Reader Sam L. flew San Francisco – Newark yesterday on United and provides feedback on the brand new improved United meal service.
3 choices on a long-ish haul, up from 2.
Had the mac and cheese and, while certainly calorific, it was excellent. Probably the best airplane food I’ve had in awhile.
Ice cream was served (no toppings) but the flight attendant said going forward it should be some sort of fruit gelato outside of [premium New York JFK – San Francisco/Los Angeles] routes. Sort of a shame because I liked the sundae service.
There is also a new cookie that is baked on board. Sort of flat but it is gooey and tastes excellent. Less bread-like than the old cookie.
The cookie is, apparently, really baked and not just heated on board — a direct frontal assault on American which has moved to heat-on-board cookies because legacy US Airways aircraft have only one oven.
United is the airline that changed to broken cashew pieces to save money, yet’s they’re now investing in inflight product. They’ve even brought back bread plates.
The reason I find this fascinating is because:
- They believed they could save money eliminating bread plates.
- They’re still being careful with every dollar, but have decided to reverse themselves and bring back bread plates.
- This is because they believe they’ll earn more money doing so.
Even though domestic first class is substantially populated with upgrades.
When US Airways began adding wireless internet to their fleet three years ago, it was a real watershed moment.
- They knew they weren’t going to cover the installation and operation costs with passenger internet fees.
- They realized, though, that not having internet meant they were losing ticket sales to carriers that let business travelers be productive inflight.
It’s not that anyone is going to make their purchase decision on bread plates, or cookies, per se. Just as very few will make decisions explicitly based on amenity kits. But the perception of the quality of product matters. In a death by a thousand cut, any individual cut doesn’t kill you but taken together you’re still dead.
American has had to add back and improve meal services, previously cut to meet the US Airways offerings halfway in the middle. Delta is offering a more substantial product. Even Alaska Airlines is as well.
What’s more, airlines are monetizing their premium domestic cabin. And if they want repeat business the product can’t merely be what Spirit Air markets as ‘the big front seat’.
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