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updated: 8/21/2014 10:10 AM

United woos first-class fliers with meals added to smaller jets

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Bloomberg News

Chicago-based United Airlines will add fresh meals on shorter domestic flights, including those made by regional jets, as part of a plan to overhaul food service for travelers in premium cabins.

By mid-2015, meals will replace snack boxes for business- first fliers on North American trips of more than 2 hours, 20 minutes, or 800 miles, United said today in a statement. The change will affect 106 flights on 26 routes.

United's plans contrast with American Airlines' decision to replace full meals with snacks in first-class cabins on shorter flights. Free meals or snacks have helped differentiate the more expensive, roomier seats at the front of planes from coach, where complementary food service has now been replaced by items for sale.

"These changes mark the beginning of an extensive overhaul of our North America and international food service, offering travelers a level of service above that offered by our peers," Lynda Coffman, vice president of food services, said in the statement.

Meal service on United, a unit of United Continental Holdings Inc., now starts on flights of 2 hours, 35 minutes or about 900 miles.

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