United Airlines has acknowledged that its in-flight meals have been slow to change but is promising new choices with more variety in the weeks ahead. Let’s take a look at what United Airlines is saying and preview five new dishes that have already debuted on domestic routes.
United Airlines Promises More Choice In In-Flight Meals
Linda Jojo is United’s Chief Customer Officer. While she is not directly responsible for in-flight meals, she and her teams “deliver the processes and tools to create an airline that customers choose to fly.” Specifically, that includes digital technology, contact centers, customer solutions, and innovation.
One way in which Jojo has impacted in-flight meals is by gradually expanding pre-order capabilities, giving passengers the ability to choose their preferred meal in advance. She has also overseen the design of a new flight attendant iPhone app to take meal orders and record customer choices, with the goal being to better optimize meal provisioning onboard so that passengers receive their first choice.
“I know you probably love the za’atar chicken and the Impossible meatballs. Sorry to say, they’re probably not gonna be around much longer.”
These dishes were not bad the first, second, third, or even fourth time around…but have been the primary choices on most non-longhaul meal service routes for six months. The inability of United to rotate its menu items more often has been confounding. Jojo blamed the pandemic and supply lane issues:
“What I would say is that we definitely got slowed down first by the pandemic itself and now by the supply chain challenges that have been there.”
Judging by the ability of United’s peers to bring back food sooner and offer more quantity and variety, I’d say the primary problem was cost-cutting.
While it is not clear if meal budgets have increased, United has recently refreshed its menu and promised more variation going forward.
On domestic flights, that includes five new entree choices and for the first time since the pandemic, different vegetarian dishes depending upon the direction of the flight:
- Belgium waffle with caramelized apple and cranberry compote
- Egg frittata with Potatoes O’Brien, sausage, and cooked spinach
- Chicken curry noodle bowl with rice noodles, fresh vegetables, and spices
- Cauliflower grain salad with cauliflower rice, zucchini squash, avocado salsa, and green chile (on westbound flights)
- Harvest grain bowl with quinoa, butternut squash, feta, and mandarin oranges (on eastbound flights)
United further promises six “new signature entrees” available via pre-order beginning on December 1, 2022.
This latest change marks only the third variation to domestic first class since meal service was restored nearly 18 months ago. As we reported yesterday, hot towels and ice cream sundaes will return to longhaul Polaris business class starting on December 1st as well.
United Airlines hopes to offer more variety in terms of in-flight meals going forward and empower passengers to choose meals in advance. Both are welcome changes, but United must also ensure the quality and taste of the meals are also sufficient, especially as Alaska, American, and Delta continue to improve their in-flight offerings.