Skip to content

United finally expands its domestic first-class meal service

May 27, 2022
4 min read
United Airlines planes at the gate in Newark
United finally expands its domestic first-class meal service
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.

Good news for travelers booked in United Airlines' domestic first-class: The airline is significantly expanding the number of flights that feature hot meals.

Starting June 1, the Chicago-based carrier will cater hot meals on all mainline flights more than 800 miles, a spokesperson confirmed to TPG. For United Express flights, which are on regional jets that lack ovens, a cold meal will be served on a tray.

The move comes nearly a year after United became the first major U.S. airline to return hot meals to domestic first class. Since then, United has lagged behind its competitors in both the range of routes that feature hot meals and the variety of the meals.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter.

Currently, United offers hot meals only on hub-to-hub mainline routes more than 800 miles long, a threshold in place since last June; routes of that length that aren't between hubs feature a choice of a sandwich or snack box. The airline caters hot meals on other routes more than 1,500 miles long.

Earlier this year, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines both brought back hot meals on flights more than 900 miles long, so United's move to an 800-mile threshold for all flights means it will offer meals on a greater range of routes than either of its full-service competitors.

On shorter routes, United has been catering warm sandwiches, which will now be eliminated, the United spokesperson said. Many travelers, myself included, agree that the sandwiches are tasty but have poor nutritional value.

United's first-class sandwich is being retired. (Photo by Ethan Klapper/The Points Guy)

Then there's the issue of variety. When hot meals initially returned to United last June, the airline catered two sets of breakfast meals, and two sets of lunch and dinner meals on mainline flights. Breakfast flights featured a Belgian waffle or an egg scramble, while lunch and dinner meals featured chicken with orzo or a vegetarian enchilada. The only significant change in the past year occurred when Italian ragu over polenta replaced the vegetarian enchilada. The lack of variety has become something of a running joke among some crews and frequent travelers. On one recent flight, the purser, acknowledging my Premier 1K status, joked that she knew I was already aware of the two lunch options. She was right.

More: Hot, plated meals are officially making a comeback on Delta flights

Sign up for our daily newsletter
United's domestic first-class chicken entrée was introduced on June 15, 2021, and has been part of the menu ever since. Glassware returned to United a month after this photo was taken. (Photo by Ethan Klapper/The Points Guy)

Now, the airline will address that issue, too.

"We’re working to build more entrée variety in the Domestic First menu and can share more about our upcoming menu offerings in the weeks ahead," the United spokesperson said.

More: Hot food is back on American — here’s what it was like on day 1

Finally, United is taking another step toward returning its international Polaris business class to its pre-pandemic normalcy. Since 2020, the airline has been serving everything on a single tray. Starting June 1, this will become a three-step sequence, according to United:

Step 1: Pre-meal beverage/cocktail snack/lay table linen
Step 2: Main meal tray with plated entrée
Step 3: Dessert
United has been testing its upgraded Polaris service on select routes, including Washington Dulles (IAD) to Amman, Jordan (AMM). (Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy)

While still not as elaborate as pre-pandemic service, which featured a chilled appetizer (oftentimes tuna or smoked duck), this move is definitely a step in the right direction as travelers return to the skies and demand something closer to normal service.

Bottom line

United fell behind its competition in recent months when it came to domestic first-class catering, offering less variety on far fewer routes than Delta and American. Starting next week, United will offer hot meals on shorter flights than both airlines and promises more variety soon. United's frequent flyers will surely welcome this news.

Featured image by (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
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 - 5X points
5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Earn 150,000 points120,000 points
The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$695

Recommended Credit

670-850
Good, Excellent
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

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Apply for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
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

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • 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
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.