New United Polaris Menu Focuses on Fresh and Flavorful Ingredients - United Hub
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New United Polaris menu focuses on fresh and flavorful ingredients

By The Hub team, August 29, 2016

On December 1, we will begin serving an all-new menu for our United PolarisSM business class and United Polaris global first service featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients and bold flavors from around the world. The dishes will rotate every three months, so customers will continue to have new flavors and dishes to experience on board.

"We have some amazing new menu items including Thai-style lemongrass shrimp on a bed of papaya mango salad, and smoked duck with cranberry pumpkin farro salad and whole grain mustard," said Jeff Pelch, senior manager of product strategy and implementation for United's Food Services team. "And those are just the appetizers."

This menu is the culmination of nearly a year of work between United executive chefs and chefs affiliated with The Trotter Project, a nonprofit organization, committed to mentoring and internship programs for youth interested in the culinary arts. The Trotter Project chefs bring their expertise in different global cuisines to make inflight dining a memorable experience for United customers.

"From a food perspective, this is one of the largest launches we've ever done," said Chef Gerry Gulli, United's menu development manager. "It's not just the launch of a new menu, but an entirely new experience. We've conducted 28 menu workshops in 16 cities on 5 continents to ensure that we are developing cuisine that showcases the flavors of the destinations we fly from."

When creating the new United Polaris menu, chefs and design teams focused on fresh, bold flavors and regional ingredients. It all started at a design workshop, where The Trotter Project chefs and United team members developed menu concepts. After the workshop, United Executive Chef Gerry McLoughlin and his team worked to translate the concepts into inflight dining selections based on what he knows will resonate onboard.

"We want to maintain the overall concept," Chef McLoughlin explained. "But we have to consider temperature variances, how the food will get plated, and how it will hold up in the operation. It's very different than serving at a restaurant on the ground. Our restaurant is traveling at 500 miles per hour at 35,000 feet above the ground."

Then the team had the opportunity to taste a lot of food. The chefs also used feedback from customers before making the menu decisions. The reimagined entrees that made the final cut include poached salmon with lentil chili and broccolini; braised short ribs with bordelaise and creamy polenta; lemongrass-infused chicken in a coconut ginger soup; and Shahi paneer with vegetable jalfrezi and basmati rice. The new seasonal salads feature ingredients like baby spinach, strawberries, red seedless grapes, oranges and pumpkin seeds.

"We placed a priority on bold flavors, since you lose about 30 percent of your sense of taste in the air," explained Chef McLoughlin, who has worked in prestigious kitchens at the Drake Hotel and the Palmer House in Chicago. "We decided to really push the envelope with our new menus."

Creating the best inflight dining experience for customers involves more than just picking the right ingredients and recipes. The chefs even worked with the new custom dinnerware, including plates, bowls and serving dishes, that will be used in flight during the meal service. This helped them decide on the right portion size for each dish and allowed them to make sure the presentation of the dishes on board resembles the presentation that would be used at a restaurant.

"Every element of every menu item was scrutinized," Chef McLoughlin explained. "And every detail of the service was examined. We set the bar high and I'm confident that we're going to deliver a memorable experience."

Customers will even have the option to enjoy a meal at a United Polaris lounge before their flight. Travelers can indulge in a full multi-course meal service or choose from a variety of small plates, in case they'd like to get right to sleep once on board.

Get a sneak peek of the full experience before United Polaris takes off on December 1, 2016.


Entertainment for all

By The Hub team, August 04, 2020

Our Marketing Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity team and Bridge, our Business Resource Group (BRG) for people with all abilities, partnered together to test and provide feedback on our award-winning seatback inflight entertainment (IFE) system.

Aptly named "Entertainment for all," our new seatback IFE system offers the an extensive suite of accessibility features, allowing for unassisted use by people of all visual, hearing, mobility and language abilities.

"It's nice to know that I can get on a plane and pick my favorite entertainment to enjoy, just like every customer," said Accessibility Senior Analyst and Developer and Bridge Chief of Staff Ray C., who is blind.

"As a deaf employee, the closed captioning availability on board our aircraft is something I value greatly," added Information Technology Analyst Greg O. "The new IFE further cements United's visibility within the deaf community and elsewhere. It makes me proud to be an employee."

Accessibility features of the new IFE include a text-to-speech option, explore by touch, customizable text size, screen magnification, color correction and inversion modes, and alternative navigation options for those unable to swipe or use a handset. For hearing-impaired and non-English-speaking passengers, customization options provide the ability for customers to be served content and receive inflight notifications based on their preferences and settings —with closed captions, with subtitles or in the language of their choice from the 15 languages supported. Our "Entertainment for all" system won the Crystal Cabin Award in 2019, and recently, the Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl Research and Development Award for Audio Description by the American Council of the Blind.

"This really showed the benefits of partnering with BRGs in helping us improve products and services for our customers and employees," said Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity Senior Manager Corinne S. "Even though we have been recognized with awards for our IFE accessibility features, we are not resting on our laurels but continuing to work towards improving the inflight entertainment experience for all of our customers to ensure entertainment is available for all."

Shaping an inclusive future with Special Olympics

By The Hub team, July 24, 2020

If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.

Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.

Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.

"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."

Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.

"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.

In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at jointherevolution.org/pledge.

And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast The Special Chronicles.

United works with partners to send food to USDA food bank

By The Hub team, July 23, 2020

In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), United moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A variety of fresh fruits were transported from Los Angeles (LAX) to Guam (GUM) on United's newly introduced, non-stop cargo-only flight – a route added to meet cargo demand during the COVID-19 crisis. The fresh food was repacked in 10-pound cases in Los Angeles, prepared for departure at CFI's LAX location, and flown to GUM by the United team. Through this beneficial partnership between United and CFI, the perishable goods were kept cool during every step of the process and distributed as part of the food bank program in Guam.

"Everyone on our team has worked relentlessly during the pandemic to get critical goods to where they are needed most. Establishing a comprehensive network of cargo-only flights have allowed us to keep the supply chain moving even while passenger flight capacity has been reduced," said Regional Senior Manager of Cargo Sales, Marco Vezjak. "Knowing that we are able to help during these difficult times – in this case the Guam community – is our biggest reward and greatest motivation to keep moving forward."

United is proud to play a role in maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access the supplies they need. Since March 19, United has operated over 4,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 130 million pounds of cargo.

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