United Airlines has opened a new test kitchen near its Chicago headquarters and is rumored to be rolling out catering improvements this spring. Based upon the sad state of dining affairs in United Polaris Business Class, this cannot come fast enough.
Current State Of Meal Service In United Polaris Business Class Cries Out For Upgrade
We’ve seen article after article on United’s catering this week, all written around this tweet by Zach Griff:
I keep hearing that @United is working to improve its inflight catering, with plans to make an announcement this spring.
And it appears that improvements are finally in the works. The carrier recently opened a new test kitchen near its Chicago HQ to experiment with new meals. pic.twitter.com/pE2mxf4pNk
— Zach Griff (@_ZachGriff) January 23, 2023
Frankly, most of the articles were 300+ words of nothing and I will not do the same here. United is incredibly tight-lipped about any potential catering changes, so the bottom line is that we are going to have to wait and see what spring brings.
But let me bring to your attention what United is serving this month in Polaris Business Class on breakfast flights out of Europe, for I think it nicely sums up the current problem:
Yes, this is what a last-minute $8K ticket from London to New York will get you. An industrial bread roll with a morsel of scrambled eggs, a bowl of sugary yogurt, and a croissant that looks like a bus ran over it.
Oh but don’t worry, a hamburger is served prior to arrival and you can have ice cream with breakfast…
Who thought this was acceptable on a transatlantic business class flight? It boggles my mind. And yet this is just one example.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: if United wants to be the best airline in the world, it must invest more in its meal service. The slop I pictured above is absolutely unacceptable on a ticket that costs thousands of dollars.
United loyalists may reason that people do not care because planes are filling up anyway, but that’s a specious and weak argument, especially if economic headwinds and a fundamental change in business travel continue to weaken premium cabin yields.
If United is serious about improving its food, we need to see, at a minimum, these three things:
- The ability to pre-reserve meals on every single flight (American and Delta figured this out years ago)
- Fresher options like leafy green salads with a selection of dressings and bowls of fruit not covered in syrup
- The return of the bread basket and appetizers
The “supply chain” blame is woefully unpersuasive considering it has been years now and other carriers do not seem to have similar problems. Indeed, the problem is the budget.
United is doing so many great things with its United Next initiative and its overall improvement in service, reliability, and technology onboard. Now it must make an investment in meal service and must do so now. Any C-Level leader at United should be embarrassed by the current state of affairs when it comes to meal service in United Polaris. It’s time to fix it.
images: st3 / Flyertalk
And this is why I didn’t bother doing Polaris on my vacation (and a rarity for me, points-paid) to Ireland in May. I’d rather fly cattle class on a B757 and grab a hamburger during the flight and pile up on cheese cubes and charcuterie at the United Club than subject myself to this kind of mess and pay ludicrous amounts for it. However, if they don’t do a mushroom duxelle between the burger and pastry on that hamburger wellington, I’d be tempted. I don’t like mushrooms.
Not to mention the “sweet and savory snacks” during the flight are crap in a basket you would buy in bulk from Costco. I don’t need a gourmet meal on the flight. I’ll go to the restaurant for that. But for God’s sake have a little pride and show some creativity. Remember the grilled cheese and tomato soup mid-flight snack? Serve something that reflects the value customers pay for the seat, or experience as they call it.
Why anyone flys a US based airline internationally leaves me confused. Why?
On a United 1st Class flight from DEN to SAN last November 30th; I was booked on a factory-new 737/900 that had been in service for less than a month, Apparently United thought they could save a few cents by not having screens installed in the seat backs. We were expected to purchase Wi-Fi service and use our own equipment. Unacceptable!?
You’re right on target; maybe, they need to contract with catering co. that serves Singapore Airlines; on a recent long haul flight, breakfast included the smallest croissant I have ever seen (& wasn’t heated).
People in prison eat better than those in Polaris. It’s part of why I shifted a lot of my flying to Delta and did not requalify for Global Services this year after being GS for many years. UA thinks that the meals don’t matter and it’s embarrassing that the flight attendants even need to serve this slop. Other airlines can do it, but UA chooses not to care. Polaris lounges have also slipped in quality and the buffets continue to deteriorate. Certain Delta Sky Clubs (like LGA, ORD, and LAX) are almost as nicely decorated and are on a par foodwise. United will put some lipstick on this pig but will still serve odd crap like bowls of cauliflower and raisins, cheap cuts of meat, and snack baskets that are filled with garbage that you would find in a gas station.
All true… they’ve lost a lot of my business and I won’t be back in 2023. The Delta experience out it LAX is just significantly better!
It’s not UA as a whole that chooses not to care. It’s Kirby and his board of directors. They want to cut costs wherever they can so they can stuff more into their own pockets. Kirby truly doesn’t care about how embarrassing the meals are, so long as it doesn’t affect him. There’s no incentive to change a product that people continue to buy into.
Isn’t that a good representation of “American” food? I mean each carrier tries to represent their country’s appreciation for food so I think United is doing just fine 🙂
Not representative of the American food that I ever eat. What a poor statement about an entire country’s cuisine. We have a vast array of restaurants in most locations otherwise like everywhere, most meals are made at home.
Such a stereotype statement or just bad humor.
Well that could only be true if you came to America on a shoestring budget staying in hostels and eating at McDonald’s. Tourists with real jobs and a real salary, unlike what your comment implies, wouldn’t think that.
Nonsense. You can get a much better breakfast at Denny’s or IHOP or Waffle House and these restaurants cater to working class Americans. America may not be the land of haute cuisine like France, but we do know how to do a decent breakfast.
“United Airlines has the best in-flight catering in the world.” -Scott Kirby, probably.
Wasn’t there a recent statement from Scott Kirby stating that United had achieved “nirvana”.
Apparently he hasn’t experienced the pain of Polaris meal service…..
This is a choice made by UA, and one of the reasons I am dropping from 1K to Plat (I still do a lot of domestic F on UA, because, as their management often says, the route network is what they really sell). Every other airline I flew international business class last year – BA, AF, KLM, Brussels, LH and Austrian – was so much better than UA for the entire soft product that they are simply not in the same league. But I suppose UA is still filling up their planes, and at very high prices, so they do not really care.
Incidentally, anything I read that says UA is working on this, I don’t take seriously. How long did it take for UA to roll out Polaris after that started advertising it? Several years? UA marketing simply has no credibility.
UA announced they had net income of $382 million in the last quarter, so they under budgeted their food catering in business class on long haul flit.s.
My expectations for food catered on a flight out of London wouldn’t be very high, but I’d certainly expect better than an egg sandwich on a supermarket burger bun. Yikes. Is the “crepe” just filling wrapped in a taco shell?
I had this meal ex-LHR a couple weeks ago. As bad as it looked.
The crepe is actually very nicely done. The shell is soft and fluffy. The contents are much better than a regular US crepe would have. I know because I’ve eaten one myself.
Thank you for highlighting this and keeping the pressure on United management to improve. It’s sad that United has such little respect for its most important customers. UA could be the best… if only management had the will.
United knows they have a super sticky base, but if they want to win in LA and take more of NYC metro, this has to improve. I think they know it too.
My dinner last night in Fauxlarus consisted of a chicken and white rice entree combined with… a white rice salad, and a frozen cold hunk of bread. Pretty much sums it up.
I also had the rice salad with the spicy tofu entree flying HNL to SFO. It was honestly confusing. (The “salad” was also pretty gross — mayonnaise and ham?) I don’t need carbs with my carbs. Give me a nice mixed green salad with some tomatoes, snap peas, cucumbers etc.
I, too, had the infamous Polaris rubber chicken on rice accompanied by rice salad. Who is planning these menus??? I have been in hospitality (catering) for 30+ years. While I can appreciate the logistical difficulties of catering on a massive scale, It is NOT DIFFICULT to put a simple but good menu together with the resources they already have available. They are just not choosing to do it.
It’s a bit confusing about the new test kitchen. Doesn’t Gate Gourmet cater for United and also Air France? It would seem logical to consult with the the catering service to improve or expand the menu. After inspecting the egg sandwich meal it appears price may be the core issue with the current selection. Surely they need to up their game to justify a higher level of service
Gate gourmet is the problem! United outsourced their menu design to them. The concepts are all from Gate Gourmet. Studio Ellen is run by Gate gourmet. Until United decides to take control again and get out of the bad deal, unfortunately this is what you’ll see. Gate is a joke! The emperor has no clothes.
When I worked for Gate back in the early 2000’s, I learned they have many levels of catering every airline can purchase.
Obviously Air France buys one of the top, UAL the bottom… the poor catering definitely isn’t GG’s fault, it’s United’s… probably because the executives will get big bonus checks for every $$$ they save on food costs.
Each airline determines its menu AND food preparation AND food quality. No airline prepares food in-house. Don’t blame Gate Gourmet for what is being served.
Your meal is embarrassing. Having paid $8,000 for your seat they serve you something that looked worse than a really awful fast food restaurant threw together. Obviously no one put any thought or effort into what they served on that flight. This is nothing particularly new as we’ve experienced or read about this before, seen photos etc…Someone in the home office is surely dreaming.
They should serve this shit at Kirby’s next board meeting. Maybe that would get their attention.
I have not found it difficult to fly airlines other than United. Both their catering and all those awful frequent flyer program changes pushed me over the edge. Anybody spending $8000 or even half that on a United flight is not making a good purchasing decision.
I too flew IST-IAD last month in TK J. The food wasn’t that impressive (though of course better than UA). The selection was amazing, but the quality wasn’t particularly good. The UA seat is far better (this was tk 777, haven’t flown on the 787)
It’s funny too: I shared a photo of the economy class food on FRA-SFO (quite tasty I might add!) and other 1Ks commented that it looked better than the food up front!
It’s actually true – I flew SFO-FRA in coach and found the main course on par with Polaris and the pre-arrival breakfast better. Sad.
Lol, this test kitchen is nothing but a marketing move and likely what got them into this mess. You don’t need a celebrity type chef to create meal ‘experiences’ in flight. Seriously, learn how to deliver quality meal staples.
Or very simply, just up the budget and hire Do & Co.
But Do & Co would charge UA more than the $1.99 that’s allotted to each Polaris meal cost.
Yep, that’s the problem.
Which gets to the point. What would it cost for a modest upgrade to food in Polaris or economy? $10 – $20 for Polaris….$5 – $10 for economy? I have no idea. Are the margins that tight that they can’t allocate a few more dollars for something a bit more respectable?
I run a small company and will not pay for business for myself or other employees on United international due to how terrible the soft product is. Employees are allowed to fly on American (slightly better) or Lufthansa/ANA/British Airways, etc, but I can’t justify $10K that essentially comes out of my pocket at the end of the day for seared beef short rib on every flight. I meet regularly around the US with other small business owners too and United comes up. Domestically, they’re fine or meh, but to expect us to pay $8K + for a terrible meal and hit-or-miss service is a joke. I would love to fly on them more internationally and in fact, if they upped their game and I did, I’d definitely be global services, however, most of my flying with them is domestic and I use pluspoints for international upgrades. I won’t pay for business any longer. I would be in favor if United hired Do&CO and I’d definitely return to flying them more reguarly.
A “small business owner” who makes travel decisions based on onboard food and not schedule or fare?
You do when you pay for everything. Why wouldn’t you? If I’m forking out $8-$15K of money that eventually hits my bottom line, why would I not consider such a thing? It’s practical and small business owners want to get the most out of their cash. I’m talking $40-50mm in sales so a. small business owner. We’re not a large firm that can look the other way ant any and all costs. I look at everything, probably too much, and my employees pay the price for it in multiple instances. That said we’re profitable so I’ll continue what I’m doing and you can continue whatever you’re doing. No harm in that!
What do you mean the soft product? I find the bedding to be quite good. Yes, the food is trash. If you want to pick a different airline that flies the same route, fine. But there’s no way I’d fly a connection (particularly ex-US) instead when I could just eat in the Polaris lounge pre-flight and get onboard and sleep.
I agree with this. Fortunately we’re based where there’s multiple options on most places we travel for work. That’s my point, I can’t justify spending $10K on polaris and I can pay the same thing on British Airways (even though I’m 1K on United) and get 5x the experience as I seek a return on investment. I love the Polaris lounge and use that when I use plus points on United or fly on Star typically if we have enough time before the flight.
So you’ll pay a higher fare for better airline food?
Celebrity chefs have not been impressive with airline meals. Michelle Bernstein’s meals in Delta One were all awful, imho.
I never flew United international and never plan to but I had to fly United domestic the other day on a less than 2 hours flight. I fly the MSP-DEN route all the time with Delta but since I had a United connection I decided to do all United. I am usually upgraded to fist class on Delta and although there is no meal served on a less than 2 hours flight, Delta has a decent basket of healthy and unhealthy snacks and fruits that they pass several times during the flight on first class. I usually avoid those but sometimes when you are in a hurry and was not able to get a decent meal it saves the day. Well, on my United flight I was upgraded to first class. On the less than 2 hours flight absolutely nothing to eat was served. NOTHING!!!!! Not even a cookie. What is wrong with United? They have a CEO that loves to brag about things that are only dreams that will never become reality. What a clown!!!!
BTW, looking at your food pictures above, it confirms that Delta is way above United when it comes to international business class. You get a list of a selection of entrees to chose before your flight and they are very very good. Their short rib has been discussed in several blogs and it is top notch. Delta at least tries. United just dreams.
DEN-MSP is just under the meal cutoff, but you should have been offered a choice of cookies or pretzels (still pathetic, but less pathetic than being saved nothing at all).
I was not expecting a meal at all as I know the under 2 hours flight don’t have one but been offered nothing was my problem (not that I was hungry but it called my attention). Delta does a very good job with their snacks basket. I work with food brands and know many that are innovating to bring better quality snacks, whole grains, no sugar, no artificial colors, etc… Delta has several of these up and coming brands that are very premium. They also have apples, bananas, pistachios on that basket and you can grab as many as you want and they are replenished by the FAs. They even talk about some of the products like “you should try this one, it is delicious!!”United serving nothing was just a reality check for me. How Kirby believes they will be the beast airline in the world? Only in his dreams.
I flew MUC-IAD in December. Upgraded to Polaris using miles and money. The service was comparable to that in economy and the food was, well, not very good. In contrast, I flew Turkish Air IST-IAD in November and the service was outstanding and the food very good.
Flew on Polaris from SFO to PPT and found the food ‘normal.’ Outbound was dimner choice of short rib, salmon, or vegetarian chili. Salmon was good and it was my second choice option (I wanted the chili). I do miss the sundae cart because it I like the warm caramel and fudge sauces. The return was an option of breakfast panini or fruit. I didn’t care about food because I was still sleeping. I did like that they let me have two desserts, the tarts were good. Snacks were nice, I enjoy cheez its or regular potato chips. For the healthier folks, there cheese and fruit plates.
I do think the clubs do offer a good selection and I tend to eat there and be too full for the actual plane meals.
It wasn’t exactly prepandemic levels but I was satisfied and better than durimg the pandemic.
The Wellington Burger is actually quite delicious, but certainly not as posh as you would expect on Business Class.
The pre landing J burger? Are you kidding? Apparently you never grew up with 7-11 microwave burgers because, umm, that’s what it is. It’s a processed Sysco wet dream. Sugary buns that make McDonalds buns look wholesome. Meat that is a mystery. Processed cheese. And then my favorite until a few weeks ago, served alongside a processed packaged muffin. At least they recently changed to a packaged processed brownie, lol.
Honestly, I can’t even imagine what burger you are speaking of.
Some flights get the Wellington and some yet whatever trash gate gourmet can dream up from the bowels of their freezer.
Gate Gourmet does not determine the menus. They have zero control. They simply cater whatever the airline has ordered.
and they follow the airline’s cooking and packaging instructions.
Had it yesterday on FRA-SFO. It was better than I thought it would be. I don’t get why they serve it with the mustard and ketchup packets because there’s no practical way to use them.
It was definitely better than the Coppa dish, which was dry pork in a bad barbeque sauce. Not to mention the salad that looked like it had no dressing until I asked the FA who said it was on the bottom? Anyway, not great.
The dressing is on the bottom to keep the greens from getting soggy and/or wilting. A better solution would be to provide individual dressing pods, but that costs more. A poor choice by the airline…. Years ago, F/C salads had a choice of dressings and were dressed by the crew just prior to serving.
Being a USAir cabin crew before
Scott Kirby is the cheapest person everyone know him, anything we asked for improvement, a simply NO be expected from him
Shockingly he keep brewing Illy
American and United continue the rush to the bottom. Doug Parker destroyed American Airlines and it looks as if Scott Kirby is aiming to do the same at United. It’s a shame to see two great airlines in decline. Of course I’m shedding crocodile tears for everyone who sits in business class. Try the back sometime.
Meals aside, how is Scott Kirby destroying United?
There is the Polaris Test to consider when delineating the differences between UA and AA. If Polaris the Dog won’t eat it, United won’t serve it, but American will.
In fairness, I’ve found the food on AA (with the exception of the turkey pastrami sandwich) to be much better than anything UA serves.
While I concede it IS a prettly-crappy breakfast, to be fair —- that is a moist BRIOCHE roll 😉
Looks more WonderBread than brioche to me! 😉
I’m retired from United for awhile now and worked for them 35 years. I remember when Flight kitchens had chefs that would sometimes ride on the flights and serve meals literally soup to nuts + desert (multiple choices) – standing rib roast, gravies and dressing etc !, no one in today’s world would believe it. Now the airlines have dumbed it down to this… Let’s see what I can expect next week when I fly to Europe. Ugh.
Don’t Turkish Airlines have ‘flying chefs’ these days? They certainly used to before the pandemic.
Yes, when I flew them in 2017 they did, not sure if that has changed.
I flew Turkish last spring from IST – SFO on their 787 and they had a chef onboard, it was a nice service with plenty of selection.
I’m old enough to remember Delta flight attendants carving roasts in the aisles of F/C on coast-to-coast flights. Of course, coach received a choice of 3 entrees (beef, chix, fish) and had a “fruit and cheese” offering 1:30 prior to landing. Deregulation changed quite a bit.
I have had some good meals in Polaris. I did though find the food offerings on the ORD – DEL trip very much lacking, particularly on US bound. Perhaps the food was brought from the US and so there are challenges with weight on such a long return trip? Anyway. Poor selection on both first and second meal and hungry for most of a 15 hour trip.
Dead nuts on about budget being the problem. Having flown a fair bit of transcon, some TPAC, and some TPAC in j, catering from sfo is the worst, by far. Even worse than from ewr. And I suspect it’s because a dollar gets you the least amount of catering from sfo. Has been an issue predating covid. Flying partners from sfo, eg sq, br…no such issues with catering. Fwiw same is true in pe and y re budget.
Sadly I just got my first bagged bread on vs in pe…sniffles. bread shouldn’t ever be rock hard , cold, and in plastic. Ever.
SFO catering used to be my favorite, but I agree it has really gone downhill.
United food for the last 15 years has always been lackluster. They simply do not care. My flight choice on first/business class is whatever costs the least. If you are going to be neglected does it matter what airline you choose? Airlines have zero loyalty to their best customers so it doesn’t really matter anymore if your are paying full price, go with least expensive option.
Fully concur with negative comments about United Polaris. Travel twice a year to Australia to visit family and always travel business class, Polaris. Round trip full fare flights for two exceeding $15K. Quality of food, service and care by all United staff has seriously deteriorated over last three years. Food is horrible, most flight attendants simply want to get through the meal service as quickly as possible so they can take their “rest break” on the trans-Pacific flights and get you off the plane as quickly as possible. On return flight from LAX to IAD, flight attendant spilled hot coffee on my lap 30 minutes into flight and was barely apologetic. No concern by Captain or other flight crew and an award of 2,500 points. United employees who actually care about their job should be embarrassed and demand a change in culture that should start at the CEO & C -Suite. I’m done with United after 40 years of loyalty, many as GS status.
Tried preordering on the domestic portion of a flight to Europe. Don’t bother – they didn’t have it as there were ‘technical problems’ at the caterer. Fairly sure this will be the same for transatlantic after roll out.
I flew UA EWR to OGG in December. Breakfast offerings were French Toast and an un-appealing egg dish. The amount of food was satisfactory and the sides were what one would expect with breakfast. However, the French Toast was like deep fried Wonder Bread and came with a soggy croissant on the side. Too many carbs.
Pre-arrival snack consisted of a hamburger on a brioche bun that had been in the oven since we left , along with 3 sweet potato fries. The bun was so hard and dry, it actually make a crunching sound when I cut it.
Flying back January 30 and was sent an email offering me a choice of entrées. A tofu affair and katsu chicken (read breaded chicken breast) with broccolini. The same offering as when I did this route back in April.
I understand that Hawaii routes are not money makers, but this was the heavily touted Polaris class.
There is much room for improvement.
The cheese whiz on the soggy “fruita” this morning was a bit hard to take, ORD-DEN. The potatoes were all right though. At least I got to try the new Club in ORD which had a decent selection of breakfast items including bacon and eggs.
As someone who is gluten free I have been very disappointed by the stupidity of meal planning behind United’s menu. Everything is served on pasta when there are easy options to serve rice for at least one of the meals.
Have Polaris IAH to SYD coming up and was told gluten free wasn’t an option on the flight. It’s 17.5 hours in “business class.”!
UA must have lost the vendors who supplied and provisioned the Polaris meals prior to the pandemic if it’s taking them this long to get back up and running. Pre pandemic even though the Polaris service was severely reduced, it was still adequate; very strange, frustrating, and disappointing. Fares to and from GUM have been at its highest ever and I’m not sure if it’s due to the military build up full steam ahead, or the pent of demand of travelers from GUM wanting to leave, or a mix of both. I can only root for UA because it’s the only game in town here in GUM with seamless flights and connections to Hawaii and the CONUS and onward. That one lady director stated she gets it with the lack of adequate food, so she rolls out the ice cream sundae cart in the interim which is steps in the right direction for now. But I hope UA returns the meal services soon. And even returns some of the nice entree options they had to and from HNL pre pandemic. I also hope that UA improves the morning breakfast options on flights out of GUM because catering has been the same since the CO days, which was over a decade ago.
What is the surprise here? MBA’s have taken over American-based airlines (and other companies) and these MBA’s are trained in the MBA schools like dogs to do one thing– enrich the stockholders! Period.
Delivering a quality product or taking care of the employees is nowhere in their mindset. American companies build crap, period. Their customer service is crap, period. Usually outsourced to a 3rd world country. Why would United Airlines be any different???
Supply chain, huh? Why is it that whenever the self-proclaimed Best Airline In The World has a problem it’s somebody else’s fault? Every single time. Part of even pretending that you’re in the same league as the best means owning mistakes rather than puerile finger pointing.
I agree . United airlines food has disastrous moments . All a side , did you eat the meal though ?
This wasn’t my flight, but I probably would have tried it at least.
I’m so glad you wrote this post. I was thinking the exact same thing on our recent Polaris flights between houston and London. What happened to the little carts with different breads to choose from? And why is everything in a multi-course meal served all at once? That was the executive option pre-Covid, but now we’re all stuck with it. A tiny bit of ceremony would go a long way. We’re going to try out another airline on an upcoming trip to Paris, which is inconvenient because we live in the United hub, but I really don’t care about elite status anymore. We fly business when we fly United, so we get the perks. Plus, they’re minimal anyway. What’s the point of being loyal to a subpar product? A flight in Polaris would be very easy to spruce up, but it’s going to take more than a test kitchen. It’s going to take a new commitment to service.
It’s become so bad in J with UA catering that you have to almost wonder, are they laughing at us? Do they actually think this is what people eat? Want? Crave? What genius is behind this? It’s so bad now that one is left to wonder if it’s some sick joke concocted up by Sysco and United to see just how low they can push the bar in feeding the American consumer. I mean, really, if we were Union Pilots we would be throwing the tray at the FA’s in protest and picketing outside ORD.
Frankly, I’ve stopped eating on the plane altogether. Eat in the lounges. Recently, I’ve taken the United Polaris service EWR- Palma de Mallorca; FRA-ORD; IAD-BRU-IAD. EWR, ORD and IAD have lovely Polaris spaces with great buffets and sit-down dining which is quite good and allows you to just avoid the really abysmal catering on the transatlantic services. The LH Senator lounge in FR and the Brussels airport lounge offer tasty food for the Europe-US segments without the opulence but solid, nonetheless. Polaris is about space and a bit of pampering and in that I have found United has a good product; all of my recent flight crews have been genuinely pleasant, efficient and offered a great experience… just skip the food.
I went to Bueno Aires recently and I keep my meals as vegetarian as a special meal on my profile. Going from IAH there was no special meal for me, luckily there was a vegetarian option ( it wasn’t that great), but coming back from EZE apparently a special meal was on board ( it was some vegetarian pasta bowl), it was ok, not the best. But I do like other airlines options of offering different types of meals priorto the flight, why can’t they do that.
United meals served have not changed over the past 10 years. Other airlines have made improvements. I flew on both ANA and UA from SFO to Narita on separate trips. The ANA meal service was 100x better. UA used a cheaper kitchen at SFO. My air ticket cost the same and received the same PQP. United has not taken action to hear the customers over the years.
If you are going to lift my pictures from Flyertalk can you at least give myself or Flyertalk credit for it?
I did. What do you mean?
ETA: Oh, I see the link got deleted. Thanks for the heads up!
No worries, it happens.
Matthew, thanks for finally highlighting how bad the food service is in ALL premium cabins on United. I was a 1K for years (still am) and United has lost all of my business going forward for this very reason. It’s a slap in the face to loyal fliers that pay their bills to be served meals like this. United Clubs and Polaris lounges are also horrible, save for some minor improvements at a few locations lately.
There is a FB page for Global Services and IK Mileage Plus members and everyone says the same thing-horrible food domestic 1st Class as as well. I recently flew Polaris EWR-BCN and CDG-EWR- the meals were inedible. Now no one really flies for the food and United meals will never be like Qatar but for the 5K+ price it should and could be better. It’s really embarrassing for United to serve this slop…
It’s true – this is just but one example. It’s truly a shame, and I’m the one who usually gives United the benefit of the doubt, but my patience is at its end – I cannot do so any longer.
I just flew from MEL to LAX and onwards to LHR with United in polaris for the first time, having flown on most other major airlines business class product and I have to say they were absolutely as bad as that photo would indicate. The catering and drink fall well below par for a premium tier product.
I made the mistake of asking for a coffee on the first leg, asking for a cappuccino resulted in the attendant looking at like I’d just ordered in Klingon…
Under the reign of Smisek The Terrible, United ripped out espresso machines from half its 777 fleet.
Their economy meals are way better than American. When you board they yell to hurry up..
I’m so sick and tired of their crap. I think I send a complaint letter after every Polaris flight. It’s beyond ridiculous that they find this acceptable. I would be happy with anything that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic on my plate. The last time I flew the bread was still frozen.
After decades of Delta Diamond and United Premier 1K and banking huge amounts of miles to see them devalued – it just seems like it it worth it only to grab the layflat seats on overnight flights as a benefit! Food is always subpar to Emirates and AirFrance (from Paris) so why chase the new $$$$ requirements for the highest levels of perks.
$20,000 to get Deltan Diamond this year and basically nothing but using my delta AMEX credit card to get Delta platinum, It will be interesting to see if at the end of 2023 i strive for the almighty $20,000!
It’s not beyond them. Two weeks ago I flew Sydney-LA and San Francisco-Melbourne in Polaris. Enjoyed really nice meals, with salads, bread, mains, nice starters and midnight snack of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. These are much longer flights than the trans Atlantic ones, though…
Coffee was decent. My only complaint was that the full ice cream sundae “hasn’t been rolled out yet” so the dessert was more than ice cream, but less than a sundae
I have only ever flown UA once on an international flight, and this was long before Polaris – in 2015.
I actually thought the food on that particular flight was very well done, and yes there was that sundae cart as well. I had a boozy sundae made with amaretto, and it was so good.
However, it does look like things are in a very sad state of affairs.
Worth mentioning that United actually runs its own catering facilities out of some airports, like EWR.
Maybe if they got rid of Gate Gourmet and instead hired Do&Co they would be in much better shape. Of course they’re probably too cheap for Do&Co.
All catering was outsourced in 2021-2022 timeframe. United does not have any of its own catering facilities in 2023 onwards.
That’s right and while United promised this would lead to improved catering (since it was able to shed catering staff), it has only led to far worse food onboard.
The food on the 16 hr flight from Delhi, India to Newark was equally bad. Expected better in business class especially given the exorbitant price of the ticket.
Well, at least we are getting more than the BOWL OF CEREAL I got in First class from KOA-SFO last year. Such an embarrassment.
As a Ik customer for years, I am saddened by the decline in Polaris food and drink. My wife and I few from EWR to LIS a few days before New Years. The fish and chicken dishes were inedible. They no longer provided a wine list. Our return flight promised Chicken Tikka Masala. What we got was chicken with onions. I asked the flight attendant what happened to the chicken tikka masala and he told me “I don’t know what the menu says, but this is the chicken dish.” The two of us agreed that it isn’t worth the money anymore and is no longer fun. So when they have premium economy we’ll try that next time.
Unless we’re talking a last-minute ticket purchase or using an upgrade instrument, I don’t get why anyone would choose UA over TAP for this route – their onboard product is very solid and they often have business class offers priced lower than other airlines’ premium economy. They aren’t any good when it comes to IROPS, but not many airlines are nowadays.
I fly that route often and these days always chose UA over TAP even with all the former’s problems. TAP is a laughing stock in Portugal. Their customer service is notoriously woeful to non-existent. Their website barely functions and no one answers phones. I had to get Chase involved when they had still not refunded my refundable ticket months after requesting it.
the menu looks nice and has a glossy finish. Maybe if you used that as your plate, it would liven up the meal?
I’d be more upset about having to pay $8000 for a ticket. To suggest that this unacceptable food for that amount of money is pure elitist bullshit and you serve it like a spoiled brat that had to get a summer job as a waiter. It seems you are perfectly content to let economy eat that slop! Just don’t serve it to you in business class! What United and the rest of these airlines need to do is stop with the class division. Make each flight comfortable for all. Make each meal edible. Make each ticket affordable. Then they will have a winning business plan. It won’t be done by catering to entitled people like you that think they are paying $8000 for quality airplane food…
This article was written by a very naive and uninformed person who had clearly never hired a 3rd party to cater an event for them. If they had they’d be smarter than what this article says.
Inform yourself before you talk down about people.
You’re very foolish. The bottom line is that UA continues to fall behind its competition. It has had two years to catch up and has refused to do so, even though others have. It’s not about that catering. It’s about the budget.
I appreciate you putting the pressure on United. I truly hope that this falls onto the radar of C level execs. The hard-product of Polaris that United has striven to develop and create this past decade was so promising. It’s my hope that they don’t rest on their laurels with the continued swell in bookings and newly minted post-pandemic elites- thinking that this surge in business will continue, while cutting corners and costs simultaneously…. Because frankly, it won’t. In a time of hyper-aware traveler-experience via the web, the product is on full display, regardless of actualized travel. The traveler has choices, and those choices have become abundantly more clear.
I recently flew Qantas SFO-SYD in business after 15 years of UA loyalty. I could not believe how much better the food was. I recently made UA 1k for the first time but now I’m officially on the market again.
Flew Polaris from Europe and the breakfast options (main meal) was despicable: chicken burrito (so small) or coconut Milk rice ?!? Or apple pancakes. Domestic first is even worse…