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United's Transatlantic Meal Service to Remain Free


In what appears to be a response to a flood of negativity following its decision to test pay-as-you-go meals in transatlantic coach and domestic business class, United announced in an open letter to customers that economy-class meal service on transatlantic flights will remain complimentary. Apparently customer feedback told United everything it needed to know about selling onboard meals.

In the letter, CCO Graham Atkinson says, "We ... have decided not to move forward with the test of offering customers buy-on-board options in United Economy on certain trans-Atlantic flights. We will continue to offer complimentary hot meals on those flights.

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"The response from you and many of our corporate customers, even before we launched the test, told us what we would have undoubtedly learned had we proceeded — you value our hot meal service in economy class for international flights.

"On October 1, we will proceed with the test of new, complimentary options for United Business customers on three-cabin aircraft used for domestic routes, which represents 16 daily flights. Customers on these flights will receive complimentary fresh sandwiches, salads, breakfast, snack boxes or snacks, depending on the length of flight and time of departure. They will also continue to enjoy complimentary beverages, including beer, wine and cocktails. We will evaluate the results and determine next steps by the end of the year."

Score one for the folks in coach (and business)! Honestly, though, this move never made much sense for United, even if the airline stood to save a significant amount of money from it. Consumer outrage was immediate and very loud, and no other airline matched United's challenge to this sacred onboard amenity.

I feel like we've been building toward a moment like this, where the traveling public finally saw an unpopular change reversed, and flying people across the sea without a scrap of food—except United's proposed $9 sandwiches, of course—was the last straw.

(Editor's note: Thanks to reader OakFlyer for the heads up on this story.)

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