Service On A Recent United Flight Surprised Even Me

Let’s face it.  Service on airlines has gone down pretty much across the board in the United States.  With the exception of Southwest, which has kept it simple and fun for years, you’re likely to enjoy less amenities in-flight than you might have 5 years ago.

A recent United Airlines flight caught me a bit by surprise, even though nothing really should surprise me anymore.  It was the flight I noted where United was passing out mints to customers as part of a credit card sign-up pitch.

This was on a flight from Chicago-O’Hare airport to Washington Dulles airport.  Those flights are generally about 2 hours from gate to gate, or about 100 minutes of flying time.  Definitely not a “short hop”, per se.

When the staff finished passing out mints, they began the beverage service.  It consisted of…..glasses of water.

United Flight

I was pretty surprised that this route now appears to feature only water service.  To my knowledge, there are no regional jets on this route, all mainline aircraft.  And, most of the times I’ve flown this route, the plane has been full.  I generally see a solid percentage of business travelers on the route as well.

I’ve flown shorter routes on many other carriers and gotten considerably more than a glass of water.  Heck, in Europe, 100 minutes is enough time for a hot meal service and 2 drink services.

The Final Two Pennies

View From The Wing drew my attention to a post by The Forward Cabin about American eliminating drink service on flights of less than 250 miles.  Chicago to Dulles is more than double that distance.

It really makes me wonder if this is some sort of test/fluke?  The staff were pretty adamant that this was what they’d been doing for a while.

I don’t really eat or drink much on domestic flights.  I bring my own bottle of water and generally eat before I board, or purchase a sandwich in the terminal to eat onboard.  To that end, changes like this have little impact on me.  However, I do wonder how others feel.  The more an airline like United makes their product like Frontier and Spirit, the more customers choose based on price.  I’d hazard a guess that Frontier and Spirit have drinks available for purchase on flights of this length.  That’s something United wasn’t offering in this instance (nor do they normally sell soft drinks).

Bottom line here is that “less” is what you should expect.  Basic Economy fares are spreading.  And, in some cases, basic benefits are going away.

Heck, even BoltBus offers free Wifi and power outlets…..

The post Service On A Recent United Flight Surprised Even Me was published first on Pizza in Motion


    1. I recently flew on a transcon with them in economy out of Dulles. Two full beverage services were provided on my morning flight, and hot food was available for purchase on the first service. The food was decent. The crew was also pretty good. The red eye back of course just had one beverage service.

  1. Next time you’re here, try QF BNE SYD, then for something shorter, SYD MEL.
    Like some of the EU carriers, service with a smile :). J will see you with a 3 course hot meal. Y hot at usual mealtimes, otherwise a tasty snack that feels like food. And beverages to match 😉

  2. I love United and just scored a RT Polaris Business EWR to Tokyo using my GPU confirmed for $1,226. The same ticket costs $5,976. Is that why you are drinking water?

  3. This also surprised me. This is the service I received on a flight yesterday from Dulles to.. Pittsburgh. This is what I would expect on this short of a flight not a flight to Chicago. Hopefully this will not be the norm. I am already considering shifting more business to Southwest due to basic economy on United and have a handful of flights on Jet Blue this year.

  4. United was getting jealous about everyone JUST complaining about British Airways BoB for intra-Europe Y, so they figured they could garner some attention now.

  5. Was this an sCO or sUA crew? At times, one side of the house would make up the least-amount-of-effort rule (i.e., water service) instead of rolling out the carts to do proper drink service. Also, in cases of known turbulence en route, the captain may advise the flight attendants to do an expedited drink service (i.e., water only) so they can be safely strapped in. Nonetheless, they are supposed to bring you other drinks if requested.

    1. Ptahcha, this was not a turbulent flight. I don’t know if it was sCO or sUA. I did ask the crew about the service and they said that was what they had been getting catered for a while, including no buy on board cart.

  6. It was several years ago. Perhaps things have changed. Can’t remember the airline. Flying from London to Dublin in coach we were served a full hot meal. I wondered how they can get that served and picked up in the very short travel time – but they did. I thought at the time – who needs this? I still wonder – who needs food, drinks, and snacks on a trip of a couple of hours? If you really need something on board, just bring it.

    As an aside I left United after flying over 2 million miles with them. I’m a happier man flying Delta even though the connections are not always the best out of SFO.

  7. I flew from Santorini to Athens two years ago on Volotea (a repainted-but-not-reupholstered B717). It was less than 40 mins in the air and we were still given a VERY quickly served hot cheesy pasta. There were no options as to meal choice nor questions about food allergies–the FA’s just threw a box down in front of every passenger. IIRC, there was an actual drink service.

    Needless to say, we were impressed. UA can’t even do cleanup service in that amount of time!

    Flying CLT to CHS (right at 30 mins) on US Airways/Mesa even had drink service on request back in 2013.

    I’m surprised at this new low; is it a byproduct of spending more to throw economy passengers a bone on transcon flights?

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