United Airlines will resume offering pre-departure beverages in first class on two routes, starting later this month. The trial will gauge interest, consumer reaction, and may expand to more flights this autumn.
United Airlines Will Resume Pre-Departure Beverages On Two Trial Routes
Unofficially, some flight attendants have been offering bottled water as a welcome drink during the pandemics, but the formal pre-departure beverage service has been suspended for since March 2020.
Starting on August 16th and running for one month through September 15th, United Airlines will offer pre-departure beverages on a pair of routes from San Francisco (SFO). Those include:
- San Francisco – New York (JFK)
- San Francisco – Portland (PDX)
In a memo to flight attendants reviewed by Live and Let’s Fly, passengers will be offered the following pre-departure beverages on these two routes:
- Orange juice
- Sparkling wine
The drinks will be pre-poured and served on a tray (in blue plastic cups). However, flight attendants have also been instructed to “honor special requests,” meaning you can ask for whatever drink you want. Time constraints may prevent some beverages from being served, but it will not hurt to ask if you want something different.
Why only these two routes? Part of it is a test to see if these beverages offerings will increase consumer satisfaction scores on post-flight surveys. As United focuses heavily on raising its Net Promoter Score (NPS), it is carefully evaluating service onboard to see what an impact it makes.
In other words, if you value pre-departure beverages, be sure to let United know in post-flight surveys, particularly if you happen to be flying on one of these test routes.
As an aside, United has also instructed flight attendants to heat up bread and the “Pie in the Sky” dessert that is served with meals on flights longer than 1,500 miles or hub-to-hub flights longer than 800 miles. Additionally, there will be enhanced mid-flight snacks including a cheese plate and oatmeal with chia seeds on the San Francisco – London route in Polaris Business Class.
The return of in-flight beverages are another sign that we are slowly returning to normal, if there ever was such a thing. United will only offer pre-departure beverages on two routes, but I view this as a prelude to expand welcome drinks to more routes in the months ahead.
Do pre-departure beverages make a difference to you when you fly?
I would encourage people to write in about this… PDB in first class is a basic service element and shouldn’t require a “trial” to evaluate passenger interest.
It sounds to me like they are ponding charging a $12K fare for Polaris and should “trial” reopening polaris lounges to gauge customer reaction… or go back to better food choices in the lounge and non pre-made sandwiches on white bread with a single slice of meat and cheese… or microwave ramen in a foam cup.
Nah. We don’t want what we pay for.
What happened to “do the right thing” because it is the right thing to do…eventually leading to good scores? The transactional nature of the “trial” is off-putting to me.
Two routes??? Really?? Based on their “making things happen” track record, I’m betting UAL may actually go to three routes by 2023.
Of course offering a PDB will increase customer satisfaction. Don’t need a trial to figure that out.
Who is going to object to this? And on what criteria is it being evaluated? Are we going to get one of those, “Based on customer feedback we are withdrawing alcohol forever.’ announcements?
A PDB is such an indicator of how service is going to be on a flight. If one is graciously offered, you start off on good footing and probably are more forgiving of any service mishaps that may happen in-flight. Not getting a PDB when you’re supposed to receive one makes you pay attention to everything that goes wrong. UA is wise to bring this back, and should strongly encourage the FAs to actually follow through.
I agree. I frequently take United Polaris and being greeted, offered a menu and a PDB after sometimes scrambling to make a connection really makes you feel welcome and can change one’s mood from the start.
I’ve flown on other airlines first class who impersonally toss you a form to fill out and you never even see the stewards again until an hour+ into the flight. Here’s looking at you, ANA!
But seriously, ANA. I’ve never seen crew move more things around from compartment to compartment in a flight looking busy. Isn’t Kaizen a Japanese concept?
I don’t fly those routes, but I think now I will start complaining on the survey about every flight in F not having PDBs, in hopes that they will bring them back to keep their NPS from dropping further. (Normally, I only fill those out when there was a problem.)
If this anything like UA of the past, the FA’s will complain, passengers will say its inconsistent, GAs will claim it impacts boarding, and then UA will spin it something like this: “based on feedback from our Flight Attendants regarding providing consistent service to all our passengers during the boarding process, we decided to discontinue PDB service. Additionally, our First Class passengers prefer to board at their leisure rather than boarding early for PDB service.”
Which meant the “trial went something like this:
FAs weren’t proactively offering drinks–>More waste was generated in pouring drinks but they never got delivered
FA’s poured water/OJ/sparkling wine and passengers asked for something different–>FAs then quoted some non-existent policy that prohibited other drinks from being served
Whats next – trial warm nuts, glassware, sundaes in Polaris?
Just restore service to pre-covid levels.
Just bring it all back for God’s sake!! Cut this bullshit!
All of these cuts are pathetic. We don’t need trials. Bring it all back now!
Also, these are two weak routes to try it on. Portland, are you kidding me? Couldn’t think of a more worthless route to try it on.
Money only for more money, do you think that they care, no if they are making huge profits what they care, its so bad.
Wow. I’m so impressed United. What is the marginal cost of this (staff already paid for)? I’m so happy that we have choices.
Planes are full and they’re making money. Bring it back 100%. And stop with all this disposable plastic crap. NO ONE is getting COVID-19 from a glass or china plate.
Came here for the comments, wasn’t disappointed. Seriously folks, we get it: United’s cheap….but with hundreds of thousands of people a day catching Covid this is the most “first world problems” whining I’ve seen in a looooong time lolz
They are answering a question specific to this article. All valid points. PDB is a fun thing to look forward to when flying in a premium cabin along with the service, yummy meals served on porcelain & drinks in glass. These are nice offerings expected when paying a higher price tag to sit in the front of the bus, facts. Our whole lives do not need to revolve are Covid.
I travel domestically in FC dozens of times per year with United. I never travel in coach. Almost all of these flights are on CRJ’s…you know, the ones with no bathroom up front forcing the premium passenger to walk all the way to the rear on an aisle that is 14” wide. (Sole exception, the CRJ 900, and good luck finding one when you are booking). It’s too bad UA did not ask it’s customers first if this set-up would be acceptable, or follow up with invitations to comment. Their post flight online surveys don’t ask anything about the aircraft.
And now they come up with this “pre-departure-beverage-trial” which is an insult to anyone who sits up front. The pre-departure beverage is a given. UA stopped it when the pandemic broke out. Ok I got it. But now they are using the pandemic as an excuse for everything. It’s bad enough FC passengers can’t even have so much as small bottle of water before takeoff. That comes after take-off and it’s not even cold!! The biscuit, snickerdoodle, and one ounce bag of pretzels “meal” wore out its welcome a long time ago. (It’s not mentioned here but the United Club’s food choices have become embarrassing).
My status is 1K so clearly I have been happy with them over the years. But my love and my patience has grown slim. The next time I go anywhere in the country I will be on Delta. They have resumed the
pre flight beverage service and my brother-in-law tells me a pillow and blanket are already on the seat when you board.
I’m not anxious to switch as I still have a gazillion miles with UA, However, taking me for granted and insulting my intelligence has me looking for the door.