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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees