During my mileage run I had the opportunity to fly US Airways and United for the Lunch/Dinner buy on board times. Here is a recap of my experience.
US Airways: For lunch/dinner they had 2 options: a turkey club sandwich or a cheese plate. I don’t eat pork, but the sandwich sounded like a better lunch than the fruit and cheese plate so that’s what I went with. The cost was $7 and included chips and a drink. I peeled off the bacon and wiped off the turkey since the bacon left a brown residue. The sandwich came with lettuce and tomato.
In the past one of the biggest problems with US Airways catering was the lack of it. It seemed like the money from meals was not getting back to the caterers and the accounting setup described at one time of flyertalk made it sound like the whole system did need to be scraped. Now US Airways does use devices to swipe credit cards which should also track sales. If not, I know a company their catering company should contact to get their whole system into shape. An A319 full of people at lunch time probably still leads to sell outs before row 20, but that’s better than selling out before row 10.
United: United had a few sandwiches on the menu to choose from, but the flight attendant said my only choices at that point were a salad or the roast beef sandwich. I had really wanted the turkey sandwich to do a taste comparison, but I was stuck with roast beef instead (although you can’t tell from the picture). I didn’t pay enough attention to know if they ran out of turkey or just didn’t cater it to begin with. The sandwich was $9 on United (also conveniently placed on a credit card) and was just a sandwich and chips, no cookie. I was in the exit row so I was at the end of Economy Plus, but still near the front of economy as a whole so I’m not sure how far back the buy on board meals last on United.
As a whole, the sandwiches were of good quality. The presentation was fine (the pictures were taken as provided with no manipulation from me). From a value perspective I could have purchased a better sandwich at Panera for the same or less. The reason I buy this stuff is mainly convenience. I’m not hungry at 10 am when I board a plane so I’m not interested in buying food from an airport restaurant. By the time meal service begins it’s around 11:30 am which is prime lunch time. I’d like to know how well the catering companies forecast how much to provide and if airlines are really the ones limiting the supply so much. Using the point-of-sale devices to track sales is a new concept for onboard catering so hopefully the field will only go up from here.