Gone are the days when flying was a simple question of boarding a plane and turning left, or turning right.
Once upon a time you saved up your travel monies to spend on an Economy air fare, or had the good fortune to spend someone else's money on a Business Class seat. If you were really posh they had something called "First Class" which sat at the front of the aircraft to help relieve passengers of their money with greater efficiently.
Now you have the complications of "economy extra" – "premium economy" or "bog-standard business". Airlines are muddying the waters of cabin classism with economy options "with a bit extra" or in the case of United's new Premium Plus service – entirely new cabin services.
According to Julie Reid, United Airlines' director for Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti, the demand for the Premium Plus seats was obvious.
"There's a certain demographic who will spend a little bit more for more comfort, but perhaps can't justify a seat in business."
Reid says this might equally apply to the corporate client whose travel budgets no longer stretch to full-blown business, or the newly retired baby boomer who wants the extra leg-room without digging too deeply into the pension pot. The "plus" is a cabin class that reflects the current moment.
Between business and economy is where the cabin fits, both literally and figuratively. However there's no confusing the new seats for "coach class" seats.
The deep purple upholstery and generous headrest are a small luxury. Then there are all the extras: reclining buttons, Saks Fifth Avenue blankets and an entirely new menu and wine list from the Economy class offering.
There are 24 such seats, arranged 2-4-2, and will eventually be a feature of all international United routes. However, Auckland to California was recognised as a priority case for the new seats, ahead of any Australian destinations across the ditch.
"We're fitting out an aircraft every 10 days," Reid tells us.
On the 12-hour Auckland to San Francisco route – the only New Zealand route currently offering Plus – the extra elbow room will be welcome.
"It's focused on passengers getting sleep, particularly on a long-haul flight from New Zealand," says Reid.
Another feature taken from the Business Class cabin are the noise-cancelling headphones. Being able to drown out extraneous cabin noise can mean all the difference on a 12-hour flight.
Perhaps it is a better reflection on the stratifications of modern society. United have created a new cabin for the squeezed middle class.
Then again, perhaps Premium Plus is just the gateway to a dangerous habit of sitting at the expensive end of the airplane.
From Premium Plus you can just glimpse the airline's newly fitted Polaris class seats in Business.
Although the distance separating them is tiny the enclosed Business Class pods were recently refitted to increase privacy and space.
Although the Business seats have never been so close, the price is still a bit of a hurdle. A seat in the newly launched Polaris class cabins flying one way to San Francisco would set you back around $3910. A Premium Plus seat will cost you a slightly more reasonable $2000. But then again, this is a big mark up on the $780 Economy Class offering.
But there might be a way to get into the extra leg room and other comforts of Premium Plus, at a stretch.
"Of course you're welcome to use points," says Reid.
"We are part of the Star Alliance, so whether it's Air New Zealand points or United miles, you can absolutely use them to upgrade using points from Coach to Premium."