One thing that fascinates me about premium cabin air travel on short-medium haul routes is the standards that airlines determine for what amenities they offer on those flights. American and European airlines vary widely in service and almost in all cases, European airlines always win. Then you also have Asian airlines, which are generally considered better than both American and European airlines. I’d like to explain the logic behind the domestic First Class meal service that is offered in the United States in comparison to what European airlines offer in their “Business Class”.
One interesting example is the Business Class service found on domestic flights within the U.S. or the intra-European Business Class flights. European airlines will almost always provide a meal in intra-European Business Class, no matter how short the flight is – however, their Business Class on these routes is simply an Economy seat with the middle seat blocked (on 3-3 configuration), or the aisle seat blocked (on 2-2 configuration).
However, American carriers provide the opposite – they almost always have a more comfortable seat in the premium cabin, that is significantly nicer than Economy but… they usually only provide meal service on flights longer than 2 hours.
On flights two hours or shorter (there are exceptions, of course), most U.S. airlines will provide the same drink service as on longer flights, however there will be no meal and simply a “snack basket” will be offered. Let’s take a look at United’s snack basket, they describe it as:
Refreshments, which include a selection of premium snacks and fresh fruit
While in theory the description sounds good, the norm is that the snack basket usually doesn’t have healthy snacks and rather it is filled with cookies and packaged snacks that I wouldn’t consider “premium” at all. I’ve also rarely seen fruit in these snack baskets. So to summarise my point, I try to avoid flights with the snack basket.
United offers the snack basket on the following flights per their North America premium cabin dining details:
- 1 hr. – 2 hrs. 19 min. departing at 10:00 or later
- 2 hrs. 20 min. – 2 hrs. 30 min. departing from 13:30 to 14:59 and departing from 20:01 to 04:59
- 2 hrs. 31 min. – 3 hrs. 59 min. departing at 20:01 or later
- 4 hrs. – 5 hrs. 19 min. departing at 21:01 or later
The interesting thing is that they used to offer chilled meals on flights longer than 2.5 hours that were departing late at night… well, now you get a “premium snack basket”. I think the main reason behind this (besides cutting costs) is that they expect their customers to “go with the flow” of the day and if it isn’t “meal” time, then they won’t serve you a meal.
There are many problems with their logic behind this because most people are travelling across various time zones and this doesn’t make sense and it is a bit elementary in my honest opinion – it’s like they’re expecting their customers to know when they serve meals and when they don’t.
Trying to figure out when they serve “real” meals is also a challenge which is why they have an entire chart dedicated to this… it’s kind of ridiculous that they need to do this. And as if this wasn’t bad enough, they recently adjusted their flight schedules to depart at (for example) 21:01 instead of 21:00 to avoid having to serve a meal…. or they also slightly shifted the flight’s duration.
I mean how could you not have any meal at all on a flight longer than four hours?! Who cares if it departs at 21:01?! If I didn’t know their ridiculous “rules”, I’d be expecting a full meal on a flight of that length – it isn’t like 21:00 is late. They also get around serving meals by saying that if the flight is outside of the “traditional” meal times, they will serve a snack basket.
I do actually have to admit that when they do serve meals, they’re usually really good. So while I hate them for their stupid “snack basket”, I have to at least give them credit for serving edible meals most of the time.
What are your thoughts regarding the U.S. Domestic First Class Meal service?