An international first class meal that leaves me wanting more…

I’ve flown dozens upon dozens of segments in international first class, and they all have one thing in common – I get off the plane absolutely stuffed, for better or for worse. Certainly that was the case on my ANA, Singapore, and Thai first class flights in the past few days.

So I think it’s only fair to report on my flight this evening from Tokyo to Seoul in first class on United. The flight time is over two hours in the air, which is plenty of time to serve a proper meal. The flight departs at 6PM and arrives in Seoul at 8:25PM, so it’s prime dinner time. Tampa to Washington is a similar distance to this flight, and in domestic first class they serve hot nuts, cheese ravioli, a dinner roll, and carrot cake.

Here we have an international flight in first class, and what am I served?

A cold “snack,” consisting of two small slices of bread topped with turkey and bacon. To start there were hot nuts and for dessert there was a slice of cake. But I’m in utter shock here. How the hell can United have worse meal service in international first class than domestic first class? Serving a cold “snack” that’s hardly substantial during a dinnertime flight in international first class is pathetic.

That may very well explain why I’m the only “paid” passenger in first class. There are two non-revs that have been chatting with the Narita based flight attendants the whole flight, getting a couple of “gifts” to go. Hopefully United can retain their business, because they seem to be sending everyone else away. 😉

What came first, the chicken or the egg? What came first, United, the paying premium customer or a premium product that’s worth paying for?

Filed Under: Travel, United
  1. A plane is a mode of transportation. 99.9% of the human population “get” this. One who “travels” for the sole excitement of riding on a plane and collecting miles, well, disappointment would be expected.

    Who the hell travels to Asia and blogs about the exciting promotions from Hyatt?

  2. This post shows why people do NOT pay to book United’s premium class cabins. The meal appears to be a domestic style F snack. It brings back memories of how UA tried to give domestic C class customers box style snack meals with plastic silverware as a method to reduce costs. The customers revolted and United backed down.

    BTW, try UA’s SYD-MEL service in C, and you will only get beverage service. At least they could offer passengers the option of receiving a snack.

  3. Is this sector less expensive on UA than it is on other, higher service carriers? If so, then perhaps lower expectations are warranted by paying pax. As an award pax, and having just traveled on TG, SQ and NH, a letdown is to be expected.

    Who wants old, overweight lifers serving your cold cuts when you can have extremely attractive FAs tuck you in when the sun sets (unless the price is right)?

  4. When I flew UA F HKG-SGN last year, there was no menu. The FA asked me if I wanted “a deli wrap or an Indian chicken thingy.”

    Sure would’ve liked some more information to make my choice. The kinda thing they might writeup in a description on, like, you know.. a menu.

    And international F… deli wrap?

    I dead-panned my reply, “I’d like the Indian chicken thingy.”

    It wasn’t terrible. But of course single tray service. And naturally the rest of the cabin was non-rev.

  5. This gives me little hope that Int’l F will survive the merger once these 3-cabin aircraft are retired. Unless, of course CO people try to improve the product enough that people start BUYING it.

  6. It is basically a two hour flight, like flying from ORD to BOS. Having frequently flown TPE-NRT-USA, being served basically two full meals back to back, I would look forward to a this kind of meal on a short segment. It looks like plenty of food. How did it taste?

  7. @coins, since you know what to expect when you fly UA, you shouldn’t have been disappointed. How come you didn’t fly a partner airline?

  8. @dhammer.. on which other carrier flying NRT-ICN with an F cabin do you propose that he’d have flown? Admittedly OZ C food would have been better on this route. But I’d bet that sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of UA’s F product.

    @HunterSFO.. this is one of my great fears as well. UA’s soft product is really quite poor but having the option of a decent F seat on all those routes is really really nice.

  9. You are spoiled TPA-IAD. MCO-IAD gets a packet of nuts as well as SEA-SFO and many more. I was on MCO-IAD and the purser was apalled that F got nothing. She blamed it on the catering in DEN. I told her that that flight is not supposed to get anything, it wasn’t the catering. She was so apologetic she was offering snackboxes and anything she could find. She was so embarassed that there was nothing. She said most of the cabin was paid F and she was ashamed at United. I praised her for really going the extra mile and agreed that if United wants to sell paid F for the only margin generating seats, they are going in the WRONG direction.

  10. Eric wrote a sexist responsive.

    UA is not subsidized by the gov. Comparing UA to foreign carriers is the apples / oranges scenario.

    Hy husband just flew Emirates (in y) and said other than the ife, no difference to UA (y) all in all.

  11. Preach on, MoiMoi – one of the few with sense who read this blog.

    True to form, we haven’t heard one thing about the travel experiences from this kid. Instead, we have the ignorant, uncultured, and self-aggrandizing whining of the culturally bereft.

    Kid – until you have any idea about food on the ground, you are in no way qualified to make judgments about food in the air. Bitching about 6.99 salad – how can you sink much lower?

  12. You can sink lower by continually trolling and whining with your own ignorant, uncultured, and self-aggrandizing posts bashing for no reason. Super 80 = mega tool!

  13. @MoiMoi Because it’s a travel blog? No offense to lucky, but if I wanted to read about how Hinduism and Chinese culture find expression in modern Balinese music, the usage of ohaguro in Noh dramas currently showing in the Japanese capital, or even how the recent financial crisis has in fact accelerated the financialization of the Singaporean economy, I’d turn to another source. But when I’m stuck late at the office, this website allows me to engage in a strikingly effective form of escapism for a few minutes. Also, I think most people here probably fetishize international premium service to a certain degree — and this may or may not be healthy, but clearly it’s rampant. Lucky lets me know what’s available out there that’s worth my time. TG wetleasing 9W’s 77Ws? Good to know! Nothing more, nothing less.

    Now I wonder why it is that the trolls continue to infect these boards…

  14. @Dear Super80:

    It seems you may have missed the purpose of this blog. It is about being up in the air, premium cabins, accompanying meals, lounges and so forth.

    I don’t think Lucky ever claimed to be an expert on “food on the ground” as you put it. If you want to add value to this blog then my challenge to you is add in these comments some great places to eat wherever Lucky visits – otherwise go away – this blog doesn’t need or warrant you negative attitude.

  15. That is a lot better than the packet of nuts offered by United in premium cabins between Sydney and Melbourne (90 minute flight).

  16. @Super80 and MoiMoi:

    To amplify on what Speedy said for a moment, Lucky concentrates on certain aspects of travel. It doesn’t matter why he does this because…wait for it…it’s HIS BLOG. He can write about whatever he wants to.

    Let’s put it another way – if you picked up the newspaper and George Will was writing about baseball, as he does from time to time, would you fire off an e-mail to him saying “but George, I want to read about your take on Obama’s budget!!!” No, because it’s his column and he can write about whatever he bloody well wants to.

    I’d like to see Lucky take a different slant sometimes, too, but there’s a big difference between posting “hey, Lucky, how about telling us more about restaurants in the cities you visit?” and “Lucky, you suck, you always eat at the hotel, you never experience local restaurants,why are you such a snobby young fool…” The first is a suggestion, and suggestions can even go into the realm of “constructive criticism.” The second is “mindless bitching.”

    And another consideration: while Lucky writes about his experiences on many airlines, a lot of his remarks, especially the most critical ones, are about United. The feeling I get is that he criticizes UA the most because, well, he’s a fan! In the same way that Cubs fans can dissect the team’s problems year after hopeless year, or the way Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans lovingly bitched about their team in the days of Bucko Bruce*, Lucky wants UA to do better! First Class is an important money generator for a network airline, and let’s be honest, that “first class meal” was a shoddy joke for a flight on a route where UA competes against airlines with much better products.

    @Lucky – if your software has the capability, have you considered going to moderated comments or requiring registration?

    * – “Bucko Bruce” was the nickname for the pirate on Tampa Bay’s original helmets, and became shorthand for spectacular, breathtaking failure in Tampa. He’s been banished to the dustbin of history, but makes the occasional appearance when the NFL does the “heritage uniform” thing, which is horribly played out and I’d like to see go away.

  17. @Super80 why do you continue to read?

    C’mon over to MY blog and take on MY experience eating on the ground.

    Thank you.

  18. Another way to look at this!

    UA’s NRT-SEL would be an continuation of a US arrival. So most people on the flight would have eaten across the Pacific!

    Yes, UA is allowed to pick up local traffic in Japan, but its still a service thats on the tail end of a 12-14 hour flight (for most travellers)

    The meal looks fine to me. One does not expect the same level of service from UA, as they would from KE, JL, NH etc.

  19. UA should abandon its internatioanl F product or invest to make it better so that people are willing to pay for it.

    One should not make excuses for UA that intra-Asia flights are part of the transpacfic itineraries, therefore it is ok to serve a lighter or below average meals in premium cabins.

    CX operates between SGN and HKG, SQ/CX operate between SIN and HKG, and OZ/NH/JL flyg between NRT and ICN. All these airlines treat these shourt routes as individual market and compete accordingly. While UA seem to do the minimum to keep its slots, rights, and its economy fares paying passengers.

  20. Hello Lucky.

    Yes, it is an international flight, but I’d say it’s as international as a JFK-YYZ flight.

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