United Airlines Further Cuts Onboard Catering

United Airlines has rolled out further cuts to its onboard catering. As of last weekend, there will be no more craft beer, a limited supply of soft drinks, and pretty much only the tiny Tapas box for premium passengers.

United Airlines A320
United Airlines has made further cuts to its onboard catering provision. Photo: Getty Images

The age of COVID catering

Like most airlines, United has been forced to make some changes to its services in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Measures designed to limit social contact, give people space, and create a safer flying experience are all becoming part of the ‘new normal,’ which includes changes to the onboard catering.

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Many airlines have rolled out new ways of providing inflight refreshments since restarting operations. For some, this means removing trolley service in favor of bagged water and snacks distributed prior to boarding. Indeed, even up in premium cabins, many airlines are now distributing boxed food rather than the usual lavish meal service.

British Airways, Meal Service, COVID
Many airlines are serving meals in a box. Photo: British Airways

While the primary reason for these changes is to reduce unnecessary contact between cabin crew and passengers, it comes with a double benefit. These types of meal services are inevitably cheaper, and at a time when airlines are desperate to save money, that can only be a good thing.

However, as revealed by Live And Lets Fly today, United Airlines seems to be making some rather deeper cuts than expected. Here’s what you need to know.

United Airlines’ additional catering cuts

United had already switched to serving boxed meals in premium cabins as part of a COVID mitigation strategy. However, from last weekend onwards, there have been some significantly deeper cuts noticed.

For a start, the airline has removed craft and seasonal beer from its offering. Although you might get some special beers hanging about until supplies are exhausted, once they’re gone, the only choice will be Stella Artois or Miller Lite. Live And Lets Fly also says United is struggling with a supply of soft drinks, and has shortages of Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Sprite on board.

United Airlines craft beer
Craft beers will be n more. Photo: United Airlines

In terms of the food – in general, there is none. Only three premium transcon routes will maintain a meal service: Los Angeles and San Francisco to Newark and San Francisco to Boston. On these flights, first class passengers can expect to be served either the Tapas or Classic box meal, that used to be for sale to economy passengers.

United meal boxes
Premium passengers can expect only a small meal box to be served. Photo: United Airlines

Live And Lets Fly says that some passengers have even reported some items missing from their Tapas boxes, and that overall the offering of a Classic box is becoming a rarity. The kiddies Ben Flyin’ snack box has disappeared altogether.

United Airlines Ben Flyin meal box
The kid-friendly ‘Ben Flyin’ box is not being served. Photo: United Airlines

These cuts represent approximately 50% less food being served to United premium passengers. It doesn’t look like first class meals will be coming back anytime soon, or the craft and seasonal beer selection. If you believe that removing one olive from its premium meals saved American Airlines $40,000 a year, imagine what United will save by cutting its food by 50%.

United Premium transcon meal
It’s likely to be a long time before we see this sort of standard back on transcon flights. Photo: United Airlines

Hopefully, it’s a temporary change, and with thousands of United employees fearful for their jobs, it’s certainly necessary penny-pinching. However, with nothing much left to differentiate it from a low-cost carrier, how will United keep its customers from switching to a cheaper fare?