United’s Inconsistent First Class Meal Catering

In the past two months I’ve had a rather random assortment of meals on United Airlines that differ from what’s advertised. It’s not that big of a deal, but I’ve received what I consider a “snack†for dinner and “lunch†for a snack.

On pre-merger United I could always count on a hot meal for dinner in first class, and at least one heated option for lunch. This wasn’t the case on a 7:25 p.m. Chicago to Los Angeles flight last month advertised as dinner. Here was the only selection offered for the flight – a cold chicken plate:

a plate of food and a bowl of salsaIt was filling enough, but I recall this being more of a snack offering in the past. I did receive a hot dinner a couple of weeks later from Houston to Los Angeles on a 4:06 p.m. departure – a choice of chicken cacciatore (my selection) or penne pasta:

a plate of food on a table Yesterday on a 1:46 p.m. “snack†flight to Denver, the exact same choices as my previous dinner flight were offered. I again went with the chicken and was happy to have a hot meal.

a plate of food with a side of saladAnd last night’s 7:49 p.m. flight from Denver to Washington Dulles was the first time I received this cold plate snack:

a plate of food and saladIt was fine, though I wish United would make 8:00 p.m. the dinner-snack switchover time. Again, this really isn’t a huge deal, but I’m surprised at the inconsistency lately.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


  1. Variety is better than monotony

    I am pretty sure that CO folks control the catering and menu of the combined airline, for what it’s worth. But they do appear to have compared the pm UA offering and pm CO offering … and mainly chosen the pmCO offering unless the pmUA offered a compelling cost saving. Good little salt and pepper shakers.

  2. Random isn’t the only issue. Coming back from Ireland on UA just last week, 8:30am boarding and meal choices, it was spaghetti or steak for me after they gave away the half dozen breakfasts they’d brought aboard (very small up front cabin). I mentioned this seemed kinda dumb (given the time of day) to the FA, who was not pleased with my opinion, and made sure all the other FA’s knew what a horribly mean guy I was (!) … very pleasant experience – can’t wait to fly United again.

    • @Dale: Had a similar choice on my Dublin to Newark flight earlier this year. Oddly, I didn’t mind the steak, though catering a full breakfast for everyone does make more sense.

  3. The last snack plate is nasty. I really like the chicken with corn one. I haven’t come across the Mediterranean version of the snack plate yet.

  4. As they say in the newspaper business, it must have been a slow news day. You are right – this really isn’t a huge deal.

    • @Golfingboy: The cold plate wasn’t bad, actually… I didn’t think it was bad.
      @Mark: Yep… slow news day. 😉
      @Cook: Some FAs take the time to attempt to reposition things for a better plating, but yes… a lot simply pull it out of the oven, peel back the foil and voila.

  5. All of those meals remind me of COACH fare in the mid-1970s. The Chicken/Corn ‘snack’ looks like a hot meal that the FA just did not bother heating. All seem reasonably decent for ingredients, but it seems that plating and presentation are no longer important. Note the differences between the two shots of the same meal. I guess the worst part is that CO/UA FA’s just seem to toss the food at the pax these days, often with a take- or leave it attitude. One expects that in coach, but for the prices they get for their domestic Business/First product, a tiny bit more would go a long way. IMO, they just don’t give a [fill-in] anymore.

  6. I work for s-CO in catering and when we started catering the UA flights we were told that united goes by mileage when they catered flights. For CO flights we go by time of day. So I hope that explains why you get the meals you get at those times of day. By the way I love your blog!

  7. Maybe it is because I do not like most of the items on the deli plate, which limited my choices of mixing food. But, when I get those plates the red peppers are soggy, the prosciutto does not really go well with the other ingredients and I can’t eat that stuff alone, the mozzarella is relatively bland [probably due to being on the aircraft], etc.

    But, if given the choice between a snack basket or the deli plate, I probably would take the deli plate as I enjoy the salad and the brownie that comes with it :p

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