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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
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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.

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.

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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.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    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.

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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees