In the race to launch grand-scale international premium economy cabins, United Airlines has decidedly been in third place among the big three legacy carriers. But last week we learned that the airline is trailing less than we originally thought.

Later this month, the company plans to launch its first premium economy flights on an updated Boeing 777-200 — the carrier’s  international workhorse.

While a critical mass of aircraft are upgraded with the cabin, premium economy will initially be filed and booked as standard economy plus — so many elite passengers will be able to snag the seats for free. Later, like American, the cabin will turn into its own distinct product (and pricing tier).

Short term, this means that a handful of United frequent flyers will get some free micro-upgrades to Economy Plus this summer. And in the long term, travelers looking to get out of the doldrums of economy without the high cost of business class will soon have an intermediate solution to look forward to.

Skift’s Brian Sumers scooped the news on Twitter last week. A deeper dive on the news is also available from the Chicago Business Journal.

For feedback or news tips, reach out via email at gm@skift.com or tweet me @grantkmartin.

— Grant Martin, Business of Loyalty Editor

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Skift Business of Loyalty Editor Grant Martin [gm@skift.com] curates the Skift Business of Loyalty newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Monday.

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Photo Credit: United's International premium economy cabins are slated to go into service in June of 2018. United Airlines / United Airlines