Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

United Airlines Is Taking Preorders of Drinks and Snacks 5 Days Before Flights

2 months ago

United, and a lot of other U.S.-based airlines didn’t permit onboard booze purchases during most of the pandemic, but that’s changed and the airline is now even enabling passengers on certain U.S. domestic flights to order snacks and drinks up to five days before their trips.

Bacardi rum
United is enabling preordering of Bacardi Rum, although not the Bacardi 8, as shown on a bar. Flickr.com https://cutt.ly/6ZvCIWW slgckgc

United sent me an email five days before a flight from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico to Newark, New Jersey, with the offer to choose snacks and drinks from five days to 24 hours before the flight. If your flight plans change, United said it will cancel the order, and send another email regarding snack and drink choices for the new flight, when relevant.

“Make your food and beverage choice now and don’t worry about pulling out your wallet as we move toward contactless payment,” the United email said. “You can change your mind about your choice and won’t be charged until you receive your refreshments on board.”

Simpleflying reported that United’s preorder service for snacks and beverages is only available on certain U.S. domestic flights, but the airline plans to expand this to additional routes.

When navigating to United’s preorder inflight refreshments page, you can specify gluten free, kosher, vegetarian and vegan choices, if desires.

The snack choices include items such as Pringles ($4), tapas ($10), and Lesser Evil Himalayan Gold popcorn ($8), for example.

As a United frequent flyer, the airline had my payment information saved so the purchase was easy to make, and I immediately received an email confirmation of my order.

The menu listed all of the drinks choices, ranging from sparkling wine to Bailey’s Irish Cream and Wheatley Vodka, as being out of stock, adding they may still be available on the flight.

I couldn’t order any snacks or drinks for my return flight because it was too many days away.

United’s new preordering of snacks and drinks is a good way for airlines to increase their ancillary services revenue. If the choices were personalized to the flyer then that might be an added attraction, but it would probably be impractical at this juncture.

United Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella said July 21 that the airline’s ancillary revenue per onboard passenger in the second quarter was 30 percent higher than during the same period in 2019.

The airline is making up lost revenue from change fees, dropped during the pandemic, with increased ancillary revenue — or non-flight services — from bag fees and premium seats.

It’s unclear whether flight crews, who have had to deal with boozed-up and sometimes violent passengers during the pandemic, will welcome the new service.

Airlines

A Flight Attendant’s Tips for Travelers Reveal a Lot About the Industry Too

3 months ago

Are flight crews sometimes the last to know about cancellations?

Veteran flight attendant Kristie Koerbel’s tips for travelers on navigating the current travel chaos and cancellations, as published in The New York Times, also had some interesting tidbits about the airline industry as a business.

Shown here, a Delta flight attendant offers complimentary welcome Bellini cocktails in November 2019 for an inaugural flight. Delta Air Lines

Koerbel wrote that it is wise to download the app of the airline you are flying — or trying to fly, that is — because “in some cases you will know a flight is canceled before the flight crew even knows.” She also said travelers can use the app to track bags, the whereabouts of the incoming flight, and to rebook.

Another interesting factoid? Here’s why you will be chilled flying in short-sleeves.

“Here is a flight attendant secret: We sometimes keep the airplane cold intentionally. For people who struggle with airsickness, heat makes it worse. We don’t want anyone to use those sick sacks,” Koerbel wrote.

Koerbel tied some of the spate of flight cancellations to a fact that many people in the travel industry already know — there are time limits to how long flight crews can work.

“Something that is not common knowledge is that flight crews have time limits on how long they can work, generally 12 to 16 hours at a stretch,” Koerbel wrote. “Besides being unsafe, it’s illegal for us to fly longer than that. If your flight crew gets delayed and hits that time, it doesn’t matter if you have somewhere to be, we are done when we are done. The way things are right now, there aren’t many back up crews, so your flight may be canceled.”

The labor shortage at airlines and airports isn’t all about flight attendants and pilots.

“Now we are short-staffed and overworked,” she wrote. “Not just pilots and flight attendants, but also ground crews. You may not think about ground crews, but without them there is no one to park the planes, drive the jet bridges so you can board and get off, load your bags and retrieve them, or scan boarding passes.”

All of those airline buyouts or staff cuts during the pandemic have come home to roost, so to speak, as workers bolted to leave the airline industry. When Amazon and Uber offer comparable compensation to low-paid ground crews, the airline industry has a problem.

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