United Airlines will expand first class meal pre-selection, offer additional choices, and offer more plant-based and healthy food in 2020.
#1 – More Plant-Based + Vegetarian Options
Expect dishes onboard including vegan chili, stuffed grape leaf with dolma infused yogurt, red beet hummus with roasted vegetables, and roasted curry cauliflower with whipped hummus and pomegranate as United plans to offer more plant-based options both on its premium class and economy class buy-on-board menu.
#2 – Pre-Order Meals In Domestic First Class
Speaking to media at its Flight Plan 2020 day last Friday, Toby Enqvist, United’s Chief Customer Officer, outlined not only the new plant-based choices, but plans to expand pre-ordering of meals to all domestic first class flights in 2020.
#3 – Additional Meal Choices
This will include not only the typical two choices found on domestic first class flights, but an expanded menu with additional choices. Beyond special dietary-based meals, staples like buffalo mac & cheese or hamburgers (the two most popular United meals) as well as vegetarian or vegan choices will be offered up to 24 hours prior to flight departure on united.com or the mobile app.
A slide for a Los Angeles to Chicago flight featured four menu choices, including:
- Ginseng chicken bowl
- Seared chicken
- Vegan chili
- Flat-iron steak
United CEO Oscar Munoz later added, “You eventually are going to see an ordering system where you will be able to secure the options that are available on your flight so you get your choice and we get to figure out the inventory better.”
Munoz’s statement is exactly why meal service pre-order is helpful both to consumers and to airlines; it cuts down on waste and provides a helpful metric in gauging customer preference.
United already trialed meal service pre-orders in domestic first class on select departures from Los Angeles and Washington Dulles earlier this year.
No date in 2020 has been announced for the rollout nor do we know exactly how many choices will appear per flight. Nevertheless, that United has both trialed this technology and now publicly promised to expand it is good news.
American Airlines and Alaska Airlines already offer pre-selection of first class meals up to 30 days in advance. Delta has also experimented with pre-reserving meals. United’s move is innovative not in the pre-order technology, which was long overdue, but in its potential to offer a broader a la carte menu to customers onboard. Now it needs to offer this on international flights as well, at least departing from U.S. hubs.