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How bad does onboard catering need to get before UA invests in improving it?

Old Mar 12, 23, 12:41 pm
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How bad does onboard catering need to get before UA invests in improving it?

Old Feb 6, 23, 1:19 pm
  #1  
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How bad does onboard catering need to get before UA invests in improving it?

Moderator note: This was a thread made from posts in the Let痴 Eat Polaris Business 2023 thread.
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Has anyone else canceled their UA reservations and rebooked elsewhere (at least partly) because of this (and the 2022) thread? The menus and execution are downright depressing. What makes it even worse is that UA can do (and has done) better. I was thinking of just bringing my own food, but now I'm glad that I don't have to. The sundaes are appealing, but you can't survive a long-haul flight with just one serving of ice cream...

Last edited by l etoile; Feb 7, 23 at 1:12 pm
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Old Feb 6, 23, 1:37 pm
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As long as people keep booking UA, what incentive do they have to improve the inflight food? Sure everyone is griping about it but revenue isn't taking a hit so they can maximize return to shareholders by offering crap food. People need to vote with our wallets...and yet we continue to book UA and eat the meals and complain on FT.

My overall take is that so long as the Polaris lounges provide a solid product, which other than the seats themselves would be the only differentiating factor, UA can probably assess what AA and DL offer and realistically say they have an edge over them. Or spin it as basically "our customers have indicated that they seek to maximize sleep onboard and we offer pre-flight dining options in our lounges and consistent lie-flat seating across our fleet"
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Old Feb 6, 23, 1:48 pm
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Originally Posted by qukslvr619
As long as people keep booking UA, what incentive do they have to improve the inflight food? Sure everyone is griping about it but revenue isn't taking a hit so they can maximize return to shareholders by offering crap food. People need to vote with our wallets...and yet we continue to book UA and eat the meals and complain on FT.
I think folks need to remind themselves that FT is far less than 1% of UA revenue/overall flyers. I don't buy into "everyone" is griping about it.

A vocal subset of people have issues with the catering and seem to believe that complaining about it after what is now years will make a difference.
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Old Feb 6, 23, 4:16 pm
  #4  
 
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Originally Posted by HNLbasedFlyer
I think folks need to remind themselves that FT is far less than 1% of UA revenue/overall flyers. I don't buy into "everyone" is griping about it.

A vocal subset of people have issues with the catering and seem to believe that complaining about it after what is now years will make a difference.
Wait so are you honestly telling me that airlines don't make decisions based off of FT?!?! All joking aside, I think that you sort of highlighted the crux of the problem; the vocal subset are routinely flying UA and will more than likely continue to fly UA regardless because of corporate agreements, ease of upgrading, hub captive, etc. So we aren't helping the problem. And outside of that small subset, is the passenger flying Polaris once or twice a year that is also paying full price, someone that could care less about the food and will pay the premium for a nonstop; thats not helping the problem either. So again if UA isn't seeing any particular revenue hit because of crap catering, they are laughing all the way to the bank.
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Old Feb 6, 23, 4:52 pm
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Originally Posted by HNLbasedFlyer
I think folks need to remind themselves that FT is far less than 1% of UA revenue/overall flyers. I don't buy into "everyone" is griping about it.

A vocal subset of people have issues with the catering and seem to believe that complaining about it after what is now years will make a difference.
I think we can all agree that UA's international catering quality has significantly declined -- and to a point where they are probably the worst of the major carriers. Having "dated" Kirby on and off for a long time I can tell you this isn't accidental -- with a "superior" route network and a very solid hard product -- they will continue to get the bookings they need to deliver what Wall st. wants -- until they don't...

I've got tons of friends that have never heard of FT and ALL of them know UA's food is just awful -- so I don't think it's just the vocal FT minority -- even my wife hates UA's food and won't eat it (and has never heard of FT) -- but she does like the mattress pads and IFE... UA needs to fix their balance sheet and reduce debt and isn't going to spend another penny unless they have too -- and I don't believe that any soft product enhancements will be coming until UA starts to see share losses in key markets -- I read that on page 13 of the Kirby Cutback Manual....

The airline industry is a really unique ecosystem -- it's like a cutthroat hedge fund run by an actuary that markets themselves as a Ritz Carlton in Monaco but delivers the Holiday Inn Express in Des Moines - unless there is bad weather then you are on your own....
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Old Feb 6, 23, 5:38 pm
  #6  
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Originally Posted by bmwe92fan
...and I don't believe that any soft product enhancements will be coming until UA starts to see share losses in key markets -- I read that on page 13 of the Kirby Cutback Manual...
I think it's on page 1.

I don't think there's anyone at Willis Tower who can convince to Kirby spending more on catering will generate more net profit (or at worst, be net-profit-neutral). Unfortunately, I think he's extended some cost-cutting to the Polaris Lounge buffets. Also, waits caused by slow service in the sit-down areas are an indirect way to reduce costs (ie force people to eat from the lower-cost buffet).

Still, (beyond in-flight food issues) UA gets me conveniently where I need to go comfortably.
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Old Feb 6, 23, 5:47 pm
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Originally Posted by Tennen
Has anyone else canceled their UA reservations and rebooked elsewhere (at least partly) because of this (and the 2022) thread? The menus and execution are downright depressing. What makes it even worse is that UA can do (and has done) better. I was thinking of just bringing my own food, but now I'm glad that I don't have to. The sundaes are appealing, but you can't survive a long-haul flight with just one serving of ice cream...
I am glad that my 5 TATL flights this year have been on LH in F. ok, it's not a fair comparison, but even LH J is worlds better than this. The pics are mostly disgusting. It's sad
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Old Feb 6, 23, 5:51 pm
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Originally Posted by Tennen
Has anyone else canceled their UA reservations and rebooked elsewhere (at least partly) because of this (and the 2022) thread? The menus and execution are downright depressing. What makes it even worse is that UA can do (and has done) better. I was thinking of just bringing my own food, but now I'm glad that I don't have to. The sundaes are appealing, but you can't survive a long-haul flight with just one serving of ice cream...
Yes and Yes -- we've moved a ton of our flying away from UA -- and I don't think we will ever be GS again as it's not worth it any more. We can fly NH in J for the same price -- and usually less miles -- from NYC to TYO (our monthly route) -- with a better hard AND soft product.... The only reason we tolerate UA any more is the XN/PN benefits -- but I'm sure that will be ending soon....
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Old Feb 6, 23, 6:01 pm
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Joint sharing. United still gets your money
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Old Feb 6, 23, 6:05 pm
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Originally Posted by trk1
Joint sharing. United still gets your money
Except when we use miles -- which is most of the time.... Can't use the XN/PN for NH so UA loses there too... I go to the middle east / EU monthly -- and UA is getting less than half of that too -- I used to be so loyal but it really does pay to play the field since GS is really a shell of what it used to be.... I've spent $200k+ for the past decade each year flying around the world -- and UA get's less and less each year. When Polaris launched and Oscar was there UA got about $100k of that -- as I've said in other threads -- this is our last year of GS....
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Old Feb 6, 23, 6:38 pm
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Originally Posted by bmwe92fan
Yes and Yes -- we've moved a ton of our flying away from UA -- and I don't think we will ever be GS again as it's not worth it any more. We can fly NH in J for the same price -- and usually less miles -- from NYC to TYO (our monthly route) -- with a better hard AND soft product.... The only reason we tolerate UA any more is the XN/PN benefits -- but I'm sure that will be ending soon....
I used to twist myself into a pretzel to fly *A and UA for work, with extra legs and such to get that booking over other auto-generated lower-cost bookings. I have stopped doing so. Flew to West Africa on Air France and besides drinking bottles of Laurent Perrier in the lounges at IAD and CDG, the meals were ridiculous compared to Polaris: amuse bouche, lobster or salmon app, full main, cheese course, trio of mini desserts. I slept through the breakfasts that were similarly plentiful.

I'm trying to keep at least Plat with UA to keep E+ seats for my family and (in theory) greater award availability, but UA is making it harder and harder for me to go out of my way to do so when I see threads like this. LH and ANA get me to where I need to go in Europe and Asia, in a much better fashion.
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Old Feb 6, 23, 7:11 pm
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Originally Posted by HNLbasedFlyer
I think folks need to remind themselves that FT is far less than 1% of UA revenue/overall flyers. I don't buy into "everyone" is griping about it.

A vocal subset of people have issues with the catering and seem to believe that complaining about it after what is now years will make a difference.
Are you implying catering is NOT an issue? You are on an UA plane as much as most of us here, and I know what you have mentioned you don't eat food on the plane. Respectfully, have few meals and report back?

FT is a community, but if you think we are only being vocal about it on here, you'd be wrong. We have reported to UA and challenged the carrier to do better. UA doesn't seem to care as long as the bank is open and bills are getting paid.
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Old Feb 6, 23, 8:10 pm
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I really like to undertand what are the UA management's thinking on catering. I hear the argument that as long as planes are full, there is little incentive to act. However, if this is the rationale, then UA should not upgrade its United Clubs, refit its aircrafts with latest bluetooth ready IFE or making capital improvements at certain airports.

Why is it so hard for UA to improve its on-board catering and beverage offerings? The same GateGourmet Kitchen at SFO caters for SQ, BR and others, so it is not coordination, logistical or other operating issues with catering providers. In-flight catering providers runs global networks of facilities around the world, and I don't buy the excuses on operating issues at caterers. Other airlines don't seem have such a problem. I have flown SQ, BR, LX and LH in the last 8 weeks between EU and Asia, and the meals are back to pre-Covid standard. I also don't take "eat at Polaris Lounge" suggestion as an aswer. Why would a passenger want to schedule an extra hour to go to the hub airport (or budget longer transit time) to eat before boarding. Business travellers don't plan that way. How about oversea's locations where no Polaris Lounge exist? It is like saying, it is ok to buy a lesser quality car because the dealer's service department is offering great service.

I understand cost is a big part, but other improvements cost more, so why does UA management pick on-board catering as the one to negelect. Other than cost, what are the factors for providing such a infeior products? Incompetency, bureacray, lack of accountability, union considerations? what is it? Is really because of cost?

I work for a global organization, and if our customers complain constantly about certain service delviery and quality of services, my organization would be all over the issues and heads will fly if issues not be addressed. Why UA cannot while its two closest competitors in AA and DL can?

Last edited by UA_Flyer; Feb 6, 23 at 8:16 pm
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Old Feb 6, 23, 9:08 pm
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Originally Posted by UA_Flyer
...why does UA management pick on-board catering as the one to negelect... Is really because of cost?...
I don't think it is neglect at all. It's probably a very calculated "what-can-you-provide-for-this-allocated-money?". UA introduced Polaris, then started cutting back on money spent on Polaris catering. The pandemic catering was rock bottom and UA is not willing to ramp up spending too quickly on catering to provide quality meals. Bottom line is money. The food mirrors UA's budget for it.
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Old Feb 6, 23, 9:50 pm
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH
Bottom line is money. The food mirrors UA's budget for it.
UA is an airline whose management is obsessed by net income, (but not at the expense of safety or operations, where, IMO, they excel.) For Mr. Kirby, inflight service--"food"-- is just more low-hanging fruit, and his relentlessly shameless decisions about his airline's inflight service get reinforced every quarter, regardless of FT feedback.
Polaris: classic bait and switch.
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