United Ditches Meals on Certain First Class Flights, Rebrands ‘Snacks’ as ‘Meals’

May 6, 2018

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Update 5/10/2018: In a tweet and confirmed by email with an airline spokesperson, United has reversed its plan to phase out tomato juice on flights:

Last September, United angered its elites and first class flyers by “testing” reductions in meal services on “select” domestic flights. Now it appears United is making some permanent changes to its on-board catering. Through a mass update to its website on Friday, United unveiled a score of changes in its on-board food and drink service — from cutting first class meals on some flights to removing tomato juice as an option.

Removal of Meals from 3-4 Hour Flights

The most notable change to the food and drink offerings is the elimination of first class meals on domestic flights between 3-4 hours that depart before 4pm. For reference, here’s what was previously offered on flights between 3 hours and 3:59 hours in length:

  • 5 a.m. to 1:29 p.m. A full meal service with two entree choices is available on flights 3 hours or longer
  • 1:30 p.m. to 2:59 p.m. A full meal service with two entree choices is available on flights 3 hours or longer
  • 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. A full meal service with two entrée choices is available on dinner flights
  • 8:01 p.m. or later Refreshments, which include a selection of premium snacks and fresh fruit

Now, flights between 2:20 hours and 3:59 hours will be offered:

The options starting at 4pm are identical — however, the “full meal service” for flights departing before 3pm have been replaced by a not-so-full “meal service.” Speaking of which…

Rebranding “Snacks” as “Meal Service”

The first class menu for flights between 2:20 hours and 2:59 hours in length used to state (emphasis added):

  • 5 a.m. to 1:29 p.m. Snack, which includes fresh fruit and breakfast bread on morning flights or a chilled plate with chocolate on afternoon flights
  • 1:30 p.m. to 2:59 p.m. Refreshments, which include a selection of premium snacks and fresh fruit
  • 3 p.m. to 3:59 p.m. Snack, which includes a chilled plate with chocolate truffle

This has all been replaced by one line:

5 a.m. to 3:59 p.m. Meal service which includes fresh fruit and breakfast bread on morning flights or a chilled plate with chocolate on afternoon flights.

While the details of the snack/meal is staying the same (“fresh fruit and breakfast bread on morning flights or a chilled plate with chocolate on afternoon flights”), it seems United is just rebranding this service from “snack” to a “meal service.” And based on early reports, the “meal service” doesn’t look particularly large:

New Brand for Mixed Drinks

According to changes on multiple website pages, United is trading out its Crafthouse Cocktails Moscow Mule and replacing it with On the Rocks Cocktails’ Old Fashioned. Economy passengers can order an Old Fashioned “on select United flights” for $9.99.

Change in Beer Selection

As part of United’s “rotating craft beer selection,” the airline is swapping the current Shiner Bock and Breckenridge Lucky U IPA for New Belgium Citradelic Tangerine IPA and Lagunitas Sumpin’ Easy Ale. These cost $7.99 for economy passengers to purchase — except when it’s complimentary on trans-Atlantic flights, flights between the United States and Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and trans-Pacific flights between the United States and Australia, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan.

Removal of Alcohol Drink Options

According to changes to United’s website, the following alcohol drink options will no longer be available: Canadian Club Whisky, Jim Beam Devil’s Cut Bourbon Whiskey, Courvoisier VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac and Crown Royal Canadian Whisky. The updated spirit choices and prices are:

Non-Alcoholic Beverage Changes

There are a few removals from United’s non-alcoholic inflight beverage selection, including Sprite Zero and Mott’s Tomato Juice.

Removal of Soup Course from Polaris First Class

United isn’t selling Polaris First Class for flights after June 20, 2018, but it’s cutting a course from the menu for those that are hoping to experience United’s last international first class option. The airline updated its dining website, which formerly read as follows (emphasis added):

Customers seated in United Polaris first class will enjoy a six-course meal. Menus feature appetizers, soup and salad, a choice of entree, a cheese course and a selection of desserts including our signature ice cream sundae.

The new text makes the following alterations and deletions (emphasis added):

Customers seated in United Polaris first and business class will enjoy a five-course meal. Menus feature a chilled appetizer, salad, a choice of entree, a cheese course and a selection of desserts including our signature ice cream sundae.

Removal of Midflight Snack Options

One last minor change appears when you scroll down to the midflight snack section — “sandwiches and wraps” have been removed from the list of options:

Depending on the destination and length of your flight, we offer a selection of midflight snacks, including fresh fruit, packaged snacks, sandwiches and wraps and a variety of hot bites.

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