While Singapore Airlines Lets You Book The Cook, United Wants You To Prepay For Pringles

by joeheg

Before our flights on Singapore Airlines, Sharon and I preselected our meals from the onboard menu or a “Book the Cook” meal selection.

For our flights from Singapore, we both chose the Lobster Thermidor.

a plate of food on a table

You can imagine my surprise when I received an email from United about our red-eye flight home from SFO-MCO.

a screenshot of a emailYou can select your preferences starting five days before your departure and up to 24
hours before your flight(s). If you don’t want to choose a snack or drink right now, we’ll still
have some options you can choose from once you’re on board. After selecting your
options, you’ll be asked to save a credit card to hold your order, so you won’t have to use
your credit card on the plane. But don’t worry, you won’t be charged until you receive your
selections on board – giving you a fully contactless experience.

If you’re a bit confused by this email, as I was, let me explain.

United asks you to prepay for the snacks and drinks they sell on the flight.

Have you ever been on a flight with a tight connection and couldn’t stop for food out of fear you’d miss the plane? You get to your seat and look through the snack menu, trying to decide between the protein box and the Pringles. Then when the cart gets to your seat, the flight attendant informs you that they are all sold out of the pay-on-board snacks.

So you ask for the cookies and the chips so you’re not starving when you land.

This feature from United will apparently prevent this from happening. You can now preorder the $4 Pringles, $10 tapas, and $8 Lesser Evil Himalayan Gold popcorn.

a close up of a packagea group of boxes with images

Am I the only one who thinks United is missing the point?

Not once have I WANTED to order snacks on a plane. I can never remember sitting at home 3 days before my flight, dreaming about consuming a small pack of Pringles at 40,000 feet. If I’m willing to overpay for mediocre snacks, it’s only because I have no other option.

Therefore, I won’t prepay for a pack of Pringles or almonds that I can throw in my bag before the trip.

What I want is to be able to buy a more substantial snack in the case of a food emergency. That would require airlines to stock more than the minimum amount of snacks they expect to sell during a flight.

Honestly, there have been flights where I would have paid for ANY of the options on the menu only to be told they were sold out of everything. If selling snacks is supposed to be a profit gainer for airlines, why don’t they stock enough snacks?

So thanks, United Airlines. But I’m not going to pre-book my onboard snack purchases. If I was thinking that much in advance; I would have thrown a hummus pack, OREO cookies, almonds and pita chips in my carry-on bag.

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Anthony February 23, 2023 - 4:35 pm

This is not surprising. I guess it’s good they’re trying to eke every dollar out of passengers for their shareholders. I was a longtime GS and almost at 2 million miler. I mostly gave up last year. I still flew enough for 1K but doubt I’ll push for Global Services again. Delta is leagues better even if I do have to connect in ATL.

alex February 23, 2023 - 4:38 pm

idk if United does the same, but on Alaska you can always turn down your preorder. They use the same saved-card charge-onboard strategy and the flight attendants always ask if you actually want it. I use this almost always to reserve a fruit and cheese platter or tapas box just in case something happens. They’ve always been more than happy to keep it as someone else who didn’t reserve will want to buy it and they always run out.

I guess I see the point with the things like Pringles but I think the snack boxes are smart to offer early and you should just get it if you think you might want it, or have a connection. Then refuse it if you don’t feel like it.

Roberta Hill February 23, 2023 - 7:45 pm

United Airlines may rate high on the list of best airlines but no one should believe that. I only use them because they are part of Star Alliance,

Rick Sachs February 25, 2023 - 4:01 pm

I was surprised by the same email one year ago. I immediately remembered, when leaving for junior highschool in the morning, my mother would ask what I wanted for dinner 10 hours from now!

CK March 7, 2023 - 10:02 am

Sorry United, I really thought that this was a joke of some sort. You can keep treating your customers like captive piggy banks and nickel & dime them for everything to please your shareholders, but I won’t be planning to purchase a very short can of Pringles days in advance. I fly Delta Airlines! No more United and American Airlines for me or my family.


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