While passengers won’t notice much difference, United Airlines is suspending catering operations at most line stations in an effort to cut costs and respond to reduced demand and service onboard.
In a note to catering employees (most of whom do not work directly for United Airlines) shared with Live and Let’s Fly, United announced that it will suspend catering operations at most non-hub stations (called “line” stations) starting next week. United cites cost concerns and its new reduced service model:
As demand and revenue have significantly dropped in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and given that in the U.S. we are predominantly flying only beverages and snack boxes, we are temporarily suspending catering from most of our line stations starting April 21.
United has its own catering kitchen called Chelsea, but contracts out catering at many non-hub stations. Its mandate to refrain from cutting jobs before September 30, 2020, as stipulated by the CARES Act, does not apply to contractors.
Effective April 21st, the following stations will continue to cater flights:
- United hubs
- Chicago – ORD
- Denver – DEN
- Houston – IAH
- Los Angeles – LAX
- Newark – EWR
- San Francisco – SFO
- Washington – IAD
- Line stations
- Boston – BOS
- Cleveland – CLE
- Guam – GUM
- Honolulu – HNL
- Orlando – MCO
- Tampa – TPA
That doesn’t mean that flights from other airports will not have snacks or drinks onboard. Rather, it means that flights going to other line stations will be double catered.
Flight attendants have been instructed to ensure that they only use the portion of snacks and drinks provisioned for their flight.
This move just makes sense. With empty flights and service extremely limited (no meals except on premium transcontinental flights in business class plus no buy-on-board food or snack boxes in economy class on any domestic flight), there is simply not a need for catering at line stations during this time.
Sadly, this likely means more job losses for hardworking and under-appreciated catering employees.