United Bringing Food Back to First Class on 3 Hour Domestic Flights

Two weeks ago I wrote that United had confirmed cutbacks to meals in domestic first class on flights under four hours outside of departures between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Instead of hot meals, lunch flights were getting this:

They also killed Sprite Zero, tomato juice, Jim Beam, Courvoisier and Amaretto. I suggest that when United CEO Oscar Munoz talks about the “new Spirit of United” he’s actually referring to the ultra low cost carrier headquartered in Miramar, Florida.

However a week ago they brought back tomato juice. Apparently they thought that would be enough to keep customers happy. Feeding passengers a cold wrap on a three and a half hour flight in first class, however, was unacceptable.

And now United is doing an about face on first class meal service too, which will be restored effective June 1.

A United spokesperson tells me,

We want our customers to know that we value and appreciate them and that we’re listening. Our customers told us that they were not happy about the menu modifications so we made the decision to reverse the changes and return our meal service to our previous offerings.

United made meal service cuts in September and in February. So this change just rolls them back to February standards. There is a limit, it seems, to how far United can cut.

(HT: Live and Let’s Fly)

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. Can they put Scott Kirby next on the chopping block? It’s obvious that he is not good for the airline and its customers. He is such a cancer on United.

  2. Food in first class really should only be an expectation on 3.5-4+ hour flights or longer. Otherwise a snack (like a cold wrap) should hold over an adult. Feeding and watering yourself is a core part of being an self sufficient adult, and outside of international first class (and even then rarely), food onboard is never actually better than food available in the terminal for $10-15.

    And don’t give me the road warrior BS about how when you’re flying 2x/week you can’t possibly manage to also feed and water yourself.

  3. Are they bringing back all of the drinks that were cut or just tomato juice ?

  4. Scott Kirby has damaged United badly. American is still hurting. As soon as he’s done destroying he Customer perception of United , he will be at Delta. Trifecta

  5. Glad to hear as it affects one of my regular routes. But I’m SO tired of the offerings in 1st. I’ve come to realize that I eat appropriately 2 bites of the entree (hot or cold) and miss CO’s soup SO much. I wish they’d stop with the fancy sounding meals that taste like sand. The wraps are not good and I can’t eat the Mac and Cheese bc it has lobster in it. Not that it looks like real lobster.

    I have to fly an ERJ from IAH to DTW or EWR. Most of the time I get that basket with tiny snacks. Then I feel like a glutton for taking the chips AND something sweet. The FA’s give me that look like I’m to take one thing and be grateful. Meanwhile I’m often on the last leg of my trip after a 3 hour layover.

    Food, no matter how often they serve it, is not UA’s strength. I DO love the Polaris food because of the choices and the obvious preparation put into it. That said, I almost always order the pasta on long hauls.

    I AM happy to hear some good news. It’d make my day if they brought back the CO breakfast potatoes!

  6. @Jen I have to agree that food is almost never UA’s strength in First or even Polaris. When I flew back from TPE, the food was awful and I was so sick from both the lounge catering and plane food that it made my first Polaris flight miserable until the last few hours.

    I’ve had exactly ONE good meal in UA first/business – the french toast “casserole” they’ve served on and off again for the breakfast service. Even though it’s probably the worst airline meal possible (from a nutritional standpoint), it’s one of my favourite meals on an aeroplane. Much better than the bland and flavourless oatmeal AA serves on am flights.

    Although this would definitely be way out of line with UA’s cost-cutting measures, I’d rather they just give me a voucher to use in the airport before my longer flights in F and have a snack (or snack basket) on board. Far too often with UA, I’m stuck with Meat Option #1 and Meat Option #2 with absolutely no vegetarian options on board, and end up eating the bread and dessert and maybe a few bites of the salad.

  7. Just as I said a little over a week ago, this was just too deep a cut and they are backtracking as I expected.

  8. @Justin We are not running a food stamp program for corporate travelers. It’s about running an airline properly to international standards.

    If United wants to transform to Spirit they can go right ahead. They are just testing the limits of their corporate travelers right now.

    Even European airlines can serve proper meals for flights under an hour.

  9. Thank you United. At least they see the value in listening. They realize today’s consumers have options and we can use them.

  10. Uh we realize customers may have a choice in airlines so as per usual we
    decided we probably had a bad idea that would alienate even more customers than we already do

  11. Does that sound eerily similar to what happened at AA with meals?

    There is one clear denominator – Scott Kirby. He has nearly the same management philosophy as Jeff Smisek with the only difference being Scott believes in expanding into profitability while Jeff believes in shrinking into profitability.

  12. We want our customers to know that we value and appreciate them. But we don’t want to spend any money valuing or appreciating them, so it’s confusing.

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