The Great Airline Soda Can Debate: How United’s Full Can Generosity Backfires

United Airlines gives coach passengers smaller cups during drink service than Delta Air Lines does. That irks some passengers who see it as cheap cost-cutting in the most petty way possible. I think this gets things wrong.

Not only are United Airlines coach plastic cups downright pretty in blue, United Airlines will generally give you the whole can of soda and Delta usually pours out a cup for you. You’re getting more from United, cup size aside, at least as a default the majority of the time.

We’ve been duped
byu/hellolaurent inunitedairlines

And I’m not sure I even like how United does this, even if it’s investing more in economy passengers. That’s because in coach you just don’t have a lot of room to work with. And it takes up too much space on the tray.

I’ll be using my laptop. I can fit a cup on there but don’t really want to stick both a cup and a can of soda on the tray beside my computer. Besides, I don’t want to drink a full can!

  • I’ll usually ask crew not to leave it, which annoys them because they aren’t collecting trash and they’re trying to get through service.

  • And the only soda where I’d consider finishing a whole can – and honestly even there I’d question myself for doing so – is Dr. Brown’s. Delta cares about New York, they should really stock that…

I’d much prefer being asked “do you want the can, sir?” And I can say no until some airline starts carry Dr. Brown’s.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Delta will always give you the can if you ask. Meanwhile…what’s up with all the nasty comments? Don’t read the post if you don’t like the content. The heading is clear. I think y’all just like being nasty because it’s easily behind an electronic device. Grow up.

  2. Back in 1986, airlines rarely flew close to full. A customer booking a flight on another airline meant another empty seat for the one that didn’t get the booking.

    I used to fly in and out of Dallas weekly. It was in the suit and tie days and Dallas can get quite hot. Asking for more than a small cup of soda didn’t strike me as excessive, especially considering that my company likely paid full fare.

    Delta gave a full can. American did not. One day, I was parched and drank my drink fast. A flight attendant offered me a drink. She realized right after that that she had already served me and acted as if I had robbed the Louvre.

    I stopped flying American and didn’t fly them again until 2022 or so. Whatever number of pennies they saved per can couldn’t have been as expensive as losing just a handful of customers.

    It’s easy for any business to lose a customer for life with bad service. Giving too much of a beverage is not bad service. If the can is in your way, whine about how little room you get these days and how close the seats are.

  3. Just ask the crew for a cup of soda, not the full can. I assure you, you’re not annoying them with your request.

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