Effective 01/01/14, United Airlines has quietly eliminated free alcoholic beverages on transpacific flights. This comes just days after Delta Air Lines’ recent announcement that it will expand its free beer and wine offerings on all longhaul international routes to cover spirits too.
Over the last four years, United has gone back and forth in offering free alcohol on transpacific and Asia routes, briefly eliminating the perk before the merger only to bring it back months later. Achieving $2bn in cuts from an airline that has already cut so much is a fool’s errand, but alcohol was about the only thing left short of oxygen masks and seatbelts that could be cut.
The sad thing for United is that Delta has taken the opposite course. With healthy vital signs and higher fares, Delta will now expand its free beer and wine to include all alcohol and offer it on most of its longhaul international flights.
United’s joint venture partner ANA must be seething at this news—ANA customers accustomed to free alcohol and decent food will be in for a rude awakening when they fly an ANA-codeshare operated by United that has barely edible food and no free adult beverages.
United’s death by a thousands cuts continues. FAA regs prohibit the concept of BYOB (unless given to the FAs to pour), but it is a sad testament that even the horrid swill behind the curtain is now too expensive for the Friendly Skies.
I trust that this move is temporary in nature–a way to more expeditiously honor CEO Jeff Smisek’s promise to investors that he would achieve $2BN in cuts that will give United more time to understand what it is doing wrong and how it can turn things around.