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United Returns to Complimentary Meal Service in Select Economy Class Cabins

Starting Tuesday, United Airlines passengers flying to South America won’t have to reach for their wallets when ordering food and wine, even in economy class seats.

United Airlines is making big changes to inflight dining. Bucking a trend towards replacing and reducing complimentary options, the legacy carrier is instead expanding the inflight amenity for passengers flying in both premium and economyclass cabins on select flights.

Beginning December 1, passengers flying economy class between the U.S. and certain South American destinations will see familiar menus with prices listed replaced with a guide to a selection of complimentary food and drink options, including wine service, an assortment of craft beers as well as hot breakfast and lunch options. Likewise, certain flights within Asia will see a move from a la carte for purchasing food and drink to complimentary wine lists and free meal service in economy cabins.

“We’re listening to our customers and taking action to make their journeys more memorable,” United Airlines vice president Jimmy Samartzis said in a statement announcing the new catering initiatives. “By delivering more restaurant-quality meals, prepared with the best ingredients, and more chances to enjoy complimentary drinks, like seasonal beer, we’re getting to the heart of what customers tell us they want from their travel experience.”

U.S. domestic travelers and premium cabin passengers aren’t being left out. United has added trendy selections like chorizo sausage, banana pancakes and caramelized pineapples to first and business-class dining options on some flights. The airline also revealed that Sam Adams Winter Lager will be the first of a rotating list of seasonal beers available on most flights and in United Club lounges.

This year, United has already made a point of upping its game somewhat when it comes to wining and dining its customers. Travelers who have spent time on a barstool at a United Club lounge may have noticed the fairly recent addition of fashionable new cocktails like the Moscow Mule and a selection of craft bourbons that includes gems like Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon. For passengers who prefer a more holistic approach to travel, the airline is currently working to bring more healthful options to complement the traditional lineup of cellophane-wrapped cheese and crackers.

In all-important caffeine-related news, those who have been closely following the airline’s global search and taste-testing competition to find a new coffee provider will be pleased to learn that the winner, illy’s premium scuro dark roast, will soon be available systemwide. The Italian roasted coffee is already starting to appear in select United Club lounges in the U.S.

[Photo: United Airlines]

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13 Comments
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chavala December 11, 2015

chorizo is trendy?

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Bertthelert December 4, 2015

IAD-HNL in coach without complimentary food is about as bad as EWR-HNL. Winning the "guess the time we reach the half-way point" on-board contest once did get me a free (!) travel book delivered to my seat -- not very edible.

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strickerj December 2, 2015

This doesn't strike me as an improvement... Didn't flights to South America (along with most international long-hauls) already offer complimentary food on board? And it says nothing about the new food and drink offerings on domestic flights being complimentary, which leads me to assume they won't be, just like now. Free booze on (select) international flights might be the only news here...

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drvannostren December 2, 2015

Lol "we'll all end up flying in suites with shower"...assuming you've got like 15 grand to burn on a one way flight. The HNL example is a bad one. If you flew ORD-DEN-SFO-HNL you wouldn't get food, nor should you (based on today's policies), so just because it's direct you should? I would suggest UA should make sure a flight of that length has really good buy on board options and lots in stock, and AVOD. Maybe wifi too, but that's always too pricey for me to consider in the first place since you can't stream anything. Back OT, I'm assuming there's food for SCL/EZE? I know there was food on the GRU flight I took. So what destinations are we talking about? LIM/BOG? It says "certain" destinations...IAH-BOG is a very reasonable like 4 hour flight, one of the flights departs at 23:55, doesn't need food service anyway, nor does the return at 1:30am. The morning/daytime flights sure. Not sure about the LIM sked. Or am I way off and SCL/EZE had no food previously? Which would really suck. But they already had no free liquor, so I guess food would've been next :)

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MPScan December 2, 2015

You think ORD-HNL is bad, try EWR-HNL (4962 miles, 10:30 hours). I flew that last year and the gate agents were literally pleading with customers to bring food on board with them as there is absolutely no complimentary meal service (which everyone would absolutely expect on a 10+ hour flight!)... and they always sell out of 100% of everything on board... and they never make it to HNL without at least dozens and dozens of complaints about lack of food. The gate agents were checking, as they were scanning boarding passes, that people were carrying food or understood the announcements. Such a sad, sad, sad business practice.