Skip to content

United is giving scaled-back food and drinks a big inflight boost

Sept. 23, 2020
3 min read
United is giving scaled-back food and drinks a big inflight boost
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Early during the pandemic, U.S. airlines quickly moved to scale back their inflight service offerings. It was part of an effort to minimize interactions between passengers and crew, improve sanitation and reduce costs at a time when some airlines were losing as much as $100 million per day.

Now, as more travelers take to the skies, carriers are beginning to add amenities back in. American is offering sandwiches in premium cabins on most longer flights, for example. But Delta is still a mixed bag — literally, passengers get a mixed bag (or, in some cases, box) of snacks, even in first class.

Delta's current food and beverage offerings. Screenshot courtesy of Delta.

Similarly, United has been limiting premium-cabin passengers to snack boxes on most flights, though the airline is stepping up its offerings beginning Oct. 1. As of that date, passengers can expect a handful of service boosts.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

First, on domestic flights over two hours and 20 minutes departing from United's "catering hubs" — Chicago (ORD), Cleveland (CLE), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington, D.C. (IAD), plus Honolulu (HNL) to LAX and SFO — premium-cabin passengers will have a choice of the following:

  • Morning flights: Everything bagel baguette with veggie cream cheese or Turkey Monte with Raspberry Jam
  • Afternoon/evening flights: Tomato Basil and Mozzarella Focaccia or Carved Roasted Chicken on Italian Flatbread
  • All flights: Snack box, if preferred

First-class passengers will also be served a hot entree, along with a salad, bread, nuts and dessert on fights to Hawaii from Chicago, Denver, Houston, Guam, Newark and Washington.

Sign up for TPG’s new biweekly aviation newsletter

As for economy, the airline will once again offer coffee and tea on any flight with beverage service and cups of water will be available, in addition to the small bottles provided in the airline's all-in-one snack bags.

Meanwhile, on long-haul international flights, United is already serving a full meal in all cabins. Now, the airline will be adding ice cream to most flights from the U.S. as well, except for flights to Dublin (DUB) and India. Ice cream will also be available on flights from Europe, except Dublin, and in premium cabins on premium transcon flights.

More robust meals may spell even more time without a mask. Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

The big challenge with serving larger meals, of course, is that passengers will need to remove their masks for a longer period of time.

That's why TPG's Summer Hull argues for less service during the pandemic, not more, and I'd have to agree — the risk of being stuck near a passenger who's removed their mask is the biggest thing keeping me from flying right now.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases