United Improves Complimentary Economy Snacks

Filed Under: United

While there are ways in which US airlines have gotten worse in the past few years (basic economy, shrinking economy seats, frequent flyer program devaluations, etc.), there are also some subtle ways in which they’ve been investing in their product.

For example, over the past few years we’ve seen US airlines bring back small snacks in economy on domestic flights. Prior to that they mostly didn’t offer any snacks at all in economy domestically, even on a transcon flight.

Well, today one airline has announced that they’re improving their snack selection further, though admittedly it’s fairly subtle.

United first brought back complimentary snacks in economy in late 2015. As of today (July 1, 2019), United customers will have the choice between three complimentary inflight snacks in economy on all domestic flights, regardless of the departure time.

Customers will have the choice between Byrd’s maple wafers, pretzels, and stroopwafels.

Prior to this change, United rotated the complimentary inflight snack offerings on flights that departed prior to 9:45AM. For a while they had even eliminated stroopwafels altogether, even though they were a customer favorite.

Now the stroopwafels and pretzels are available at any time of day, in addition to a rotating third option.

United’s Chief Customer Officer had the following to say:

“Since we reintroduced free snacks a few years ago, our customers have come to look forward to enjoying their personal favorites on board – whether it be the stroopwafel, our exclusive maple wafers or the classic pretzels. Now we’re going a step further and when it comes to snacks, every customer wins since our entire inflight snack lineup is available to choose from no matter the time of day.”

There’s no doubt that it’s nice to have the choice of snacks in economy. Furthermore, I imagine there are also some savings to United in being able to consistently cater all flights, rather than having to differentiate based on the time of day.

That being said, I feel sort of bad for flight attendants. I already feel bad when they have to ask each passenger which of two snacks they want, and now they’ll have to repeat the three options over and over.

People just don’t really listen, often have their headphones on, etc., so the repetition with which flight attendants have to ask the same questions sure must be frustrating for them.

Bottom line

This is a nice though minor improvement for United. Admittedly this is an area where United still lags behind airlines like JetBlue, which offer a much bigger selection of complimentary snacks. But people really seem to enjoy the stroopwafel, so to have that plus two other options on all flights is cool.

  1. I think it’s barbaric they don’t offer full meals on +2.5hr flights, especially transcontinental! I still believe passengers should be able/encouraged to select a meal prior to any flight. The airline can then stock the amount they need, people get what they want, and it will save time.

  2. Oh this is gonna be tough. Every morning flight I take I always enjoy those maple wafers as ridiculously sweet as they are. Now I have that choice in the daytime flights as well. Gonna have to control. Thanks for the report.

  3. This is an official announcement – but often United will cater extra snacks in the afternoon. Many departures from 1 onward in my experience have had pretzels, and after the service the FAs come through with the maple wafers.

  4. LOL – sad state of affairs when this small and totally insignificant changes is a touted as a service improvement worthy of a dedicated article.

  5. Wow, a hugely profitable company throws you some crumbs and you get all giddy. Bend over some more. Maybe they’ll charge you twice as much for your luggage to pay for a waffle that cost them a nickel.

  6. @Bob +1 And a lengthy one at that … even with a “Bottom Line”? Is a “Bottom Line” summary needed for something so basic?

  7. FA will get wise as far as asking which people want. They can ask “would you like pretzels or one of these?” while holding two selections.

    I would pick stroopwafels but wouldn’t be completely sure how to say it. Something-waffels.

    This is a game changer. I might actually select United for this instead of American.

  8. Coming out of Chicago, IF TSA isn’t in a particularly aggressive posture mandating that all food be thrown away, I will be able to sneak a hot Chicago corned beef sandwich or Chicago Italian beef sandwich onboard. To heck with this minimal pretzel snack routine. I am going to have a meal on my way to ATL.

  9. BFD. Remember the DL Delibag or AA Bistro Bag? At tthe time we were “insulted” by that half sandwich, bag of chips, and a piece of fruit. In the main cabin today I think travellers would be thrilled to not have to pack or buy your own snack.

  10. Really feel the pain of the flight attendants. On a 1.5 hour flight, they are now burdened with the task of repeating an additional snack option to paying customers.
    It’s not their fault that they are oblivious that their counterparts in other airlines serve a hot meal on flights of a similar duration. Sniff sniff.

  11. Great Choice, United! With the Stroopwafel they add some “eating culture” to their offerings. I’m not Dutch, but German, and I find it nice to see a US airline making such a surprising decision.

  12. Thank god the stroopwafles are back!!!! I’ve written this on countless surveys since they were taken away and replaced by the god awful maple cookies.

  13. United: *offers snacks*
    Me flying Chinese airline:*laughs in chicken rice and pork noodles*

  14. I have literally never experienced being asked for a choice on either American when pretzels and biscoff cookies were an option or on United. They always only get all the bags of one and give it to you without a choice

  15. This is so cheap..
    peanuts before taste bad, I called ” wafle cookie” is way too sweet..They should offer better food quality period..and not frozen nasty biscuits…better everything even for Economy flyers.

  16. Flew united from BOS to LAX and shocked they didn’t serve a sandwich or a meal on a 5.5 hour flight. I guess is something considering the BA charges for coffee and water on some of their short haul flights in EU.

  17. Delta offers a choice of 3+ snacks in economy. The choices currently are: Cheezits, almonds, Biscoff cookies, or a Kind bar. They will then rotate out one or more of these items every few months. Delta express flights will usually have 2+ snack choices in economy.

    Delta FA’s have no problems asking pax what they want. However, I do see issues with United FA’s doing this. It’s not part of their job description. I really don’t see UA FA’s excelling at this task.

  18. Can you get as many as you want like on Delta? I love asking for all four and calling it dinner.

  19. @Harry Hv. Hahahaha! True that!!
    I will never ever pay to fly either Delta or United again after they decimated their entire Frequent Flyer programs. I’ll buy my own stroopwaffels, TYVM!

  20. I was on a flight today (July 1st) and saw this change in action. The flight attendant hated it and complained to us passengers before just handing out whatever she grabbed first.

  21. Glad to see the stroopwaffels are back permanently. The maple wafers they tried to replace them with (and still offer) are nasty.

  22. @Aman — “It’s not their fault that they are oblivious that their counterparts in other airlines serve a hot meal on flights of a similar duration.”

    Umm … so which USA airline provides a hot meal on flights of a similar duration (ie, 1.5 hours)? I’ve actually experienced a full meal service long ago on a totally full 1.5-hour long B747-400 Cathay flight, but have never heard of such service on USA airlines for such a short flight duration?

  23. @X — “United: *offers snacks*
    Me flying Chinese airline:*laughs in chicken rice and pork noodles*”

    Are you comparing an Asian international flight to USA domestic flights?

  24. Hey, how about instead of snacks you do something about your ridiculous baggage fees, surly employees, terrible seats and horrible customer service?

  25. Who here wants a meal of limited selection and reheated on a flight of 2 to 3 hours? Who are these people who don’t eat before getting on a plane or simply buying snacks ahead of time? The biggest reason why airlines have dropped food is that honestly no one really wants to pay for it as part of their ticket when everyone just eats before or after.

  26. @BillC Apparently no. Chinese airlines, along with many other Asian carriers, offer hot meals on most domestic and regional flights departing around meal time, as long as the flight time is not too short to serve (say less than 1 hour). The inflight service presented in the US aviation industry is simply pathetic when compared to Asia, no matter which perspective you take.

  27. Wow…another choice of packaged snacks. Yay! I guess in lieu of a real meal, it beats a processed sandwich…?

  28. @MKLDH you’ve said all I need to say. It’s normal that some form of hot food be served for flights over 2 hours, and some can receive complete hot meals for a flight as short as 1.5 hours long i.e. PEK-PVG on certain full-service carriers (other than MU, who chose to serve a “fruit meal”).
    I am fine with no food flying in Europe for its (usually) short time (please don’t tell me London to Larnaca is the average trip in Europe) and low fares, but if you were to sell me plane tickets at legacy American airline’s price and don’t even get 20kgs of free checked luggage that I get in China or bother to serve me anything, that would be really disappointing. Turns out Southwest is a really adorable airline.

  29. @MKLDH and @X — Yes … I do know about Asian airlines, as I had referred in an earlier post to my 1.5-hour long flight from long ago on a fully loaded Cathay B747-400 … those Cathay flight attendants really hauled their buns to get full meal service done for 400+ passengers on that short duration flight! But I would *never* expect *any* USA airline to do similarly on *any* short duration domestic or international flight! I’m guessing that USA’s labor union laws might prohibit such “overwork” by USA’s flight attendants?

  30. While I understand posts of this nature don’t appeal to some, it says more that you clicked thru, read it, and took the time to spew your vile comments. America continues to slide to 3rd world status. If you see the title or even read a few lines, determine it doesn’t resonate with you, stop reading and move on with your pitiful life.

  31. Why don’t regular carriers offer a selection of sandwiches & light meals for a price like European Easyjet or low cost carriers ?
    I flew on Economy between Paris & Vienna with Austrian Airlines last month on a 2 hours flight at lunch time and they did give us those stupid little snacks like Przezels etc but many people including me would have gladly ordered & paid for a salad bowl or a hot dog if they had offered it & some glasses of Austrian wine.
    Companies are complaining they are not making enough money but they don’t make any effort to sell something to 200+”captive clients”and make more money.

  32. They don’t offer buy on board because, surprise, no one buys on board. Lots of companies have tested various methods of selling hot food on board and no one buys it. The logistics of providing consistent hot meals available for sale across multiple airports and catering services is expensive, and again, there doesn’t appear to be enough people who want it to justify having it.

  33. @Sean S. No that is incorrect. It’s people like you that cause the airlines to drop normal services like meals and baggage. But having flown in the USA and seen all thr airport eateries packed to the brim with people, I see that as a result of the crappy inflight service rather than people wanting to eat before a flight. So you can speak for yourself because I (and many many other people) look forward to and enjoy airline food because I take proper airlines (i.e. Asian and Middle East airlines) that serve decent food and drinks and also have great service.

  34. Yes sir, I am the reason why airlines are dropping service, because I prefer to eat before hand and after at restaurants I actually like, versus getting something microwaved for me at 30K feet. I apologize I am unable to take “proper airlines” to the destinations I go to for family or work, considering none of those are the Gulf or SE Asia. And before someone comes at me, I have flown extensively in SE Asia for medical missions and leisure. I guess I should skip going to take the children to see their grandparents so I can take “proper” airlines to places far flung.

  35. Not sure why people have to have HOT food. I’d settle for a decent cold sandwich, perhaps black forest ham on rye.

  36. @Caroline

    Austrian offers food (including hot food) of your choice by Do&Co for most of their short haul flights that you can book on their website.

    Problem with offering fresh food for purchase onboard is storage space and not knowing how much you will sell.

    Also hauling a lot of extra food around burns more fuel and costs more money.

  37. Choice is of course, an improvement. I do like the free snack boxes, etc as 1K as they can help out big time when running late for a flight. One thing 8 do hate? The microwaved roll with cheese and turkey that is served at the end of International flights. The roll gets soggy and is a bit hard…honestly would prefer the sandwich cold as an option!

  38. Why do some of you expect a meal on a 1:30 hours flight? For the person that said that he was not offered a meal choice on United on a flight from bos to lax… I’m sure you did! You just didn’t want to pay for it.

  39. @dennis .. you can actual preorder meals on domestic us carriers. You just have to pay for it once on board. Why would expect free stuff?

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