United Airlines says it has begun to improve its first class, business class and economy class menus on many flights, with bigger changes to come in 2015.
Here's what United is already offering or is planning:
- New premium salads for first and business class passengers in North America, which began in August. They include a Southwestern salad, an Asian-style noodle salad, a seasonal greens with roast beef and blue cheese salad and a Strawberry Fields salad.
- New sandwiches and wraps for premium customers on North American flights, beginning Sept. 1. Choices will include Italian prosciutto on tomato focaccia and a Thai-style chicken wrap.
- Prosecco in premium cabins starting this fall. No word on the quality of the stuff.
- Meals in first and business class on shorter flights, beginning next year. It looks like United will offer substantial meals on flights longer than 2 hours, 20 minutes, or 800 miles. (American Airlines recently shortened its meal service window.)
- Fresh meals for first class passengers on United Express starting next year. Currently, those passengers receive only a shelf-stable snack box.
I give United credit for investing in its onboard meals, which by many accounts, including my wife's, have not been good or particularly healthy in recent years. But it's not easy to do fresh at scale and at 35,000 feet, so we'll have to see whether United can pull it off. We'll also have to see if the salads are popular. I get the feeling passengers tell airlines in surveys that they want more healthy food, but when it comes time to make the choice, they go with the junk.
There isn't much in United's release about economy class food, but perhaps we'll get more in the future. Here's what the release says: "By mid-2015, United will further enhance its in-flight dining by significantly enhancing United Economy meals and beverages on long-haul international flights."