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.
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.