Does this pass for a first class meal on United Airlines? !

Some readers call me the United Airlines fanboy, but I’m no apologist and want to focus on United’s ongoing restoration issues in Denver today. In its latest dispensation, passengers in premium cabins are now served quasi-astronaut stable food and I have to say… I have never seen a more pathetic “first class” meal.

United Airlines Denver catering issues lead to dismal first-class meals

If you’re flying United Airlines out of Denver this week, chances are you won’t get a meal at all…maybe nothing more than a bottle of water, even in first class. And maybe that’s a good thing. A traveler on FlyerTalk shared his recent first class meal served from Denver to Orlando and I have to say the shelf stable penne pasta looks way worse than anything I’ve ever seen served first class before:


And this was not just an isolated case. Another traveler received an identical meal traveling from Denver to Los Angeles:

If United are going to serve that, they might as well shout ‘COVID-19’ and cut meal service altogether…

It seems to me there’s a big chasm between United’s budget and the cost of doing business, especially in Denver, where the cost of living has gone up so much in recent years. live and fly covered United’s decision to shut down their dining options, which alone isn’t the issue. Indeed, Denver has faced restoration hurdles for years. Instead, it seems the problem lies in unrealistic expectations for labor and cost of goods.

You could say the direct problem is the same reason we have empty shelves in many grocery stores: shortages and delays in supply chains have hampered trade. But there’s a reason that goes beyond congested ports and wintry conditions. Indeed, with an unemployment rate of 3.9%, the USA is well above full employment (generally classified when the unemployment rate drops to 5%). In this tight labor market, employers are going to have to pay, as there is a demand for skilled and unskilled labour. Inflation is also at its highest level in 40 years, which means the same goods cost more.

Sherlock Holmes must not realize that United, through its contractor Gate Gourmet in Denver, cannot attract enough manpower. This is a good sign that it does not offer high enough wages or benefits to workers. While this could technically be Gate Gourmet’s problem, most customers aren’t going to blame Gate Gourmet when this sauce is served on United Airlines meals in United First Class by flight attendants wearing United uniforms.

Also, I wonder how United’s budgets have handled rising food prices?

It would be one thing if this was the first case of such problems in Denver, but they have literally been going on, in different forms, for many years. It’s a waste and an annoyance for United. It’s time for United Airlines to take a serious look at this problem and fix it once and for all. This will require more than outsourcing: it will require strategic vision and more money.


Don’t expect much, if anything, in the way of dining if you’re flying first class on United Airlines from Denver in the next few days. The carrier is struggling to properly service flights as its outsourced caterer, Gate Gourmet, faces labor shortages and supply line issues.

But shelf stable food that I only hope to eat in a nuclear holocaust or a war zone or on the moon? It’s a whole new low for United’s first-class catering. Stick to the snack box, at least.

About Erick Miles

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