For this week’s edition of Matthew’s Meal of the Week I reflect upon the worst meal I have ever been served in business class. With roughly 80% of my flights on United, it is no surprise the worst meal was on United and truly some of the best airline meals I have ever had have also been on United.
It was February 2009. I had not even started law school and had a job in Los Angeles that allowed me to take long weekends. My brother was just starting college. We found a cheap United fare to Mexico City and rather than fly non-stop, we routed via Washington Dulles (as was easy to do back in the day) for no extra cost. That meant we would earn approximately triple the miles. Even better, we were able to book on a Boeing 777-200 from Dulles to Los Angeles and upgrade to business class.
2009 was a dark year for United Airlines. United emerged from bankruptcy in 2006, but was still in a cost-cutting mode during the Great Recession of 2009. Following the flawed logic that it could cut its way to growth, United eliminated hot meals in domestic business class. This change only affected those three-cabin aircrafts that had a first, business, and economy class, but that still impacted many hub to hub routes.
It had been a long day and many hours since lunch, so I was hoping for something appetizing as we boarded the 5.5-hour flight to Los Angeles departing at 5:45p, the prime window for dinner.
The Meal / IAD-LAX UA947 on United
Shortly after takeoff, the following meal tray was plopped down in front of every passenger in business class on a take-it-or-leave-it basis:
It tasted even worse than it looked. The sandwich was ice cold, like it had not just been refrigerated, but frozen. The beef was tough and tasteless. The cheese was like rubber. A side salad was simply a few large leaves of iceberg lettuce with no dressing drizzled in bland couscous. The bread was stale. Even the grapes were not sweet.
I could not eat it. Looking around, no else could either. FAs were embarrassed as they came through the cabin collecting uneaten tray after uneaten tray.
Thank goodness for the warm cookie and cup of coffee served prior to landing–
Thankfully, United came to its senses after a few months and restored full meal service to business class. Here’s what a dinner on the same flight would look like today–
Now that is more like it.
Do you any of you remember the cold meal phase in United domestic business?