I saw this story a couple days ago, but Gray beat me to it and sums up my thoughts nicely–and with a good dose of humor.
On Wednesday, United announced a new dining option for economy class passengers on Premium Service flights between San Francisco/Los Angeles and New York Kennedy. Competition remains fierce on these routes and UA is upping the ante by offering two new BOB choices that sound refreshingly tasty:
A quiche entree, a fresh fruit plate, a cheese plate with dried fruit, a croissant with jam, salmon over cucumber dill salad and sparkling wine. The second includes a tomato and mozzarella sandwich entree, shrimp cocktail, a cheese plate with dried fruit, Israeli couscous salad, Ghirardelli chocolate and sparkling wine.
But these meals come with a steep price tag: $24.99 each. They also must be ordered at least three days prior to departure. Recall that UA tried out a "premium" BOB menu on select p.s. flights as well as the daily SFO-FRA flight earlier in the year. We never heard how well that test program went, but UA is trying again–at higher prices this time.
I frankly can’t picture economy passengers forking over $25 for an airline meal, even if it is as tasty as it sounds. Additionally, while I understand why UA would require that the meals be ordered 72 hours in advance, that presents a problem–what about irr/ops or if an upgrade clears? The BOB options actually sound better than the fare in business class, but I’d much rather have an "asbestos omelet made from reconstituted egg-mix" served with "pieces of wall insulation stamped in the shapes of croissants" than spend $25 for something marginally more nutritional. Then again, I’m still a student.
We need more details. Other than the press release, UA has been mum about the new BOB options and the dining section of UA’s website has not been updated. Maybe I’ll change my mind after I see a larger picture, but I still doubt that very many will be willing to pay $25 for an airline meal.
I’m think your discounting business travelers. Even the most miserly per diem would easily cover this. If the offering is close to worth the cost, I’d be pleased to see this and similar offerings expanded. I take advantage of United’s fresh choice items when I am stuck in Y on a transcon, and would hop on hot items for purchase in an instant if I could do so!
@Dan: Don’t you think that business travelers will be in Business or First? You yourself use the phrase “stuck in Y”. It seems to me that someone like you and me or another business traveler would not gamble with the $25 meal if an upgrade was still waitlisted. Then again, if you lose your per diem if you don’t spend it, what the heck!
Yes, it all comes down to what happens if you get upgraded or otherwise don’t want the meal. I believe from the previous ‘pre-book’ tests, you didn’t actually pay until you were onboard, implying you could cancel with no penalty. If that is the case, then I still say it would be worth it for the average Y business traveler. I actually value meals on a plane more than meals in a terminal, since it eats up flying time and I can comfortably eat in a seat instead of bolting it while waiting close enough to the gate to board quickly once called.
I certainly wish that being a business traveler meant I would be in C or F constantly, but my company has a worldwide Y-only policy (from the CEO, who is a UA 1K btw, on down). I just got back from CBR-SYD-LAX-IAD all in Y, and it definitely hurt. That being said, my per-diem is based on actual receipts (use it or lose it), so a decent meal, pre-booked in Y doesn’t seem half-bad.
@smashr: I hope you at least can take advantage of UDUs on domestic flight. Were you bookd on a W or higher fare to SYD? Next time, let me know.
A picture has been added.
Also, more info has come out about upgrades/flight changes.
Bottom line, it appears you don’t pay for the meal until you’re onboard the plane.
T&Cs at the link below: