United improves domestic meal service

United seems to be improving domestic meal service quite a bit. Here’s their new description of meal services:

United First®
Flights between one and two hours in length (a distance of 220 to 759 miles)

United First passengers are offered a selection of complimentary snacks, which may include potato chips, premium mixed nuts, snack mix, Biscoff® cookies or Ghirardelli® premium chocolates. Warm muffins are offered on flights departing during breakfast hours.

Flights more than two hours (a distance of 760 miles or more)
During breakfast, passengers may select from hot eggs with breakfast potatoes or cold cereal, both are served with fresh fruit and a warm croissant. For lunch enjoy warm mixed nuts and choose a fresh prepared entrée salad with breadsticks or a hot sandwich with potato chips, both are served with soup and a warm chocolate chip cookie. At dinnertime, customers can select from a delicious hot chicken or beef entrée or a pasta entrée. Dinner service begins with warm mixed nuts and is served with a crisp salad, warm bread and a warm chocolate chip cookie. In between lunch and dinner, or later in the evening, a delicious warm panini or flatbread sandwich is served with a crisp salad and Sunchips®. On flights farther than 1,650 miles a light snack will be offered prior to arrival in addition to the primary meal service.

On United Express® flights longer than 760 miles (approximately two hours), United First customers will enjoy complimentary snackboxes featuring high-quality, brand-name products.

United Business®
Complimentary meals are offered to United Business passengers on flights 760 miles or longer (about two hours). During breakfast hours, passengers flying in United Business class on North American flights will be offered a hot breakfast entrée of eggs, turkey sausage and potatoes. At lunchtime, United Business customers are treated to entrée-sized salads. For dinner, a traditional hot entrée, such as steak or chicken breast with appropriate accompaniments, will be offered. On flights farther than 1,650 miles a light snack will be offered prior to arrival in addition to the primary meal service.

First of all, airline food is my vice. I work out and try to eat healthy, but then I’m faced with eight domestic first class segments in a weekend, where I’m left watching the same episode of Two and a Half Men where Charlie gets pissed at Allan because he doesn’t like the bowl he places on the table by their door (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, fly United this month). What’s there to do but eat?

Heck, this past weekend I had the same meal three times. Don’t believe me? Here:

What’s my point? In my ideal world, they’d get rid of domestic premium cabin airline food. I’d certainly be in much better shape. It’s not that it tastes good, people just eat it because they’re bored, it seems. At least that’s the case for me. But at the same time I don’t have the willpower to turn it down. I know, shame on me.

With that rant out of the way, these are some legitimately good changes. Really short domestic flights, even flights like Los Angeles to San Francisco, seem like they’ll have a snack basket in first class during the day, and even a hot muffin in the morning — hopefully not Betty White’s muffin. Compare this to the “premium snack mix” they offered before.

For breakfast flights, they’ll have cereal as the other option, instead of just a fruit plate. I’d say that’s a good change all around, as I’d probably take the cereal from now on. I’d go with the fruit plate, but United’s fruit is moldy half of the time.

For lunch, it seems like soup will always be served in addition to the salad and sandwich, which isn’t always the case now. Lastly, and best of all, it seems like a panini or flatbread served with salad and Sun Chips will replace the dreaded cheese plate. Can’t say how happy I am about this, given the quality of United’s cheese (if you can even call it that). Oh, and it also looks like they’ll start offering the snack basket pre-arrival on flights over 1650 miles.

I’m also being told that United will be replacing the cups and saucers in first class with mugs, and that the “picnic boxes” (pictured above) currently found on many ex-Ted routes will be disappearing. All positive news!

(Tip of the hat to Matthew)

Filed Under: United
  1. They still need to work on the quality of the food. I’m hoping that if the merger happens, CO will take the lead on premium cabin menu planning, as the taste and quality of what’s served is usually much better than UA’s offering. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad to see UA improving. But standardizing the offerings and still handing out the same old garbage isn’t improving to the level that’s really needed.

  2. I just hope Delta follows. The basket o’ crap on a 5 hour flight is totally unacceptable.

  3. @ Steven – Honestly, most of what was described sounds just like CO’s food service. Perhaps this is one of the integration points.

  4. @Steve – It’s not quite the same as CO. For example, CO has yogurt (not served in a disposable plastic container) with either the egg option or the cereal option. The egg dishes on CO are much more substantial than even p.s. and include 2 kinds of meat in much larger quantity. On redeyes, CO serves soup with the hot sandwich. CO has a better sundae than UA as well. CO does not, however have hot nuts or pre-arrival snacks… At dinner CO, does a much better job at offering something other than just “chicken or pasta”

  5. I just hope the combined airline will stop CO’s practice of not offering anything “first class” as a snack on non-mealtime flights between EWR and Florida. I’ve been in First several times between EWR and TPA, MCO, and (back in the day) SRQ in the last few years, and outside mealtimes we got…the same peanuts or snack mix as Coach, just two bags instead of one. Sad, really.

  6. How about long flights that “fall between lunch and dinner” or that are after dinner time? TPA-IAD 1:40 PM and IAD-TPA 10:05 PM! Over 800 miles but no meals, will this change?

  7. Meal 3 is hardly the same as meals 1 & 2! You had different serving platters and a chocolate chip cookie!

    Speaking of that cookie, it really annoys me when they bring out a warm cookie at the same time as my meal, out of laziness. How can I enjoy a warm dessert cookie when I have yet to start the salad? Let me eat my meal. Then get off your lazy ass and give me my cookie. I’d say it only happens 1 out of 10 flights or so, but I have found many first class flight attendants reading books, playing solitaire on their netbooks, or gossiping with another FA when all the passengers in first class have empty drinks. Bleh.

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