The Great GrapeGate Grate: Is United Airlines Serving Fewer Grapes With Meals?

Does United Airlines not step up to the plate when it serves grapes to its passengers? Photograph by FlyerTalk member rankourabu. Click on the photograph for the portion of the discussion on FlyerTalk posted by rankourabu.

Talk about the grapes of wrath.

In a sublime nod to the recent scarcity of limes, groups of FlyerTalk members are now grappling with the gripping story of griping about groping fewer grapes — or lack thereof — during meal service aboard aircraft operated by United Airlines.

This purportedly seedy action — apparently not heard through the grapevine — is to help return United Ail-lines to profitability by welching on their customers after reporting disappointing financial results for the first quarter of 2014. “As Jeff said on the recent 1Q 2014 call”, recalled FlyerTalk member spin88, “‘I am pleased with our cost performance in the first quarter, particularly given the challenging weather. I attribute this good performance to the dedication of our employees and their active engagement in the launch of Project Quality. The Project Quality program, designed to remove to $2 billion of annual cost by 2017, is off to a strong start. It is very early in the process, but I can assure you that we are intensely focused on and committed to its success. We’re engaging in a rigorous process as we work to achieve our goal of delivering durable efficiencies and high quality, all while offering excellent customer service and building a great place to work. We will continue to invest in our employees, providing them better tools and training to do their jobs more effectively and improved facilities like renovated break rooms and in-house health clinics to make their work experience better.’”

Perhaps this is the raisin — er…I mean reason — why Jeff Smisek is supposedly considered the worst chief executive officer in the airline industry?

In addition to vining about this reportedly recent development, FlyerTalk members found it ap-peel-ing to offer additional suggestions to assist Smisek in attaining his goal — including toilet paper you must purchase while aboard the aircraft; removing the bulbs from reading lights; removing the carpeting and those pesky seat cushions from aircraft and installing bench seats and hard floors; and installing kitty litter in the lavatories instead of having workers remove human waste — or perhaps remove the lavatories altogether on flights whose duration is four hours or fewer.

Anyway, back to what is now known as the Great GrapeGate Grate — at least by only me, anyway — FlyerTalk member eng3 reported a mixed experience: “I’m pretty sure its quality control. On my ORD-HKG flight, I also only got 5 grapes. But HKG-ORD, I only got 2 grapes. Maybe HKG is running low on grapes.”

FlyerTalk member and official company representative UA Insider responded with the following comment:

“We apologize for the lonely two grapes–the OP experienced a catering compliance issue on their HKG-SFO flight. We haven’t changed the catering spec on the United BusinessFirst cheese course, and will follow up with our HKG caterer.”

…so the reduction of grapes was nothing more than a cheesy error? Of course — enough for some FlyerTalk members to go crackers over it.

I will eat all kinds of grapes — black, white, green, red — but they are not my favorite fruit. They can be the pits when they are bruised or contain seeds; and I dislike fighting with my food or pretending I am expelling a chaw of tobacco from my mouth every time I get those repulsive seeds in my mouth.

All right — I con-seed that it is not that bad. I prefer kiwi fruit, strawberries, pineapple and virtually any other fruit served aboard an airplane during a flight — but sometimes I will leave a grape or two left over which do not appear edible to me.

It just occurred to me: perhaps I am the scoundrel who caused the Great GrapeGate Grate?!? Nahhh…it cannot be possible.

Besides, aren’t grapes cheaper than other fruits? Have you explored the fruit juice aisle at your local supermarket lately — especially those beverages which supposedly contain the juice of more expensive fruits? Water is usually the first ingredient in a pomegranate blueberry “juice blend” or whatever the heck they call those concoctions, followed by apple or grape juice. “Real juice”, the label usually proudly pronounces — but it does not tell you how much of that “real juice” is actually blueberry or pomegranate. I suppose the company expects you — the consumer — to take their word for pomegranate and not read the ingredients listed on the side of the label…

…and perhaps grapes are not as inexpensive as they used to be: try to find the strawberry here in this strawberry product even though it contains no strawberries or grapes in its list of ingredients — but I digress as usual.

Does the comment posted by UA Insider put an end to the juicy Great GrapeGate Grate and get United Airlines out of a jam? Not by a long shot, I predict…

…and if you are wondering, yes — I admit that this article was indeed an example of low-hanging fruit for me about which to write and report…

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