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United Airlines passengers can now pre-order food and drink

As airlines regain their footing, more in-flight options are becoming available

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Photo (c) Rusell Hendry - Getty Images
United Airlines has become the first U.S. airline to offer economy passengers the option to pre-order snacks and beverages. The move comes tailor-made for health-conscious travelers by giving them one more contactless interaction. It also adds another peg for United to build on as it focuses on transforming the customer experience.

Travelers can use United’s website or its app to pre-order their food and drink choices up to five days before departure. For now, the pre-order option is available on select flights departing from Chicago to Orange County, Calif., Sacramento, Calif., and San Diego. It will grow to cover any flight over 1,500 miles by early fall 2021. 

"Our new pre-order option reflects the customer experience transformation taking place at United – customers in our economy cabins will have an easy, convenient way to choose their snack or drink, and our flight attendants can move through the cabin faster, delivering more personalized service," said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United. 

"This new feature also builds on our existing contactless payment technology, which has enabled us to safely resume our inflight food and beverage program on select flights."

How it works

The process, as United explains it, is very straightforward. Five days before taking off, passengers will receive an email notifying them that they’re able to pre-order. App users will also see the option in the Reservation Details section of the United app.

United says there’s a slight difference between people flying economy and those flying at an upgraded level. Economy fliers only have access to snacks, while those in premium seats will be able to make meal choices. 

Food options are starting to return

As airlines returned to full loads, drink and food options were somewhat limited. United evidently feels that it has a good plan and is moving forward with a list of expanded options.

The airline has added several wine and beer options to its lineup for economy fliers, including White Claw seltzers and Breckenridge Brewery IPAs. On the food side of the menu, there’s now a new tapas snack box with high-protein options and a “Recline” snack box that has movie theater-themed treats.

For those in the premium section, the enhanced meal service now includes a choice of entrees like an egg scramble with plant-based chorizo and a grilled chicken breast with orzo and lemon basil pesto.

The food and experience on United flights have earned the company some positive reviews from ConsumerAffairs users. Joel from Manassas gave the carrier five stars in his recent review.

"It has been a while since I have flown, but then to the best of my memory the seats were adequately comfortable and the meals were good. Also the landing and takeoff was smooth," he said.

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