Trip Report: Free meals return to United Economy Plus, EWR-LAX
My first stop after arriving from Frankfurt, going through customs and immigration, and security again, was the United Club near gate C74. It was quite crowded since another United Club was closed for renovations into a Polaris Lounge. Perhaps because of this, the buffet kept running out of food, so when the attendants did show up with fresh food, people would already start circling around like vultures around a carcass. Then they would take a lot when it was their chance, not knowing if any food would return - I guess that included me!
The beet and jicama salad was surprisingly delicious - crunchy, fresh, and savory (was there some celery in there?) -, as was the chicken corn chowder and Italian wedding soup. They also had pepper jack cheese, a favorite, and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, also a favorite.
After chowing down, it was time to board my flight to LAX. The Newark (EWR) to LAX route is a "premium transcontinental service" route, as is EWR to SFO, Boston to LAX, and Boston to SFO. They were formerly branded "p.s." a much nicer name, I think, and used to be exclusively operated by Boeing 757-200s. I was happy to get one of these old friends on my flight - they just feel like a more grown-up plane than the 737s that now ply transcontinental routes. Like widebodies, you turn left for first class, right for economy as you enter.
In Economy Plus now, United has brought back free hot meals. I'm not sure how the ROI is on this investment, because the passengers in the row in front of me were confused when they were offered free food. Clearly this meal service did not cause them to book the flight!
Tonight there were two choices, the highly descriptive "chicken and pasta," or "vegetarian pasta."
I chose the chicken and pasta, which turned out to be chicken and kale with orzo pasta. And LOTS of cream sauce. In fact, the #1 ingredient on the package was "half and half!" The other choice seemed to be the "Mozzarella and roasted red pepper agnolotti in vodka sauce, served with kale, fire-roasted peppers" described on the website. This also looked quite creamy.
This was served with a caramel cheesecake (a bit firm), and the familiar pineapple and grapes. Plus the pretzels that all Economy class passengers get.
I like getting the window seat on transcontinental flights, because I do enjoy the scenery over the Midwest and the Rockies, in addition to takeoff and landing. The couple next to me, who I think were from Germany (but flew United frequently enough to know to request the can during drink service!), bemoaned that most of the time there were clouds out the window, and they had really wanted to see the land. But I think the clouds are quite interesting, and change as you roll across the continent. For example, these thunderheads really say Midwest to me.
Before landing, there was a Kind bar handed out, once again for Economy Class passengers. "It's free," the flight attendant said, to the confused passengers in front of me.
On approach to land in LAX, there was a cool view of a Qantas Boeing 787 landing at the same time!
Overall I had quite a good experience on this flight, with pleasant flight attendants and the complimentary meal service. I would think United might want to promote their enhanced offerings on this route more to encourage more people to choose United due to the hot meal, rather than be a surprise to passengers. At least they could feature it more prominently on their website, where if you look under "United Economy dining" there is no mention of the complimentary meal service.