United Airlines Will Start Offering Free Food On More Coach Flights Starting March 1

United has been testing giving out amenity kits in coach on Chicago – Honolulu and Chicago – Tokyo flights.

They’ve also been testing giving out complimentary sandwiches in coach on the Chicago O’Hare – Honolulu flight, and the inimitable Brian Sumers reports that:

  1. Customers like it
  2. United is expanding the test to other long flights to and from Honolulu

For now West Coach – Honolulu (and other Hawaiian islands) don’t see complimentary sandwiches – it’s their longest Hawaii flights only.

Previously neither Houston – Honolulu nor Honoulu – Guam received complimentary food in back. A passenger flying Houston – Guam via Honolulu (the flight schedule offers just a 45 minute connection in Honolulu) would travel over 17 hours without a complimentary meal. There’s ‘buy on board’ of course but no guarantee there’ll be anything left by the time a flight attendant reaches a passenger’s row.

This is a test which could expand to other long routes that don’t see meal service today. A cold sandwich is a far cry from the days when United was installing special galley carts to keep hamburger patties warm while the fixins’ were kept chilled, and a long way from when celebrity chef Sheila Lukins was designing meals for United economy. Still, it’s an improvement for most passengers from what they get today.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. I believe this is in response to HA offering free food in coach. All flights on HA offer free sandwiches in economy (of course minus the inter-island ones). Now that UA has adapted to HA, I expect AA and DL to follow.

  2. @Gavin: AA and DL already serve complimentary meals on their longest Hawaii flights, so it’s more like UA responding to AA and DL.

  3. Wow, I’m surprised penny pinching Kirby thinks Y passengers are worth the 50 cents it costs to provide them this cafeteria grade meal. Even Dougie isn’t as stingy!

  4. A small sandwich works. Around 2005, Continental Airlines was either the last or one of the last airlines that served a sandwich for free in economy class. When flying from a small city to the west coast via a hub, I often (not 100%) chose CO instead of DL, AA, US, UA, or NW.

  5. Has anybody recently flown on the Honolulu – Guam flight on United? I am flying it in April, but understand the the 777-200 that is used on this flight does not have seat back entertainment screen. I hope this is not true. I am glad to see that the economy service is being upgraded.

  6. How did this slip by Kirby? Now that it’s public, expect the Spreadsheet King to slash it pronto.

  7. UA is only just doing this? ORD-HNL has to be longer than DFW-HNL, and AA has been offering wraps (crap ones but still offered) in coach for years.

  8. @Econflyer, it is true. Non of United’s high density 777-200 (which are the planes they use on all their HNL routes except EWR/HNL) have the seat back screens. Instead they offer free movies and TV shows on the United app.

  9. I actually flew that GUM-HNL-IAH combo 5 yrs ago in Y. It was indeed 17 hrs or so without meals. Always thought that was bad customer service.
    Also, since I didn’t have the app on my phone, no ife.

  10. Thank you Wayne for the reply. Final question: does each seat have an outlet charger? Or, is it simply a basic airline seat with no frills whatsoever. HNL – GUM, being a nearly 8 hour flight, is a long time for laptops and iPads on batteries.

  11. UA playing catch up again. The hangover from Kirby is finally clearing up at AA, but UA is still sleeping it off.

  12. Gary, headline is a bit misleading and PR-ish, you should just say “more Hawaii flights”. Makes it seem like United is actually taking a leadership position in the Lower 48, where the vast majority of its domestic flights are, when it’s clearly more limited.

  13. @econflyer

    Every seat on the 77M/G has universal power outlets as well as a device holder so you don’t have to hold your phone for 8+ hours to watch a movie.

    On the United app you go to your flight status then amenities and it will show all that is available on your flight

  14. No doubt a response to AA challenging them out of ORD. Would still rather be on an AA 788 from ORD or 772 from DFW than on that garbage 772 that UA flies to Hawaii.

  15. Thank you UAFLY for the reply. That makes me feel a little bit better. I hope United takes their idle high end 777’s from their cancelled Asia routes, and replaces this flight with a higher end aircraft that has better amenities.

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