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United Food Service Changes, Part II

Carol Sottili

I blogged a few days ago about United's decision to stop serving free food on flights from Dulles to Europe -- here's a link -- but we didn't know then why Washington Dulles was chosen, and whether the decision was permanent.

An update: United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said in an e-mail that as of now, it's only a test that will run until the end of the year. And Dulles was singled out, she said, because it offers some of the shortest flights between the United States and Europe.

I figure the airline will be monitoring passenger reaction, and whether the lack of free food results in fewer tickets sold. And if your blog comments are an indication, free hot meals may make a comeback.

By Carol Sottili |  August 29, 2008; 7:58 AM ET  | Category:  Carol Sottili
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"Just a test"? Does anyone honestly believe that?

Posted by: Liz | August 29, 2008 9:31 AM

It's a test like everything else the airlines do: they are testing to see what the other airlines do. If other airlines eliminate meals, then United will expand the policy to other flights. If other airlines don't match it, then United will reinstate meals.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 29, 2008 9:38 AM

Yeah, just like US Air stopped charging for water.

Posted by: Liz | August 29, 2008 11:59 AM

I hope they pass the test. Food service on an airplane is rediculous. You sit their and they announce a meal service; you watch the stewardesses roll their carts up the aisle and then slowly back toward you; after a half hour of watching the carts roll around, you have a tremendous feeling of anticipation. And what do you get? Reheated lasagna or greasy chicken. Maybe a candy bar and a salad of wilted lettuce. It's such a disappointment. Granted, if you are starving or were just paroled, the food would taste good. But generally the food served on an airplane, you eat out of boredom and later regret the empty calories. People who are disappointed about not getting an airplane meal likely usually eat Swanson TV dinners while watching the Price is Right. Really, be enouraging you to bring your own fresher, healthier food, United is doing you a great service.

Posted by: Tom | August 29, 2008 1:50 PM

Everyone complains about airline food, the same way we all complained about school lunches. Okay, we know it's not very good in coach, but there are times when I've been grateful for the pasta or chicken. Such as when my connecting flight was late and I couldn't buy a sandwich in the airport, or my flight left so early in the morning that the airport concessions weren't open (not even Starbucks). I'm grateful that it's there and I've rarely turned it down, even if I didn't eat everything on the tray.

I fly United Airlines a lot, because my husband does (lots of frequent flyer miles), but when I've taken Air Canada and Air France, I'm pleasantly surprised by how much better their food is. Air France even offered us free champagne and wine in coach. Thumbs up!

Posted by: mel | August 29, 2008 7:49 PM

Okay, granted, I've never been on a trans-Atlantic flight, but I gotta say domestically, I'm kinda glad they don't give you food anymore.

I'm diabetic, and the food they had was always horrible. Now sometimes I get the snack box (depends on the airline and/or contents) or prepare my own. So I'm eating food that tastes okay at room temperature and doesn't mess my system up.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 30, 2008 9:18 AM

How much did it cost per passanger for food and what percentage of the ticket price paid (half the round trip fare)?? I am willing to guess about $5. International flights is not the market to test nickel and diming the customers.

And you wonder where the logic is.....

Posted by: DJP (seattle) | August 31, 2008 11:54 PM

I think $5 might cover the cost of ingredients, but there's also the expense of removing a row of seats to install an onboard kitchen. Airlines like Southwest that never serve food, don't have a kitchen and can sell three extra seats on every plane. Also, without food service, airlines only need to hire one cabin crew for every 50 passengers, although if they serve a meal, they would likely have to hire more. Pass the savings on to me. I'll bring an apple and a cheese sandwich. I'll eat what I want, when I want and use the lower ticket price to eat a nice restaurant meal at my destination.

Posted by: Tom | September 1, 2008 7:52 AM

Take care of it and keep it on the road!
Newcastle friends
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Posted by: Newcastle friends | September 1, 2008 8:31 PM

I agree with Tom. I don't want to pay for something I don't use. I bring my own food (except for Air France, which is a Spa on a Plane.) I am never without Powerbars and water, whether I am on the Beltway or on a plane. That is what my carry-on daypack is for.

Posted by: Linda | September 1, 2008 10:22 PM

I stick with BA.with free drinks for 9 hours ,the food is required.without it i would be crawling off the aircraft

Posted by: david corke | September 3, 2008 12:09 PM

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