United Adds Free Beer & Wine In International Economy

Filed Under: United

United announced some enhancements to their international economy service, which will kick in for flights as of June 1, 2015. These changes apply for all of United’s transatlantic flights, most of their transpacific flights, and their flights between the United States and Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

So what changes are in store? Per United’s press release:

New Multi-Course Meal Service

United will expand the primary complimentary economy meal to a hearty three-course service, beginning with a beverage and snack of cheese and crackers, baked whole-grain bruschetta chips or Kiri cheese spread and crackers, followed by a generous main course served with refreshed salads and artisan bread.

Main-course meals will include new dishes designed by United’s team of chefs, including:

  • Home-style turkey meatloaf in spicy barbecue sauce, served with sweet potato mash, mixed vegetables, an artisan ciabatta roll and amaranth mango salad;
  • Tuscan ravioli with roasted red pepper sauce, served with a petit artisan ciabatta roll and mixed-grain salad; and
  • Udon noodles with stir-fried vegetables and ginger soya sauce, served with a petit multi-grain baguette roll and apple wheatberry salad.

For the final course, customers may enjoy a premium dessert, such as gelato, sorbet, ice cream or mousse.

Complimentary Beer and Wine

United will offer beer and wine at no charge in United Economy on intercontinental flights with multi-course meal service, and each customer will receive a complimentary bottle of water to stay refreshed throughout their flight. Additionally, customers may purchase half-bottle premium wines, and United will continue to offer spirits for sale.

Choice Menu Snack Shop Expansion

The airline will also introduce snacks for purchase in United Economy on long-haul international services. Along with enjoying complimentary meals, customers will be able to purchase packaged snacks and snack boxes throughout their flights through the airline’s Choice Menu Snack Shop – currently available in United Economy on most North and Central America flights scheduled for more than two hours, flights to and from northern South America and service between Honolulu and Guam.

Pre-Arrival Service

Complimentary pre-arrival service will continue. Depending on the market flown, United Economy customers will receive a croissant with jam, a warmed sandwich or a hot meal served with fruit and a roll. On flights where a hot meal is available, new options, such as cinnamon-swirl French toast and a Tuscan skillet with scrambled eggs, will join current offerings.

Overall these are no doubt positive changes:

  • The addition of free beer & wine on all longhaul international flights is great news; this change is interesting since United eliminated free beer & wine on flights to Asia just a bit over a year ago
  • I wouldn’t read too much into the positive food changes; we are taking about economy on a US airline, after all
  • The fact that they’re going to start selling snack boxes in longhaul economy is interesting; others are pessimistic about this change, but given how bad economy food can otherwise be, having that option might not be a bad thing

Regardless, kudos to United for investing in improving the international economy product. Some free beer & wine might just make those 747s slightly more tolerable in the rear.

  1. Well… finally!!! Guess a 8 hour flight across the pond, when my upgrade doesn’t go through, will be nicer. Finally a FriendlyChange

  2. It still floors me how far apart the US carriers are on in-flight service compared to their international counterparts. It’s great to see United starting to close the gap, but for comparable prices, I don’t know why someone would fly United Economy versus Lufthansa to Europe, for example.

  3. I say kudos. The meal service itself doesn’t seem like much of an expansion (just really changing out the menu is how I read the press release in that regard) but the real news is free beer and wine! Delta gives you one drink in economy (correct me if I’m wrong), so it’s most interesting to see UA lead a change for once.

  4. Hell’s frozen over — United is actually making an improvement to international longhaul economy? I’m shocked.

  5. I was just ranting on a few months ago about how I booked a last minute trip on a European carrier over United because I wanted free booze. It does make sense when prices are what they are now.

  6. @Greg AA had free beer and wine in international economy for a couple of years now, so this is more United catching up to AA.

  7. I flew EWR->SNN with UA in Business a few weeks ago, and I have to say, the food was actually quite good. I flew back on LHR->SFO on BA in Club World, and I dare say that the food on United was better. I love BA’s tea service though.

  8. I tale UA E+ over LH E anytime. Will gladly give up food and service in economy in exchange for better seat and space

  9. I’m a bit confused. American Airlines is still handing out free beer and wine on their transcontinental flights; our flights to and from Europe last month had free wine. (They may have not done this for a bit, but that was some time ago now.)

    So why is this in anywise groundbreaking for a US carrier?

    I’m not sure what Delta does since I so rarely fly with them.

  10. This was inevitable. The extra snacks for purchase and the bottle of water were moves to compete with the improved services of SAS, Lufthansa Premium economy. I’m a loyal (sometimes question it tho) mileagplus gold. I love the Star Alliance network. I also think United realized they were lagging behind their competitors. All they need are some better seats and some new planes

  11. @Terence, Delta also offers free liquor including beer and wine. I enjoy my plastic cups of Woodford Reserve bourbon when flying DL.

  12. Basically this means the LONG Pacific flights that are 12+ hours that had a free snack midway through, will no longer offer that free snack, but you’ll have to pay for it… not that I ever ate it, but those that did, it will be gone.

  13. How pathetic, they got tired of ripping off the flying public with cheesy fees for everything and so they do a little hat trick on board for the food.

    I’m waiting for the coin operated lavatories, you know the ones you got to put a quarter in and turn the knob to get the door open? I’m sure some ex-con, someone from the former Continental side, has probably dreamed that one up and is busy getting implemented now.

  14. This is funny. My last two business class flights to the UK UA has run out of Chardonnay after one round of drinks. Who knows, maybe they will stock the mini-bottles better for economy than they do full bottles in business.

  15. @Daniel — Delta has offered unlimited complimentary beer, wine, and spirits in the main cabin on all intercontinental flights since December 2013. Comfort+ (née Economy Comfort) passengers have received complimentary alcohol on all international flights (not just intercontinental) since April 2013. In March 2015, Delta expanded complimentary alcohol service to domestic Comfort+. UA’s not leading any change here; they’re belatedly meeting Delta (and, to a lesser extent, AA) part way.

  16. I really don’t see what all the fuss and kudos are about. This isn’t new… they are just reinstating the original service they dumbed down a little over a decade (I think) ago. My old man used to go trans- pacific alot on the SYD-LAX route in the 90’s. I remember him being nicely sauced before we flew over New Zealand on an exotic brand of beer called Budweiser.

  17. Ummm, “home-style turkey meatloaf”? Out of all of the food choices to serve on an airplane, they go with a meatloaf?!

  18. Let the good times role! 10 years ago, every “enhancement” was another service downgrade. A decade later we have service upgrades in the club, international economy, new lobbies, tarmac service etc… The Times They Are A Changin!

  19. Glad to read that unidentified hockey puck of a meat substance will no longer be on the UA menu. And that I won’t have to burn any more of my 1K/Plat drink vouchers for a mini-bottle (or cup) of wine at dinner. UA’s following in the footsteps of AA and DL in bring back comp wine and beer on overseas flights. As for the purchase mid-flight snack, suppose it’s better than the ice cold, cello wrapped bun/mystery meat they toss out to anyone who’s still awake. AA’s similar mid-flight economy offering is neatly boxed with sandwich, a savoury and chocolate bar. I know on a UA flight a while ago, the FA apologized that she’d have to charge me for a box of chips when I got peckish mid-flight (and before the buns were defrosted). But nice to see competition is improving the offerings in the back cabins of all three US legacies in spite of consolidation.

  20. @DiscoPapa. Meatloaf is an excellent choice for economy airline food as it was invented as reheated food. Done properly, it will still be moist and flavorful after being reheated in the ovens and sitting in the cart for 30 minutes (if you’re in the last row), while a piece of chicken would be dry, hard and tasteless.

    Of course, UA will find a way to cheapen the ingredients out making the end result awful and inedible. But as a dish, meatloaf is one of the best choices to serve.

  21. Great news for us frugal fliers (flyers?)…..as long as it’s not Budweiser, Schlitz, or any of those big-name so-called ‘beers’. Bring on the craft brews!!

  22. I am shocked to learn that they weren’t already offering free beer and wine. How did anyone ever survive a United transpacific before this?!

  23. The descriptions of the meals sounds nice, and that is all fine and dandy, but how will it play out in practice. I’ve remembered being served noodles on a United TPAC exSFO that were basically a slightly heated, greasy, gelatinous blob. SO it all comes down to the execution.

  24. Amazing how United can say this with a straight face. They should be embarrassed. Every airline I have flown for my long haul travels (35 countries and counting), have all featured wine and beer, without making a big deal about it. There’s another reason why passengers prefer other airlines over US based.

  25. wow this is a shocker to me, I had no idea they’d stopped a yr ago. I’m actually flying back from China in late May on UA, do they offer better food/drink in economy plus currently?

  26. This is why we always fly a non-American airline that ALWAYS provides free wine and beer, as well as other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, on international flight. It’s not the beer and wine, it’s the overall service that is always much better than American (including American) airlines. We always feel bad for the cabin attendants (the service professionals) who have been with American carriers for many years. They (and we) have been experiencing an incredible deterioration of morale due to diminished service to customers, longer working hours, hardly any increase in pay (when the pay of top executives are increasingly undeserved, greedy and insane), working as sales people (selling snacks, pillows, earphones and more), and dealing with old planes where the audio/video devices hardly ever work and with dirty seats and surroundings. Hopefully United is on it’s way of deserving the “friendly skies” motto.

  27. What a pathetic initiative. Probably the only ones still flying US airlines are those who never tried an international airline. I can just not understand how they dream they can still compete. Maybe this is where their sensitivity on the ME3 is coming from. Unbelievable. Catching up with normal airlines will require more than a cheesy cracker or a beer.

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