United To Offer Annual Packages To Prepay Baggage, Extra Legroom

June 03--United Airlines on Monday said it will offer customers annual subscriptions to more legroom and prepaid checked bags.

The move by United is the latest in efforts by airlines to unbundle services included with an airfare and charge for them, sometimes rebundling them into optional packages. American Airlines, for example, offers packages of optional services, including checked bags, priority boarding and other amenities, on a per-flight basis.

United said it is the only U.S. carrier to offer an annual subscription for extra-legroom economy seating and checked baggage charges.

Starting at $499, United travelers booking through United.com get access to Economy Plus seats, which offer more legroom on most of the airline's planes, which number 700 mainline planes and 180 United Express aircraft. Economy Plus seats, toward the front of the plane, typically are available as paid upgrades from economy seating. Prices vary. The basic Economy Plus subscription is limited to flights in the continental U.S. For $100 more, you can get all North and Central America flights. Global access costs $200 more, or $699. Customers can also pay extra for Economy Plus subscriptions that include additional people. For example, the subscriber plus one companion costs an additional $200.

Starting at $349, United passengers can prepay for checked bags for a year. The subscription also has add-ons, such as checking more than one bag and adding additional travelers.

More information is online at www.united.com/subscriptions.

United also said Monday it will allow frequent fliers to use their accumulated reward miles to purchase an annual membership at its airport United Clubs. One-year memberships cost $500 or 65,000 miles for general MileagePlus members, with discounts for Premier members. An initiation fee of $50 or 7,000 miles applies for all new United Club memberships, the airline said.

gkarp@tribune.com

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