Just how important is meal presentation in offering a premium business class product? United Airlines is betting that it simply doesn’t matter.
At least that’s the only explanation I can come up with for its choice to begin pre-plating entrees so that it can cut one flight attendant position from many international flights.
I’ve written about the flight attendant labor issue extensively and will not rehash it here. Instead, let’s work from where we started from to where we are today.
Remember when Polaris first rolled out in December 2016? Back then, we were promised meals like this:
Those never really materialized, though they still appear on United’s Polaris website. Instead, we’ve had the same 4-5 choices recycled with different names and the slightest of variations the last couple years. Now I happen to like the food on United, but one reason I do is because it is nicely presented. For example, fish dishes have been served in attractive bowls with the fish centered over the starch and/or vegetables and garnished with fresh herbs. It creates a nice presentation, which makes the food more appetizing.
That second picture above of the turbot was from a flight 10 days ago. I just published the report yesterday and it is already out of date.
Which leads me to the wonderful climax of this post. Effective February 01, 2019 this is how meals are served in United Airlines longhaul business class:
That’s right, an elementary school casserole dish. I think it’s pathetic and barely fit for premium economy. Nothing says “premium” like an ugly little dish. No comments on the white gravy over 1.5 carrot slices or the scoop of noodles.
Just to be sure, I checked with United and a spokesperson confirmed that the casserole dishes will replace the plates (first picture above). The bowls will still remain for pasta and soup main courses.
Lead, Don’t Follow
Now in fairness to United, it is not the only airline that serves main courses in this fashion. I know American Airlines, Aerolineas Argentinas, Hong Kong Airlines, and Iberia does as well. There are many more I am sure. But that doesn’t mean UA should follow.
And frankly the Iberia casserole dish plus charger is far classier than the dish United is using.
But nicely plating meals was a highlight of Polaris. It made the experience nicer and compensated for the lack of innovation in the menu. The crockery was actually very classy.
At least for me, the presentation of food is almost as important as the food itself. I view United’s new pre-plating as being penny-wise, pound-foolish. Practically, it was probably a necessary concession to eliminate the extra galley position onboard, but that makes customers the casualty of less service and a less appealing meal.
What do you think? A “sad state of affairs” or much ado about nothing?