My (Almost) Funny Email Exchange with United’s Brand Team

by Sam Roecker

Image by United Airlines

The Mimosa Cart Is Back!

Just kidding, but if you trusted the photographs on United’s newsroom, the United Hub, you should be forgiven for thinking the cart is back –  and look at that orange juice, is that fresh-squeezed?! United announced it would cut the mimosa cart back in February (effective May 1), so one would think the airline might remove the ‘evidence’ of this Polaris service from the past.



This is the mimosa cart featured at a Polaris launch party I attended in 2016. Note the champagne.

Here’s a photo from the Polaris launch party I attended in 2016 highlighting the ‘signature’ service on westbound transatlantic flights. United cited “customer feedback” for their decision to eliminate this lagniappe service. I know, I hate champagne too…

The mimosa cart and other Polaris cuts are old news now, but the background of this story is not. I stumbled upon these relics earlier this week when writing a post about United’s new boarding process. In hopes of finding photos of the redesigned boarding signage, I requested access to United’s uber-exclusive online brand center for media and advertisers.

I filled out the form requesting access, wrote a brief note about intended usage, added proper pleasantries, and hit submit. Two days later I received the following response:

First Response:

Hi Sam,

Thank you for your email.  Our news site should serve well to help. See the below link.

My Reply:

Hi United,

Many of the photos on United Hub ( do not reflect the current products or services offered by United, as noted below. I’d greatly appreciate access to a more current database and/or updated photos. Feel free to reach out to me if I can answer any additional questions.
Thanks for your help!


Note: my original message contained pictures seen below in this post.


Second Response:

Hi Sam,

The link that was shared is to our newsroom site.  We hope it will help with your efforts.


Well, That Was Helpful…

Perhaps the brand center is full of trade secrets or reserved for élite advertising partners – surely that would be an easy and acceptable response – or maybe, like the mimosa cart, it’s all a digital mirage.

Instead, United’s brand team really wanted me to visit their newsroom – again. So I did, and here’s what I found in what looked more like a historical archive, the newsroom media library:

Shrimp Salad and Tomato Soup in Domestic First Class

This is just cruel. Also, this dishware has never been served on United.

Asian-Style Snack Mix in Domestic Economy

Long gone and replaced by generic pretzels.

More Soup! Flashback to the Continental Era

Continental CEO Gordon Bethune called…

Savory Snackbox

‘Savory’ is now ‘Select’ and snack boxes have a new look.


Maybe I’m nitpicking here, but I expected a more thoughtful response, especially considering I cited multiple examples of old photos. Clearly, stock images are not always representative of the actual product. Something like ‘Savory’ versus ‘Select’ is a minor oversight, but showing a domestic first meal that never existed is not.

Here’s what’s actually being served for “lunch” on a 2.5-hour flight: half of a veggie wrap (carrots and noodles) and 14 grapes, which felt lonely on such an empty plate. I’ll pretend I didn’t touch the cheesecake. I ended up ordering a Savory Box – Select, rather – from the back. At least this flight didn’t serve the snack basket with Oreos, which can only be described by one word: CHEAP.



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Rob June 8, 2018 - 4:48 pm

Too funny. Too true. I’m reading this on a Southwest plane where wysiwyg. I wonder if United and others would have more success if they didn’t try so hard to overpromise and underdeliver.

Sam Roecker June 9, 2018 - 9:58 am

Thanks, Rob! Agreed, overpromising and underdelivering is a consistent theme, especially RE: Polaris. Thanks for reading 🙂

Christian June 8, 2018 - 9:50 pm

I suppose it’s just my mean spirited temperament, but I’d be inclined to contact the same department that sent all of the above pictures with pictures of -actual- meals and state that due to the intentional misinformation, you will be asking for compensation. Nothing else seems to work, so maybe that might.

Sam Roecker June 9, 2018 - 10:02 am

Stay tuned, there’s more to come! I’ve contacted several different departments about ongoing meal cuts. Most of my feedback seems to get routed through Houston customer care, and to their credit, I’ve received a few phone calls. That said, I have no idea if my “feedback” ever makes it to the decision-makers in Willis Tower. Compensation is a band-aid for a battle wound…I want to see actual changes.

Christian, what’s your experience flying United? Have you noticed any changes?

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