Delicious Coming United Change + Giveaway!

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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.

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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.

illy dark roast coming to United!

illy dark roast coming to United!

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.

illy coffee

Fancy taste testing at Grandma’s house

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!

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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.

illy dark roast passed our taste test!

illy dark roast + coconut milk passed our taste test!

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.

illy Bean Map[2]

What’s next?

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.

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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!

DSCN9521To 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?

Comments

  1. Love the change. I remember seeing so many of the illy brand while in South America. Hopefully this means they actually care and will make other food/beverage changes

  2. Good stuff – thanks for the post. I like the change, and I think it will be hard to find someone who doesn’t (we’re going from coffee few rave about after all). The real question is do people like Illy compared to other brands. We’ll never have consensus, but it was good to see United not copy other U.S. airlines’ brands (ie: Starbucks). Good to see this change by United.

  3. I don’t fly UA much but I’ve been following with sadness its demise from a good airline (and a great FFP) to its current state of affairs since CO/UA merger. I’m encouraged by a customer-friendly change, as these seem to come few and far in-between these days. Looking forward to trying out the new coffee next time I happen to be on board.

  4. Even being based out of Chicago, I don’t find myself flying United too much because of their perpetual delays, but I guess if they are willing to change coffee providers, there might be hope that larger changes can be made.

  5. Haven’t had illy but I’m sure it will enhance the flying experience for a few coffee aficionados and business travelers in need of a charge-me-up.

  6. Better than nothing, I suppose! But if this is a sign of at least some incremental improvement, then I’m optimistic, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for some time significant

  7. Almost anything is better than what they serve! Starbucks would have been my choice, but illy is definitely a step up from the current swill.

  8. @MommyPoints I fully agree that coffee is a bigger deal than most airlines give it credit for. Heck, at age 23, I already rely on a (decent) cup of joe to get me going in the morning. This is a big upgrade for United, United clubs, and most importantly–frequent United flyers.
    Thanks for doing the giveaway!

  9. I’ve had this very European brand many, many times over the years and enjoyed each cup. Still prefer Starbucks for my dark roast blends. But, I would not turn down a cup of this coffee. No way.

  10. I always find myself grabbing coffee at the airport before flying just to avoid the horrid coffee onboard! Looking forward to giving this one a try! Thx for the giveaway!

  11. The study of coffee dates back to 1500, starting from a rudimentary exploration of its chemical identity. Today’s coffee research encompasses multiple scientific disciplines including genetics, agronomy, botany, physics, mathematics, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, engineering, physiology and psychology. United is stepping up their game with this one.

  12. I haven’t tried the new coffee yet, but I’m very excited about it! I’d love to use the Club passes for some upcoming business trips.

  13. I’m an avowed coffeeholic. The kind who regularly updates his mental list of where to go for the best coffee in several cities, while at the same time on a first-name basis with *all* the baristas at the local Starbucks, as well as a well-used and -loved Keurig at home. The previous “coffee” UA offered was swill, and I haven’t tasted it in a very, very long time despite flying their metal frequently.

    This change pleases me immensely.

  14. Extremely excited. It’s very important that the Much Better 1/2 (the drinker) has the best tasting coffee available, especially for that early [and upcoming] morning flight, but even more importantly; for the survival of my sanity as well. This has to work hand-in-hand.

  15. A really, REALLY good cup of coffee in the morning is so important. Hope to try this new UAL brew soon….. and of course, in a United Lounge. How appropriate!

  16. I’ve had Illy before, and it’s definitely better than the stuff that United serves now. I’m looking forward to having this on board!

  17. Looking forward to the change. Love a good cup of Joe. My husband currently drinks the whole pitcher of coffee regardless if it’s good or bad – so he will appreciate a better brand of coffee.

  18. United is also my airport’s hometown airline, as well. Hoping this is a sign of things to come from United, as I’ve enjoyed Illy in Europe many times. Would like to see United agree to offer at least one Business/First Saver Award seat on all of its flights, including its nternational flights. I’m United Silver and now only see Coach Saver Award seats appear 11 months out, and typically only on Star Alliance partners, at least out of SFO.

  19. Thanks for the post. Coffee is one of the few things I look forward to in-flight as an economy flyer and a recent United Mileage member. It’s still a long way from the nice meals I remember from the 1980’s, but I’ll take it!

  20. I haven’t flown United in sometime and I’ve only been a coffee drinker for a couple of years. (In not-so-surprising news, my baby happens to be two years old.) I look forward to trying the new coffee on my next United flight.

  21. Illy coffee was big in Germany when I was a kid. Nice to see it states side. Without saying to much, when I was a kid seeing Illy coffee was 30 years ago. 🙂

  22. I appreciate a good cup of coffee and this will be a huge improvement. Let’s hope that this is just the beginning of positive changes at United!
    Thank you for the opportunity to win some great goodies! I love the retro mug! 🙂

  23. This is a great change. I mainly fly on the first flight of the morning. Having good coffee would make the flight a bit more bearable, especially when I’m too awake to nap

  24. How about some new tea choices while they are making changes? I vote for tetley tea including orange peach herbal. May have to go brew a pot of fuzzy naval tea. The orange peach tastes just like a fuzzy naval mix drink.

  25. Small step in the improvement direction. Now if they can only adequately passengers of an involuntary downgrade, that would be even better.

    • Yeah, this is the bigger issue. Even robusta beans taste fine if freshly brewed from clean water. Airplane water is the biggest issue here. It also makes tea taste terrible.

  26. Wow! I love the coffee change, especially because I know ILLY from trips abroad. It is a very good, strong coffee…. just my style. I even buy it here in Houston, so it is not an unknown coffee for me. What a pleasant and unexpected surprise from United. I am hopeful United will start to make changes on the inflight menus. That is my big wish for change at United.

  27. I will be very happy when this coffee appears in-flight! We tend to fly very early in the morning so I’m usually kind of sleepy so I always drink coffee on the plane. I’m happy to see this and/or any improvement!

  28. Oh thank god. For someone who has spent time in Italy, Illy is a huge improvement. Looking forward to this, thanks for the update!

  29. It’s great that they are switching, but disappointing that the roll out will take 9 months. The stuff they serve now is called fresh poo for a reason.

  30. I first had Illy coffee at the Conrad Chicago. It was a real treat. I will look forward to it on a future United flight for sure.

  31. I’m not a coffee drinker myself, but I’m taking this as a sign that there will be some actual positive changes will be made!

  32. Love illy and the change. I hope more airlines continue to make these small improvements to make flying a more luxurious experience.

  33. Hopefully this will prompt some of the other US carriers (I’m looking at you AA) to improve their coffee service as well. It’s been years since I drank coffee on board, and I still remember the taste of that swill…

  34. Sounds like a big improvement. I have never tried illy before, but it has to be better that what they served on my last flight.

  35. I don’t really drink coffee…but I dig the mugs and the lounge passes. Enjoy your blog–would love to travel as a family as much as you do!

  36. Hurray for good coffee! Too many people appreciate good coffee for there to be not-so-good coffee in the world. Glad United is working on improvement. Quite a challenge with such a large organization.

  37. I’m glad to hear that United is making this change. As you say, hopefully this is a sign of more thoughtful changes to come!

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