly what the converted seat map will look like once Economy Plus is installed. Continental’s row numbering is as such to always have the overwing exit rows as 20 and 21, and they apparently don’t like the number 13.

Next up is the long-anticipated announcement of Virgin America’s entry into the Chicago market serving O’Hare Airport. I, selfishly, have been hoping for this for some time in an effort to find better fares in the LAX-ORD market; one I frequently fly. Presently launching with two flights per day from LAX and three from San Francisco, the service will begin on May 25, 2011. The introductory fare of $99 each way ($219.40 roundtrip all-in for those like me who prefer to see the total) is available through September 6th. United and American have matched the fares outright, and that will likely continue for the foreseeable future.


  1. Darren, the Virgin announcement website says “book by February 21.” Do you think United and AA will keep the fares at $99 each way even after the Virgin prices go up on the 22nd? Or are you saying that Virgin will keeps fares at that level even after the 21st thus forcing the other two to do the same.

  2. @James: Thanks for the question. Virgin’s entry into ORD will undoubtedly pressure United and American to consistently match whatever fares Virgin files for the ORD-LAX/SFO markets. Prices will likely go up after this introductory sale, but I would expect UA & AA to match the new levels (my bet is they will still be lower than what we’ve seen pre-Virgin).

  3. and THANK YOU Virgin for that…. Those prices to the West Coast were getting out of control. So glad to see more competition for those routes.

    I enjoy the blog very much, thanks.

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