Rumors have been swirling over the last few days that United Airlines’ top-tier elite members would receive complimentary food in addition to complimentary alcoholic beverages when flying in economy class. I reached out to United for confirmation on Monday via Twitter and heard nothing back:
Today, though, United made it official with the following announcement:
Beginning today, January 20, 2016, we will be offering Premier 1K and Global Services members 1 complimentary beverage and 1 complimentary Choice Menu food item when seated in United Economy for all UA/UAX flights within North America (all 50-state U.S. flights, Canada, Caribbean, Mexico and Central America).
As many of you noted back in October 2015, we began offering 1 complimentary drink to our Global Services and Premier 1K members seated in Economy, and this is an expansion of that program to recognize and show appreciation for your business. We are communicating these changes to our internal teams now and an email communication with more details will also be sent to eligible members in the coming days. Before ordering, let your flight attendant know that you are a Global Services or Premier 1K member and show your digital MileagePlus membership card, Premier membership card, or boarding pass.
This is another step in the right direction for United and UA’s buy-on-board food is actually pretty good. I had the western scramble on a recent flight and found it to be very excellent:
More important than the quality of the food, this move properly recognizes the loyalty of United’s most frequent flyers and cushions the blow that many top-tier flyers are not getting upgraded any longer thanks to cheap first class fares and paid upgrades.
It is a bit concerning that United encourages 1K and UGS flyers to be proactive rather than promising that United will recognize them without any input. American Airlines (which has a similar policy) has a manifest that clearly indicates whether an elite flyer is eligible for a complimentary drink or snack. Still, that’s a minor annoyance as long as FAs are briefed on this new policy.
United is really taking steps to earn back loyalty squandered in the Smisek era and this small change further shows top-tier elites that United appreciates their business and is trying to earn more.