Prison Food is Better Than Polaris

by Anthony Losanno
United Plane

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Matthew over at Live and Let’s Fly posted about the sad state of Polaris catering this morning. The article got me thinking about how many bad meals I have been subjected to when flying in United’s premium international Polaris cabin. United is profitable, but clearly does not care about the passenger experience and soft product in its front cabin. I’m not expecting a caviar service and apps like I had in Lufthansa first class (pictured below), but United can’t get much worse.

Lufthansa First

I’ve said it before and I stand by it, you can get a better meal in a hospital cafeteria, homeless shelter, or prison that what is served on a United flight. Don’t get me wrong, complaining about premium cabin food is a First World problem, but when you’re paying thousands of dollars for a flight you should get something that’s at the very least edible. I refrained from eating on many flights because what was on offer was just so bad. Here are some of the things that United served me in 2022:

UA Snack 1

This pre-arrival snack is perfect for a first grader with a cheap pizza, a child-sized portion of fruit, and a shrink-wrapped muffin.

Menu 1

I couldn’t bring myself to order anything off of this menu. UA should not be serving pickled dragon fruit and quinoa or these other dishes. It’s trying to be fancy, but they’re poorly executed, odd, and made with the cheapest ingredients.

UA Breakfast 1

This looks good right? You’d think, but it tasted awful. The fish smelled funky, the bagel was partially frozen, and it was just an all around bad meal. Expert tip: sleep through breakfast.

UA photocopy

Some United flights cut costs by giving passengers photocopied menus. You’d think it best not to let passengers see what’s about to be inflicted on them. Duo of Celery Root anyone?

UA Breakfast 2

Look at this breakfast. The plating and carb overload really set the tone for the day. I’m not sure what you’d put salt and pepper on here.

UA Menu 3

Another meal I opted out of on a flight this past fall.

Egg Custard Tart

I did try the Egg custard tart. I sawed through it, took a bite, and spit it in my napkin. I love pasteis de nata and dan tat. This was neither of those things. It was somehow rock hard and the custard tasted dry.

Snack Basket

At least there are snack baskets. Well, it’s better than nothing. The selection has been cut down and the quality has also dropped. It’s like mom went to Costco and bought a few things to fill the basket. Delta does this 100x better.

Prison Meal

Compare all of the above to this meal served in a prison. I guess United passengers get linens, but this doesn’t look bad when compared. (Image credit: The Marshall Project.)

Anthony’s Take: United is promising to improve its catering this spring. We’ll see if that happens. The food quality is terrible and adding back things taken away during the pandemic like the sundae cart is not going to fix its inedible meals. My advice, eat before boarding or bring your own food.

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Patrick January 27, 2023 - 4:45 pm

And in prison you get added bonuses like free lodging, roommates and fun times in the shower.

Chris@Oak January 27, 2023 - 5:09 pm

Migrants getting three free “culturally appropriate”
meals a day in luxury hotels are also much better.

Matt January 27, 2023 - 7:22 pm

Your title reeks of privilege worse than a prison toilet. What a stupid line, people write anything for clicks…

Frankfurt Airport Lufthansa
Anthony Losanno January 27, 2023 - 7:28 pm

I called it out as a First World problem, but if you’re paying a premium for a service or product and it way underdelivers, would you also not be happy?

Matt Houlihan February 3, 2023 - 2:05 am

I disagree – he called out first-world problems. If United is asking $8-$10K for a trip over the Atlantic the least they could do is serve a meal that cost $30-50 instead of $6.99. In fact, I’d prefer if they took a hungryman (? is that the name/do they still exist?) meal from a 7/11 which probably cost the same, plated it nicely and served that, it’s more food and probably tastes better, although high in sodium which I’m fine with for airplane food. I have a few trips this summer and right now one of them I can book first class on Lufthansa for $7K via Lufthansa’s website and business on United with a connection via United’s website to the same city for $10.5K. I’m choosing Lufthansa and losing out on the higher PQPs. If they want to be America’s best airline or whatever they call themselves, invest in the soft product – especially with more leisure-focused travel now! Less business travel and leisure folks are more cost-conscious, they don’t have discounts with their business so if they continue to have a crap experience with United they won’t pay for it.

M. Casey January 28, 2023 - 3:44 am

I had yogurt with fruit and granola served on a plate – it was good – accompanied by a disposable cup of Chobani and freshly cut up fruit in a bowl! Redundant!

Peter M. February 2, 2023 - 6:38 pm

Just be grateful you have any food!

Jlawrence01 February 2, 2023 - 10:18 pm

If you want to say that the food is terrible or that it is a waste of money, fine. However, it is obvious to everyone that you have never seen prison food. That food would be 100% better than any of the prison facilities that I have inspected.

Inglorious February 3, 2023 - 1:06 pm

Stop being a boot licker

R V February 2, 2023 - 7:53 pm

I flew UA Polaris USA to Europe about a week ago. Spat out my dinner entree as it was unpalatable. My 1 hr onward connecting flight on a partner airline had better food!

Ryan February 2, 2023 - 7:53 pm

Having served jail time, I’d like to inform you that your article is beyond stupid and beyond wrong. You aren’t suffering.

Steve J. February 2, 2023 - 8:00 pm

My wife and I are Million Mile fliers on United. We’ve had extraordinary service experiences with them, as well as dismal service. But I have to agree, the Polaris food is really poor. One observation we’ve made is that United, about 30 years ago, bought all of the short ribs of beef in the world. They’re still serving it. Ugh! My advice is to eat in the Polaris Club (if there is one) in your departure airport. Don’t even think of eating on the plane.

James Moninger February 2, 2023 - 11:45 pm

Yes, short ribs on virtually every flight for the past several years (at minimum). If they won’t improve the quality of the food, could they at least add some variety?

Brian February 2, 2023 - 8:41 pm

Huh? I had my first Polaris flight earlier this month and found the food to be quite good. I selected a pasta course. The flight attendant was kind enough to serve both the ice cream sundae and the cheese plate. Cheese selection was uninspired although fine. Even the pre-arrival snack of a hamburger was really tasty.


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