A new low – United: paid for meals on transatlantic

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  • Anonymous


    So United Airlines (UA) have announced that “Effective October 1, 2008: On all flights between Washington-Dulles (IAD) and Europe, complimentary meals in United Economy will be replaced with buy-on-board fresh food and SnackBox offerings.”

    When will US airlines learn that in their race to the bottom they only will loose more and more customers and drive them to European and Middle Eastern carriers? Already plagued by ancient equipment (US aircraft are in my humble opinion the dirtiest and worst kept in the western world, in all service classes), they now relegate themselves to the bottom of the pile even further. Compare the international economy offerings from LH or AF, or domestic service of JetBlue with those of any US legacy carrier and it becomes clear how spectacularly wrong United got it (again).


    your experience is sad indeed; I don’t know where you were flying to, but if it was Europe, there are 3 of the big four left to get food for free (AA, BA, VA). I do hope though UA is not setting a trend here. Who could get passed security with home-cooked meals and/or survive a transatlantic flight without food?


    What UAL is trialling here is a concept first introduced by Laker’s Skytrain in 1977 and emulated by US budget carrier People Express in 1983.

    The difference is that these latter two airlines billed themselves as no frills carriers whereas UAL sees itself as a conventional full service company.

    UAL flies from Washington Dulles to Heathrow and various points in mainland Europe including Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Zurich and Paris CDG.

    Some of these flights are code-shared with fellow Star Alliance partners.

    It will be interesting to see what economy class passengers make of it all. For example, take LH from Frankfurt to Washington and get free food but book a code-shared LH flight (one which is operated by UAL) and then find you have to pay.

    But UAL’s transatlantic flights from Washington Dulles aren’t the only services undergoing a change in catering.

    According to UAL’s statement, business class passengers taking its US domestic routes will find that their catering is being downgraded to what is served in economy class. The only difference is that it (the food in business class) will be served free of charge.



    I think that UA’s Star Alliance code-share partners should insist that free Y-class meals continue to be served, to maintain some semblance of consistency in levels of in-flight service. Buy-on-board is bad enough on US domestic routes (sometimes there’s not even enough to go around!) without this pernicious practice being extended to long-haul international services. United Airlines seems to have a death wish!


    This is of course pathetic! A legacy carrier that is now scrimping the bottom of the barrel to save pennies at the expense of loyal passengers. I never fly with US carriers, and have to laugh at what the likes of United, Delta, and Northwest are going through and doing. It of course is not a surprise that United is doing this trickery only out of Dulles, as they are the major force there and can probably withstand the negative reactions as they all but have traffic into IAD locked up. It will be interesting to see them try this at a less UAL driven city, where there is more competition. Not likely I would suppose. Regardless, a cheap trick, an embarassment for any partner airline, and yet another reason to never fly UAL!


    Paying for meals ?? !! Actually on my last flight in Europe with Lufthanse ( LHR-CGN) I got a cup of coffee, a cheese rol amd a poiece of choclate. I thought about the easyJet flights where you can order what you want (within reason) and pay for it.
    I think I would prefer to buy some decend stuff instead of the standard (United) grub.


    Victory at last. United have abandoned their ill thought out plan to charge for meals in Economy Class on transatlantic flights. Sometimes customer feedback works!


    I flew United with no loyalty status but transatlantic, overnight (Washington-London) in Business. Window seat with no legroom where the reclining passenger in front trapped me in – literally. Wholly unacceptable. Cabin crew could not offer me any other seat, even in First. Compensation was a reduction on a flight within the continental US only, therefore useless to me as a UK-based customer who travels infrequently to the US. Also my meal preference was unavailable; and my preferred wine (a French red – on my menu but said to be only in First but specially allowed to me!) ran out. What a farce.

    Result – I will not fly United again. They are, in my view, a crap airline who do not understand or sympathise with premium passengers’ expectations.


    And I flew transatlantic (Washington – London) on UA in business too. But I got to fly their new C product and flew backwards, what an experience.

    Great crew, great selection of wines (indeed, I stuck with champagne for the entire flight). Popped a sleeping pill and fell asleep immediately on the new flat bed. Slept like a baby, woke literally 15 minutes to landing.

    Despite their flaws, of which there are many, I WILL fly United again.

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