Full retreat is the only way to describe it. Volte-face or flip-flop would also do, but what it means is that United has given up on its plan to cut out free meals for passengers flying in the back of the plane between Dulles and Europe and instead charge the flyers as much as $9 for a buy onboard meal. The proposal - an industry first - outraged many flyers and indeed corporate customers, who deluged such sites as FlyerTalk with their angry postings. Evidently they deluged United as well, and the airline has now changed its mind. We understand that the go-to-bed-without-dinner experiment was the brainchild of Dennis Cary, the United senior veep for marketing who joined from American some four or five years ago; Graham Atkinson, the charming and long-suffering Englishman whose present title at the Chicago-based airline is chief customer officer, opposed.
Atkinson told United frequent flyers in an e-mail that "the response from you and many of our corporate Mileage Plus Elite customers, even before we launched the test, told us what we would have undoubtedly learned had we proceeded - you value your hot meal service in economy class for international flights."
The move made one group happy. United
chief executive Glenn "Tilton and his executives floated this ill-advised scheme to try to raise revenue while making service worse for our passengers. And our passengers have made their objections clear," Capt. Steve Wallach, chairman of United's chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association, gloated in a statement. "Today's reversal by the company clearly demonstrates that the pilots have a better feel for the pulse of their customers' needs than their non-airline chief executive," he said.