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It has been no secret that my preferred and “hometown” airline, United, needs to make some changes to stay in the good graces of frequent travelers. I have a list of things I would like to see improved, as do many other frequent flyers that I know. When a new CEO, Oscar Munoz, was named a couple months ago I know lots of us made our own mental wish lists of things we would love to see improved under new leadership. Some of those things are probably “pie in the sky” and are never going to happen. Some are more complicated and will hopefully happen in due time. Some are a little more straight-forward and are already happening.
A change we really are going to like
One seemingly small, but very welcome change that is already in action is actually something that is currently near and dear to my exhausted-mother-of-a-newborn heart…or lips…coffee. United’s current coffee, to put it nicely, is not very good and customers were apparently pretty vocal about their dislike of the current brand. I’m sure someone somewhere likes it, but lots of folks do not. I’m very happy to share that it is officially getting replaced with something much, much better.
A true premium coffee,illycaffè, was selected as the new coffee for United! This is great news for United flyers and coffee drinkers, like myself. The coffee and espresso will start appearing in the United Clubs in continental U.S. hub cities beginning next month, and the coffee will filter to flights worldwide in summer 2016.
What is illy?
If you aren’t familiar with illy, it is an Italian-based company whose coffee is made from Arabica beans that are purchased directly from the growers in Brazil, Central America, India and Africa.
I have had illy before and always enjoyed it (you may have seen their cafes in Europe), but I was sent a pack of the specific roast selected by United to sample. The roast they will be using is illy’s signature scuro dark roast. This specific blend was selected after some pretty extensive taste testing, including tests on-board aircraft where tastebuds can and do differ from on the ground. In other words, they didn’t randomly pick something that sounded good, but they put effort into making the right choice.
If you are a little scared off by a dark roast, remember that taste buds are generally less sensitive in-flight, so it may come off being “just right” even if you tend towards lighter roasts on the ground. We did a morning taste testing of the specific roast of illy selected with Josh and my parents and everyone enjoyed the coffee even though not all of us usually migrate to darker roasts. It had a strong and bold flavor, but it didn’t just taste like “burned cowboy coffee” and instead still had lots of flavor. Now that you know the details of what will be served, let’s circle back to why the brand of coffee selected matters.
Why coffee matters, even if you don’t drink it
I’ll start with myself as an example. With a baby that is still up more than I wished at night, coffee is an integral part of my morning ritual. It comes before things like showering, dressing, putting on make-up, and preferably before even talking. It is a part of the transformation from asleep to some semblance of functioning. I don’t need it to live, but I enjoy the role that a warm cup of strong coffee plays when making the transition from night to morning.
See below for unfiltered morning coffee ritual…you are welcome for at least putting it in black and white!
By the time you have a cup of coffee in a United Club or on a United flight you have hopefully done things like shower and put on clothes, but it is entirely possible you haven’t really made the transition from asleep to productive and fully functional, especially for those painfully early morning flights. That cup of coffee may well mark the transition to reading the news, firing up the laptop to start work, or just settling in for a comfortable flight.
For those of us who drink coffee, what we are drinking during that morning ritual matters. A crummy cup of coffee hopefully won’t ruin a day, but it sure doesn’t help it get off to the right start.
For those who don’t drink coffee this change still matters. It shows that United is listening and responding, even when doing what passengers want costs more. Of course time will tell how far and wide the improvements will be, but this good cup of coffee does show they are off to a good start.
Just how big of a change is a brand of coffee
When I pay a couple extra bucks and buy a premium coffee like illy (and I do) it improves the cups of coffee for an average of two people per day. When United does the same, it improves an average of 197,261 cups of coffee a day. That comes to 72 million cups a year made of 1.4 million pounds of coffee! That is a pretty big reach for such a seemingly small change.
Coffee is important to many of us, but a good cup of coffee alone won’t dramatically change the travel experience. There are clearly bigger dragons still to slay. United says this is one of the first tangible actions they are taking after listening to customers…not one of the last. Only time will tell, but I’m cautiously optimistic. If they make other needed changes with the thought and investment that went into a cup of coffee, we may all have something to smile about.
You can see some of the ideas customers have for change submitted at United Airtime – or take a couple minutes and submit your own! You can also keep an eye on some of the other improvements they are making.
Try it for yourself and win United Club passes!
Update the winner is Nicole Michelle who said: ” I THINK THAT’S AWESOME. GOOD COFFEE ON A PLANE IS SO IMPORTANT! I AM HAPPY THAT THEY ARE DOING THAT!” Couldn’t agree more and thanks Nicole!
To share the coffee love and allow one of you to conduct your own at-home or “in the club” taste tests, I want to send a pack of the illy coffee selected, two retro United cups in which to enjoy the coffee, and two United Club passes so you can have a cup brewed for you at select clubs beginning next month.
To enter to win the prize pack just leave a comment on this post sharing how you feel about this coming change and I’ll select a winner at random from all entries made by 11:59PM Central on Friday December 4, 2015. Void where prohibited, one entry per person, must be 18+ to enter, giveaway administered and provided by Mommy Points and not by United, illy, or anyone else.
What do you think about this coming change? What do you hope to see United do next?