I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but according to the Association of Flight Attendants, United will be eliminating special meals on flights within the US, Canada, Caribbean, and Latin America (though I suspect that refers to Mexico as opposed to Argentina, Brazil, etc., but who knows). It seems that Premium Service flights between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco as well as flights to Hawaii are excluded from this change.
While many people ordered special meals as a way to get a bit of variety in United’s dining options without an actual dietary restriction, there are still plenty of people with dietary needs that aren’t met by United’s meal offerings. It’s not uncommon for both of United’s first class meal options to be meat dishes, or not meet any of a number of other dietary restrictions.
If this proved to be a major cost I can understand they would eliminate this for people that received complimentary upgrades at their upgrade window. However, it just doesn’t seem right to eliminate this for paid first class passengers.
More than anything else it’s just another move that takes the “worst of both worlds,” as seems to be the trend with this merger.