Airport Frequent Flyer

United to Upgrade Its Airport Experience

United’s renovations to include a host of high-end dining options, ordered on iPads, and paid for in dollars or frequent-flyer miles.

When’s the last time you heard someone say something nice about Newark Airport? For that matter, when’s the last time you heard someone say something nice about United Airlines?

Compliments may be in the offing, as the two travel industry underperformers are teaming up to deliver an airport experience that reflects well on both providers. An airport experience that travelers will enjoy, not just endure.

When the $120 million renovation of Newark’s Terminal C is complete, travelers will be able to choose from a long list of dining options, including American, Asian, French, Italian, Japanese, and Mexican food, prepared by such celebrity chefs as Alain Ducasse and Marc Forgione.

The high-end meals are just the low-tech aspect of the terminal’s reinvention. In keeping with the digital times, travelers will place their orders on any of the 6,000 iPads located throughout the terminal, and meals will be served up within 15 minutes.

And even more ground-breaking: Payment for those meals, and for all other products and services sold by the terminal’s merchants, can be made in dollars or in United frequent-flyer miles. Extrapolating from sample prices in a Business Week story (4,150 miles for a $29 salmon entree, 2,000 miles for a $14 sidecar cocktail, etc.), miles redeemed for airport purchases will be worth 0.7 cents each. That’s about half the average value of miles cashed in for an award ticket, so it’s not the best possible use of miles. Still, more options for redeeming miles always trumps fewer options.

The renovations will be deployed in stages, and completed in 2016. According to OTG, the company overseeing the terminal overhaul, “It’ll become a destination. You’re going to really look forward to going to Newark Airport and flying through Terminal C.”

Reader Reality Check

Newark’s Terminal C: a destination?

This article originally appeared on

By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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