United is planning a swankier economy class on international flights

Key Points
  • United Airlines' version of "premium economy" will launch later this year'
  • The move follows similar products already flying on Delta and American.
  • United had already rolled out a stripped-down basic economy product.
United is planning a swankier economy class on international flights
United is planning a swankier economy class on international flights

United Airlines is planning to launch a premium economy class, joining rivals that have rolled out the more spacious — and more expensive — seats on international flights.

In addition to more personal space, travelers in United Premium Plus will receive free alcoholic beverages, a Saks Fifth Avenue blanket and pillow and an amenity kit, according to a note from the company to employees, which was seen by CNBC.

The new class will start flying sometime later this year, a spokeswoman said.

United is joining rivals Delta and American, as well as several international airlines that already launched premium economy.

It isn't clear which United routes will have the new class or how much seats will cost flyers. Fare differences for premium economy vary, but a recent search of a flight in February from Philadelphia to Paris on American Airlines' premium economy showed a fare that was 27 percent more expensive than a seat in the regular coach cabin.

United executives will likely provide more details about the launch during its investor day and earnings presentation on Tuesday after the market closes.

Airlines including United are in the process of slicing their cabins into smaller classes to increase passenger revenue.

United last year rolled out its basic economy class across U.S. markets. In exchange for a lower fare, passengers in basic economy are not allowed to select their seats, board last and can't make changes to their tickets. On United and American, they can't use overhead bins. Delta and American executives have said that around half of passengers choose the higher, regular economy fare to avoid the no-frills class.

In addition to basic economy, United is scrambling to outfit its planes with seats for its new business class, called Polaris.