United passengers can now pre-order meals, snacks and drinks on select flights

Jul 28, 2021

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In late-2019, United began testing a new meal request tool, letting select travelers make their pick of options up until a day before departure. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, food and beverage offerings were scaled back and we didn’t hear another peep about the new customer-friendly feature — until this week.

As of Wednesday, pre-order meals are back on select United flights. And this time the option isn’t just limited to premium-cabin flyers — even travelers in economy will be able to request specific meals, snacks and beverages in advance.

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(Photo courtesy of United Airlines)

As of now, the option is available on United flights from Chicago to Honolulu (HNL) in Hawaii, along with Orange County (SNA), Sacramento (SMF) and San Diego (SAN) in California. It’ll roll out to all flights over 1,500 miles early this fall.

United explains how the new option works below:

  • Five days prior to departure, customers on eligible flights will see an option in the Reservation Details section of the United app or on United.com to pre-order food and beverage items available for their specific flight. Customers will also receive an email notifying them when pre-order is available.
  • In economy cabins, customers can pre-order snacks and beverages from United’s buy-on-board menu. They will be asked to enter their credit card information but will not be charged until the items are served to them onboard.
  • In premium cabins, customers can select their meal option directly from the United app or website. Once they make their selection, they will get a receipt emailed to them.

If you successfully order an item in advance, it’ll be “reserved” for you specifically — you won’t have to worry about the crew running out before reaching your row. Some items might not be loaded on certain flights, but that’s unlikely to be a frequent occurrence — if you place an order in advance, you should expect to typically receive it onboard.

United Premier 1K and Global Services members will continue to receive one free snack and adult beverage — they won’t be charged, even if they see prices displayed during the ordering process.

All other travelers won’t have their card charged until they receive their order on the flight. Economy flyers can also save their payment information in their “digital wallet” on United.com or the airline’s app and use that stored card to pay for additional items selected onboard.

American Airlines economy flyers have been able to reserve meals for several years and Alaska Airlines recently began offering a pre-order tool for travelers in all cabins, but options are currently limited to meals and snacks — United’s pre-order tool is the first I’ve seen to let flyers specify their beverage selections as well.

Featured photo courtesy of United Airlines

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