As United Airlines moves to unify the service offerings between their two legacy operations there are only a few bits left to reconcile. One of those is the catering setup for long-haul flights, where the current service varies depending on which legacy carrier the route is operated by. Starting June 1 the new catering plans go into effect, with the goal of harmonizing the service across all premium cabins, regardless of whether it is operated by a legacy United or Continental aircraft. Alas, even the new plan isn’t quite so harmonized.
On the plus side, the company appears to be migrating the legacy Continental BusinessFirst concept towards the legacy United side of things. This means expansion of the ice cream sundae cart and four entrée choices coming to all business class offerings (legacy United was only 3).
Still, depending on whether it is a 2-cabin or 3-cabin aircraft the service will differ. On a 2-cabin plane there will be a choice of appetizers offered and they will be served from a cart in the aisle per passenger request, separate from the salad course. On 3-cabin aircraft there will be only one appetizer and it is served on a tray along with the salad. In both cases the appetizers will only be cold offerings now in BusinessFirst.
At dessert time the 2-cabin aircraft will continue to serve the cheese course from the cart in the aisle while the 3-cabin aircraft will have the cheese pre-plated and served from the galley, and possibly fewer choices of cheese on the plate. Additionally, the petit fours are disappearing from BusinessFirst on 2-cabin aircraft for the dessert course.
Also of note is that the actual entrée choices being offered will be transitioning to those from the legacy Continental operation, at least in the European markets.
The new United Global First meal service is seeing a few tweaks as well. The overall six-course meal service will otherwise generally remain the same. Appetizers, however, will now be served from a cart in the aisle and there will be two hot choices for passengers to select from.
On 3-cabin flights it also appears that the actual entrée selections will be the same in Global First and BusinessFirst, further blurring the the lines between the two offerings. Dessert will still have more choices in Global First (petit fours along with the sundae) and the appetizers will be hot rather than cold. Plus there is a soup course. Definitely not an identical meal service but still very similar. For service to/from China the Global First cabin also gets cookies during the mid-flight snack while the BusinessFirst cabin does not.
The company has decided to retire all of their patterned china; the new service will be from plain white dishes. Hard to know if that actually matters or not, but it is part of the update. Also, the company will be moving towards the legacy Continental glassware in the business class cabins. This includes the water, wine and cordial services. Also, and apparently this is a big deal. the company is shifting to using tongs rather than spoons for some portions of the service. Amazing, huh?
There are a number of matrices describing which routes and aircraft get which meal service, based on number of cabins, destination region and departure time. The charts are filled with tiny print over many pages. Needless to say figuring out what the meal is supposed to be isn’t a particularly trivial process.
Overall the idea of harmonizing the services is a good one. I probably would have taken a different tack in some of the choices, but I understand that there are limitations, both financial and practical, which preclude that in some cases. Making things more consistent for customers helps improve the ability to deliver the product. Alas, there are still going to be differences for the passengers depending on which type of aircraft they are on, among other things. Such is life, I suppose.
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