United’s bringing back plated meal service in domestic first class

May 12, 2021

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Premium-cabin passengers traveling with United this summer are in for a big (culinary) upgrade.

On Wednesday, United announced that it’s bringing back plated meal service for domestic first-class flyers starting on June 15.

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The new meals will include a choice of entrees, as well as a side dish and dessert. United teased some of the menu items in its announcement, including:

  • Breakfast: Egg scramble with plant-based chorizo OR Belgium waffle with bourbon berry compote, served with a side of a peach-flavored Greek yogurt parfait.
  • Lunch/dinner: grilled chicken breast with orzo and lemon basil pesto OR vegetarian enchilada with chile verde, served with a side of Spanish rice.

For dessert, United’s partnering with Chicago-based Eli’s Cheesecake on a chocolate pie flavor called “Pie in the Sky.”

To minimize contact and promote safety, all meals will be served individually wrapped on one tray. First-class passengers can also enjoy a full selection of complimentary beverages, including new alcoholic options, like mango-flavored White Claw or Breckenridge Brewery Juice Drop Hazy IPA.

Some of United’s new drink options (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

When the new meals launch on June 15, they’ll exclusively be available in the forward cabin on domestic routes over 1,500 miles and on hub-to-hub flights over 800 miles or two hours or longer. United’s seven domestic hubs are Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington Dulles (IAD).

United didn’t have any pictures to share of the new meals, but they’ll almost certainly be an upgrade compared to the snack boxes and hot sandwiches that are currently offered on select routes.

These sandwiches have received poor reviews from both readers and TPG reporters alike. On a recent United flight from Chicago (ORD) to Bozeman (BZN), TPG’s Zach Honig selected the 650-calorie carved chicken sandwich, only to find it filled with more cheese than chicken.

When United reintroduces first-class meals, it’ll become the first of the Big 3 U.S. airlines to do so. American serves fresh snacks and light bites in the forward cabin, while Delta only offers pre-packaged snack boxes, though the Atlanta-based carrier is planning to offer fresh boxed meals beginning in early July, with more details to come.

Related: Here’s what food and drinks you can expect on your next flight

First-class passengers aren’t the only ones receiving a meal upgrade — United’s also expanding its buy-on-board alcohol and snack program to even more domestic flights this summer.

Starting June 1, coach passengers on flights over 800 miles will be able to purchase any of the following:

  • White Claw Mango ($8)
  • Breckenridge Brewery Juice Drop Hazy IPA ($8)
  • Kona Brewing Co. Big Wave Golden Ale ($8)
  • Michelob Ultra ($8)
  • Stella Artois ($8)
  • Red, white and sparkling wine options ($9)

Roughly two weeks later, on June 15, United will then expand its for-purchase snack options for flights of similar length, including:

  • Pringles ($4)
  • Trü Frü Banana Bites ($5)
  • Food Should Taste Good Chips & Salsa ($5)
  • GourmetNut Mega Omega Trail Mix ($5)
  • Tapas ($10), Takeoff ($10) or Recline ($8) snack box
United’s buy-on-board snack options (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Previously, these snacks and drinks were only available on select premium transcon routes and on flights to Hawaii.

As United expands its revamped dining offerings, the carrier will exclusively accept contactless payment through the United app.

When the flight attendant passes by your row, you’ll be asked if you want to purchase a snack or drink. If you do, the crew will pull up your profile on a mobile tablet and charge your stored payment method. Receipts will be emailed, keeping the purchase process completely touchless — in line with guidance from the Cleveland Clinic.

Top-tier Premier 1K and invite-only Global Services members seated in coach will continue to receive a complimentary snack box and alcoholic drink, subject to availability.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

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