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United Economy Plus - worth it?

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My husband and I are going to Japan in April. We're booked MCO - SFO - NRT on the way over, and NRT - ORD - MCO on the way back. On our last long flight in economy (MUC to ORD...about 10 hours), we were going stir crazy and feeling pretty closed in.

I notice that United has Economy Plus that adds a little bit of legroom. We can't afford first/business class.

1. Is Economy Plus worth the extra $$? It would cost us $418 total for both of us to have it just on the flights to/from NRT.

2. Do they ever let you upgrade at the airport or the day before for free or at a much lower rate? Do I ask nicely when we check in our luggage, or when we get to the gate?

I don't mind paying a little extra, but $418 is a lot of money to us and I don't want to spend it foolishly.

Thanks!

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