Not to beat a dead horse, but my United flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt yesterday demonstrates why economy class meal service likely has little effect on loyalty and negatively impacts revenue.
I generally do not upgrade when flights are so empty that I can guarantee a center section of four seats to myself. Of course that is not actually guaranteed until the aircraft door closes, but when a flight has over 180 unassigned seats just hours before departure, you generally do not have to worry. It’s a great time of year to fly to Frankfurt.
Thankfully, I did end up with a row to myself in EconomyPlus. Shortly after takeoff a perfectly decent lunch was served. The three choices included BBQ chicken with mashed potatoes, cheese tortellini, or Indian vegetarian. I had planned to skip the meal, but due to a medical issue we were delayed about an hour in taking off and I decided to eat, thinking I would not have anything else till the meager breakfast of a croissant with yogurt United provides prior to landing.
The meal was actually tasty–
Two Surprise Meals
Lights were turned down after the meal service and I settled in to work for a few hours prior to stretching across four seats, my “lie-flat bed” for the night. Just before I closed my computer FAs came through the cabin with a mid-flight snack. It used to be ice cream but now ice cream is served during the first meal service. Instead it was a ham and cheese sandwich with M&Ms. Bottled water too.
I was not even hungry and surprised at the mid-flight snack, something that United offers only on West Coast to Europe flights.
After a decent rest, I woke up as the lights were turned up for breakfast. Mentally prepared for a croissant and yogurt, I was shocked when a FA asked me if I wanted French Toast or scrambled eggs. Wait, what? When did United bring back hot breakfasts in economy class on European flights?
The FA beamed and said it had been several months now and credited “Oscar” for making the airline “great” again. I ordered eggs and found the breakfast to be excellent. The eggs and potatoes were warm and fluffy and the Greek Yogurt muffin and fruit were tasty.
I loved the upgraded breakfast. As odd as it sounds, it really made my day and of course it makes me happier than before to fly United Economy to Europe. But this pleasant surprise will not change my purchasing habits. I’m a United customer due to a combo of route network, pricing, and lifetime status that work for me.
As much as I will gladly accept and enjoy the free meal, it will make no impact on my decision to choose United or even recommend United to others. Put another way, United is spending money it does not have to attract customers. Furthermore, I had no idea about this meal enhancement. United should advertise that it will keep you full…because this is still a recent development.
My only complaint about the flight was that the internet system was down for about half of it and worked at a snail’s pace for the other half. Investing in next-generation onboard wi-fi technology would likely pay more dividends (by attracting more business travelers if properly marketed) than a nice breakfast in economy class.
A great unexpected breakfast on United today. But totally unnecessary to win and maintain my loyalty. How about you? Does a hot breakfast make you more likely to fly United from the West Coast to Europe?