United Airlines Rolls Out Food & Drink Pre-Ordering (Including In Economy)

United Airlines Rolls Out Food & Drink Pre-Ordering (Including In Economy)

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United Airlines is starting to roll out a new feature this week, which has the potential to be useful.

Order United food & drinks up to five days in advance

United Airlines will allow customers to use the United app or united.com to pre-order meals, snacks, and beverages, up to five days before scheduled departure:

  • This will allow first class passengers to pre-order their complimentary meals
  • This will allow economy class passengers to pre-order food and drinks that are available for purchase

This is initially being rolled out as of August 2, 2021, on select flights departing from Chicago to Honolulu, Orange County, Sacramento, and San Diego. It will be expanded to all flights of over 1,500 miles by early fall.

United’s pre-order technology is an extension of the company’s contactless payment platform, which allows customers to store payment information in a digital wallet. Here’s how this works:

  • Five days prior to departure, customers will see an option in their reservation to pre-order food and beverage items available for their specific flight; customers will also receive an email about this
  • In economy class, customers can pre-order snacks and beverages from United’s buy-on-board menu, and will be asked to enter their credit card information, but they won’t be charged until items are served onboard
  • In first class, customers can select their complimentary meal option (there’s no need to enter credit card information)
  • Once onboard in economy class, rather than handing the flight attendant a credit card, a flight attendant will ask for the customer’s name and seat to confirm the card on file
  • Once confirmed, customers will receive their products, and the card on file will be charged
United will allow customers to pre-order snacks

My take on United’s new pre-ordering system

A few thoughts on this announcement:

  • United is marketing that it’s “the first and only U.S. airline to offer economy customers the option to pre-order snacks and beverages,” which is technically accurate; however, American has allowed meal pre-ordering (in economy and first) for years, so I guess it’s the “beverage” part that’s unique here
  • In economy class, I hope that the pre-ordering system is actually a guarantee that the item you order will be available, rather than this being more “if we happen to have what you ordered when we get to you, then you won’t need to provide a form of payment”
  • In first class, meal pre-ordering is long overdue; United takes meal orders by status, so if you’re not a United frequent flyer and actually pay cash for your ticket, you often get last pick of food
First class customers can pre-order their gourmet dining experience

Bottom line

By early fall, United Airlines will offer food & drink pre-ordering on all flights of over 1,500 miles. This means that in first class you should be able to pre-select your meal of choice, and in economy it means you can pre-pay for anything you’d like to purchase, and hopefully have it “reserved” for you.

It has always amazed me that American has been offering meal pre-ordering for years, while Delta and United haven’t done anything in that regard. It’s one of the only ways in which American has lead the way when it comes to technology.

What do you make of United’s new pre-ordering system?

Conversations (14)
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  1. Always Flying Somewhere

    @Ray

    Ben and Lucky are one and the same. And, if you read these posts on a regular basis, you'll find that Ben is more of an AA fan. That's probably why he chose to live in Florida. LOL.

    @Ben,

    I won't argue who was first with pre-ordering in Y Class, but I recall being able to order meals in Y on AS as far back as 2018

  2. Ray

    In case you missed it, there is a reason to reduce interactions between crew members and passengers. But in your usual hate you couldn't wait to trash UA similar to Lucky and his continued use of the sandwich photo. None of the US airlines are worth saving, stop acting like Delta is great and the other two suck.

  3. JP in Chicago

    This could actually be an exciting innovation. I was flying AirBaltic a couple years ago from Vienna to Riga on a morning flight in economy. I received an email a couple days before the flight offering a pre-order for hot meals from a menu with 10-12 items on it. I was intrigued and up spending ~10 Euros on a combo box with hot cottage cheese pancakes served with a side of fresh fruit and an...

    This could actually be an exciting innovation. I was flying AirBaltic a couple years ago from Vienna to Riga on a morning flight in economy. I received an email a couple days before the flight offering a pre-order for hot meals from a menu with 10-12 items on it. I was intrigued and up spending ~10 Euros on a combo box with hot cottage cheese pancakes served with a side of fresh fruit and an orange juice - it showed up at my seat shortly after takeoff and was lovely, better than any domestic first class breakfast I’ve had in the States. Anyway - interested to see in which direction this goes.

  4. Teo

    In first class, I have never seen them take orders by status.
    The FA just starts with 1A and goes row by row.

    1. knlprez

      95% of my flights in F go by status. I'm a 1K and flying with my wife last month we switched seats (last row window for aisle on a 739) and she had her order taken first and I was dead last as she doesn't have status. I don't really mind as I usually just grab a snack box. But, UA does make an effort to serve GS and 1K first to ensure they receive their preferred meal and drink.

    2. Franklin D. Roosevelt

      I travel in first class paid twice a week and I haven't seen a FA in united take a status order in over a year out of ORD so you are having VERY good luck. Paying customers in row 5A are getting that jizz (pardon me - cheese) covered turkey sandwich if they like it or not if it is all that is left!

  5. Chris

    Never miss an opportunity to put that United sandwich on display. LOL.

    1. Mike1977

      I was thinking the same thing!! lol

    2. Charles

      Seriously! Those sandwiches are bad, but the recent domestic F meals on UA this summer have actually been pretty good.

  6. Endre

    Yum, look at that highly processed food. No wonder the great US of A suffer from obesity. Just another way to minimize interactions between cabin crew and passengers. So much for the “friendly sky”

    1. Ray

      In case you missed it, there is a reason to reduce interactions between crew members and passengers. But in your usual hate you couldn't wait to trash UA similar to Lucky and his continued use of the sandwich photo. None of the US airlines are worth saving, stop acting like Delta is great and the other two suck.

  7. Nat

    Curious how this will work when upgrades clear after the (previously) economy customer has already made a pre-order from the menu.

    1. Michael

      I just had that happen on Alaska, I’m an MVP and flew SEA-JFK yesterday a route where usually only MVP Gold and above clear upgrades, but I got lucky and was the last Upgrade to clear. I had pre-ordered food in economy and the FA came to my seat and asked if I still wanted the pre-ordered economy items or one of the First class meals. Naturally I picked the First meal. My card was never charged and they had an extra meal to sell in the back!

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knlprez

95% of my flights in F go by status. I'm a 1K and flying with my wife last month we switched seats (last row window for aisle on a 739) and she had her order taken first and I was dead last as she doesn't have status. I don't really mind as I usually just grab a snack box. But, UA does make an effort to serve GS and 1K first to ensure they receive their preferred meal and drink.

Always Flying Somewhere

@Ray Ben and Lucky are one and the same. And, if you read these posts on a regular basis, you'll find that Ben is more of an AA fan. That's probably why he chose to live in Florida. LOL. @Ben, I won't argue who was first with pre-ordering in Y Class, but I recall being able to order meals in Y on AS as far back as 2018

Ray

In case you missed it, there is a reason to reduce interactions between crew members and passengers. But in your usual hate you couldn't wait to trash UA similar to Lucky and his continued use of the sandwich photo. None of the US airlines are worth saving, stop acting like Delta is great and the other two suck.

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