United Brings Back Tomato Juice (“Let Them Eat Juice”)

Last weekened 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.

There were beverage cutbacks too. That’s generated negative publicity for United. So they’re making an about face on one (and only one) change. Tomato juice.

To get an idea for what the meal cut means, here’s lunch I’m used to getting Austin – Washington Dulles:

But reports are that since the flight is less than four hours, United would now serve this instead:

United says, “we really wanted to simplify the customer dining experience by being more cognizant of meal portion size and timing.”

So they decided not just to ‘simplify’ meals but also beverages, too. They eliminated Sprite Zero and tomato juice as well as Jim Beam, Courvoisier, and Amaretto.

Oddly it’s the tomato juice that has gotten the most broad public attention. Food tastes different on a plane than it does on the ground. Your taste buds are dulled at altitude. That’s why tomato juice is a surprisingly popular drink on planes (not only because tomato juice is an excellent source of vitamin c and vodka).

So while United doesn’t appear to be restoring meals to domestic first class flights, they are quickly reversing course and bringing back tomato juice. A spokesperson shares with 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 removal of tomato juice so we’re bringing it back onboard as part of our complementary beverage offering.

Apparently though they haven’t heard that their customers are hungry. For that United offers the anodyne “We are gathering customer feedback and we will evaluate our menu accordingly.”

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 can’t remember when I flew United last. But I’m flying United the end of this month so was curious about this. Cutbacks in Economy, sounds a little more reasonable. The ticket is cheaper and you’re crammed in like a sardine. But First Class? For the money First Class passengers pay, they should receive a decent meal.

  2. tomato juice is an excellent source of vitamin c and vodka

    … I appreciated the joke dropped into a depressing story: UA trying to look like the good guys.

  3. United Airlines says, “We want our customers to know that we value and appreciate them and that we’re listening.” If you really value and appreciate your first cabin customers, why not restore the lunch you used to serve instead of making your first-class lunch product crappier?

  4. This explanation is like listening to the Trump Administration – 24/7 bullshit even on things that don’t really matter.

    In this case, as Gary hinted at, its about one thing – $. Ill bet 50% of lunchtime and pre-lunch alcohol sales come with tomato juice. United just too dumb to think it through. Sorry some millennial bean counter at UA just lost their promotion.

  5. It figures that United would not even know how to spell the word “complimentary” correctly.

  6. LOL I witnessed juicegate on Weds.

    Pax: Tomato juice plz.
    FA: We only have spicy is that ok?

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