Shortly before an aircraft evacuation slide decided to fulfill its mission out of turn last night, United announced that it will be eliminating a couple of the things commonly served with meals in its premium cabins — ketchup and garlic bread.
Earlier this year, United enacted a rather ironically-named program called "Project Quality," which is designed to save the airline $2 billion annually by 2017. After losing $580 million in the first quarter of 2014, CEO Jeff Smisek said:
"I am pleased with our cost performance in the first quarter, particularly given the challenging weather. I attribute this good performance to the dedication of our employees and their active engagement in the launch of Project Quality. The Project Quality program, designed to remove to $2 billion of annual cost by 2017, is off to a strong start. It is very early in the process, but I can assure you that we are intensely focused on and committed to its success. We're engaging in a rigorous process as we work to achieve our goal of delivering durable efficiencies and high quality, all while offering excellent customer service and building a great place to work. We will continue to invest in our employees, providing them better tools and training to do their jobs more effectively and improved facilities like renovated break rooms and in-house health clinics to make their work experience better."
I am sure United's shareholders are thrilled that Jeff is "pleased" with a $580 million loss, as their competitors, Delta and American earned profits of $218 million and $401 million over the same period, respectively. United just hasn't been able to get their act together after merging with Continental Airlines. Continental fans and ex-Continental employees still lament the merger, as Continental was well-known for its higher level of service.
Airlines have done a lot of things to save money in recent years, and have tacked on fees for almost everything but using the lavatory. In regards to food, United isn't even the first airline to make menu alterations in the name of budgetary savings. In a now-famous case, back in 1987, American Airlines saved itself $40,000 a year by eliminating an olive from the salads served to First Class passengers. United is also introducing
even more cramped "space-saving" lavatories on its fleet of 737-800 and 737-900s.
Do people really use ketchup on planes? I don't often fly on flights with meal service, but I do remember seeing British Airways' First Class burger, where apparently the airline has so much money to throw around, they can use ketchup to form their famous Speedbird logo.
Top photo: United Airlines appetizer with garlic bread by Ernesto Andrade (CC Commercial Use)