The famous story of former American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall eliminating one olive from salads in 1987 in order to save $40,000 per year continues to fascinate business school students even 30 years later. Now United Airlines is also eliminating something small…with big savings expected.
United Airlines Cuts Cocktail Picks To Save $80K
A flight attendant forwarded me a memo that lists a number of small changes coming to United’s onboard service in the days ahead. For example, individual-sized bottled water is returning. Also, the international premium cabin pre-arrival service is improving, though specific changes were not specified.
But something else caught my eye: United will remove the cocktail picks used for lemons and limes onboard, which it notes will result in $80,000 annual savings.
Flight attendants use these to “pick” a lemon or lime wedge from a container and add it to your beverage. The addition of lemon or lime wedges was always available upon request, though some flight attendants would proactively offer them if you ordered a drink like sparkling water. These have all disappeared during the pandemic.
You might ask what is $80,000 to a company that loses millions of dollars per day during the pandemic. It’s not an unreasonable question. But it’s also a sign that little things add up.
I should note that United used to offer United-branded cocktail picks but cut those a few years ago, presumably due to the cost-saving benefit of generic ones:
They also look like this sometimes:
Are these nice to have? Sure. But I’d rather these be cut than lemons or limes (which are hopefully only missing on a temporary basis). I fear, however, that without cocktail picks there will be no further way for lemons and limes to be safely handled and those will go away permanently too.
United Airlines projects it will save $80,000 per year by cutting cocktail picks. It is a reminder that little things add up in big ways when it comes to running a global airline.