Inside United’s Coffee Decision Drama & the Shady Starbucks Test Results

A flight attendant said many crews on board United planes began taking coffee packets from their layover hotels to make special “crew coffee” on flights — coffee that would be hoarded and kept from passengers. That’s just one of the interesting quotes from Lewis Lazare’s Chicago Business Journal piece on the UA coffee decision.

Last week, United announced that they would begin serving Illy coffee on board and that FreshBrew (a coffee brand based in Houston) would be removed from all flights. FreshBrew was equally disliked across the board, from passengers to flight attendants and pilots. FreshBrew was served on legacy Continental flights and was introduced on pre-merger United flights after winning a “taste test” against Starbucks…or so Smisek conveyed in an employee newsletter.

And as for the matter of whether FreshBrew actually won out over Starbucks in taste tests that were reportedly done before the coffee contract was awarded, that observation is disputed by some at United. One flight attendant claims to have heard directly for United’s former vice president of food services that the decision was “completely cost-driven.” Added the source: “I have a hard time swallowing a FreshBrew consultant’s explanation that ‘taste won’.”

Anyway, check out the full piece for an interesting read on the coffee drama over at United.  For their part, the airline had this to say on their decision to go with Illy via their latest newsletter:

“We know how important coffee is to coffee lovers, taste tests help us decide the best way to improve coffee on board and in our clubs. It’s not just a cup of coffee, it’s an important part of our customers’ day and their overall experience with United.”

Illy Coffee

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