United Airlines promised a refresh to its international longhaul economy class meal service in January and has finally unveiled its plans, set to debut in June 2015. Free beer and wine return not only to transpacific flights, but to all longhaul international flights. Menus will be refreshed and appetizers, albeit modest, will return. Even desserts will improve.
Here’s a look at the new meal service directly from United–
New Multi-Course Meal Service
- The primary complimentary economy meal will begin with a beverage service and snack of cheese and crackers, baked whole-grain bruschetta chips, or Kiri cheese spread and crackers—whichever is offered on the flight
- The main course will include new entrees, refreshed salads, and artisan breads. Here are some examples of our new main course offerings:
- Home-style turkey meatloaf in spicy barbecue sauce, served with sweet-potato mash, mixed vegetables, an artisan ciabatta roll and amaranth mango salad
- Tuscan ravioli with roasted red-pepper sauce, served with a petit artisan ciabatta roll and mixed-grain salad
- Udon noodles with stir-fried vegetables and ginger soya sauce, served with a petit multigrain baguette roll and apple wheatberry salad
- A premium dessert such as gelato, sorbet, ice cream, or mousse will conclude the main meal service
Complimentary Beer and Wine and Expanded Availability of Half Bottles of Premium Wine
- You read that correctly—in all long-haul international markets receiving the multi-course United Economy meal service, we will offer beer and wine at no charge throughout the flight
- Each customer will also receive a complimentary bottle of water
- Half-bottle premium wines and spirits will be available for purchase
Choice Menu Snack Shop Expansion
- We’re introducing a new option to purchase Choice Menu Snack Shop snacks and snackboxes throughout the flight in lieu of a limited complimentary midflight snack offering that was only available on select flights
Complimentary Pre-Arrival Service
- Depending on the market flown, customers may receive a croissant with jam, a warmed sandwich, or a hot meal served with fruit and a roll. Markets that offer complimentary pre-arrival hot meals today will continue to receive them after June 1
- New entrees will also be introduced where we provide a hot pre-arrival meal, such as cinnamon-swirl French toast or a Tuscan skillet with scrambled eggs
All thing considered, these changes are positive.
Positive is certainly a relative term, for economy class meals will still be economy class meals, but United has at least recognized that its economy class meal service is woefully behind what its competitors offer.
I recently flew from Los Angeles to Tokyo on the United 787-8 in economy class and was served the following–
Beverage to start, followed by this meal of “chicken”. There was no choice and no vegetarian/pasta option for those who did not order special meals.
Halfway through the flight a snack was served — processed lunch meat and cheese on processed white bread with potato chips and a chocolate chip cookie. Unfortunately, I was hungry by this time, very hungry actually, and ate the meat and cheese.
Prior to landing, a second hot meal was served. This time there was a choice between “eggs” or “noodles”. The breakfast was identical to the eggs once served in United domestic first class and still served as a pre-arrival western breakfast in United BusinessFirst and GlobalFirst. That makes it easy to cater…
I like this breakfast — unhealthy to be sure, but tasty enough for me to request a second breakfast. The new breakfast options sound appetizing as well.
United will save money by cutting out complimentary mid-flight snacks and offering food for purchase, but I cannot imagine the eliminated cookies/chips/sandwich will offset the cost for the crackers/cheese course, better bread and enhanced dessert.
The green salad is on its way out and I have mixed feelings about that. Green salads, when composed primarily of iceberg lettuce and doused in fatty dressing, do not provide much nutritional value, but at least are always non-offending. The new salads such as “amaranth mango”, “apple wheatberry”, and “mixed-grain” do not exactly sound appetizing.
It is about time that free beer and wine return — I think this had to be a huge embarrassment to United’s codeshare and JV partners that have always offered an open bar to customers. The premium wines are intriguing and may be a welcome change from the horrid wine currently served by United in economy class.
I would be lying if I said I “looked forward” to trying the new meals, but I give credit to United for announcing this upgrade and for finally bring back complimentary beer and wine to longhaul flights.
With wi-fi, streaming VOD, in-seat power, and now enhanced meals, United will position itself to actually offer a better economy class product, from an amenities perspective, than many of its rivals.