How United Airlines is improving coach food on long flights

In a bid to keep customers happy United Airlines this week greatly improved its food and beverage offerings in first, business and economy classes. 

Premium class passengers have long been served edible food, but this is a major improvement for passengers in coach, and it demonstrates United is serious about travelers in the back. 

Travelers on flights between the U.S. and Africa, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Europe, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, the Middle East and Taiwan, are now getting three-course meals with free booze. 

Here are some highlights of the new offerings:

 One of the new main courses. Photo: United. 

One of the new main courses. Photo: United. 

On many international flights, coach passengers are getting free beer and "Bistro Mundo merlot and chardonnay house wines." But don't look for that wine from a bottle.  Flight attendants are pouring from a "tetraPak" package, which looks sort of like a juice box. If you want wine from a bottle, you'll have to pay. United is selling a half bottle for $15.99.

For the first course United has three options. One is a Kiri cheese spread with crackers. Another is Gilman cheese and crackers. The third is baked whole-grain bruschetta chips. United says which one you get depends on the flight.

The second course consists of "refreshed salads [and] many new entrées made of higher quality, fresh ingredients." They are accompanied by "premium, artisan breads." I am not sure what a "refreshed" salad is, but presumably it is better than a regular salad.

The third course is gelato, ice cream, sorbet, mousse, or fruit cup. Again, travelers won't see all of those options. Which one you'll get depends on the flight. 

Your tray includes a "six-in-one cutlery packet." Not sure why that's a big deal, but United seems excited about it. 

You'll get a free bottle of water after dessert.

 The morning croissant. Photo: United

The morning croissant. Photo: United

If you're hungry after the meal, you can buy snacks from flight attendants.  

Before landing on most flights, you get three choices, depending on time of day and the flight. Morning is usually a cold croissant. Many afternoon and evening flights mostly will get a hot sandwich. Some long flights will continue to get a second full meal. 

Have you tried the new food? How is it?