To win the hearts of frequent business travelers, United Airlines is going through their stomachs.
The carrier has been looking for ways to woo back some of its top fliers who defected to other carriers following a rocky merger with Continental Airlines. So, it's upgrading first class food options and replacing snacks with full meals on some of its shortest flights.
The changes, announced Thursday, mean that instead of potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and bananas, passengers on flights of at least 800 miles will get meals such as chicken and mozzarella on a tomato focaccia roll and turkey and Swiss cheese on a cranberry baguette. Currently, meals are only served on flights of 900 miles or more—trips that usually last close to two hours.
Passengers on 13 extra routes, such as Houston-to-Des Moines, Iowa, will be getting full meal service starting in February.
The move comes as American Airlines goes the other way, eliminating hot meals on most flights less than 1,000 miles starting Sept. 1. The change—which upset many frequent fliers—is part of American's merger with US Airways and does expand meals to some US Airways flights that previously only had snacks. Delta Air Lines serves first class meals on flights of more than 900 miles.
That means United will offer full meals on more short flights than its competitors, although each airline makes exceptions for some key shorter business routes like the 731-mile trip between New York and Chicago.