United has partnered with illy to provide coffee in its worldwide network of airport lounges and eventually all flights. Great concept, great company, but how will it taste? I’m pleased to report that it tastes wonderful.
I was on a dreaded 3hr redeye from Los Angeles to Chicago last Friday and landed at O’Hare at 6am exhausted. I had worked through much of the flight and only managed a 30-minute nap. I noticed in the United Club that illy coffee was available, including in the coffee machines that dispense espresso and cappuccino.
Curious, I dispensed an espresso and noticed immediately a very nice crema at the top of the cup. I took a sip…delicious. I ended up having two.
To understand why this matters, you have to understand how bad United’s coffee was prior to illy. Houston-based Continental had cut a deal with local distributor Fresh Brew (dubbed Fresh Poo by United’s frequent flyers) to supply coffee and that had continued post-merger with United, replacing the Starbucks United had offered for years. This was horrible coffee. Truly horrible.
So not only is the new coffee an improvement (that was a given), it is actually very good and that is a good thing, a small thing United has done to show that it is trying to win customers back. I look forward to illy coffee available onboard United flights starting in June 2016 and hope that United will invest in machines for onboard coffee specialty drinks like cappuccino and espresso.