New meal options coming to United??


I only put so much faith in the random online surveys sent to members of loyalty programs to gauge interest in various possible changes to the programs. Sometimes it is hard to figure out which questions are based on real possible changes and which are just put in to keep the survey balanced and honest (or if they even bother doing that). That said, there has been quite a bit of speculation about changes to United’s buy-on-board meal service coming soon so when I received a survey about the program this week I was a bit more interested than not in seeing what they were asking.

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Most of the questions were pretty typical demographic stuff, asking about how many meals I’ve purchased on board (quite a few, assuming they still have any when they get to my row) and whether it was the FAs selling that got me interested or not. And then they finally got to the meat of the survey with this question:

Which of the following purchase options would be of interest to you for future domestic flights? Select all that apply.

  • Purchase a meal voucher using miles, prior to travel
  • Purchase a meal voucher using cash, prior to travel
  • Pre-order at check-in
  • Pre-order when booking a flight
  • Purchase using the inflight entertainment system
  • Bundle purchases (e.g., wine plus fruit and cheese for a discounted price)
  • None of these would be of interest to me

With other airlines offering pre-booking of meals (though not many in economy class) it isn’t all that surprising that United might consider such an option. And bundling of booze with the meal is something that other airlines do as well (Hawaiian was my most recent experience with this). And, of course, convincing customers to pay a few miles – likely at an inflated rate – to redeem for a meal is great for the airline.

I did choose a few as viable options to me, though not all of them. Which would you choose? Any guesses on which I chose?

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

9 Comments

  1. UA needs to completely revamp their food for purchase offerings. After flying from LAX-HNL this past week (coach on the outbound because my upgrade didn’t clear, but first on the return), I remembered just how awful it is to spend 5 1/2 hours in a pencil tube where the only food offerings were a box of small packages of assorted junk food or a long-ago made sandwich that would taste like it can out of a vending machine (or the cheeseburger which tastes like the 89 cent gas station mini-mart special). And while I’m venting about UA food, I should comment that the FC meal on the return was abysmal. The “steak” was so well done that it was inedible, and the mashed potatoes were almost certainly reconstituted instant flakes. And while the silverware set up used to contain multiple forks and knives to allow you to have a separate butter knife and salad fork, they’ve cut back to just a single utensil. And then, to top it off, the food is served by a bitchy old hag who hates her job and has no problem expressing her misery through grunts, groans, and frowns. Smisek has cut back in the wrong places, and he’s pissing off the most loyal customers.

  2. Well, today the new Bistro on Board Menu rolls out. Was on a transcon yesterday (31JUL), and they already had the August edition of Hemispheres Magazine onboard. Listed in the back pages for purchase were brand new menu items that, at least by the descriptions and pictures, look more appealing than what was then offered.

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