Something wonderful is happening in all cabin classes on United. Gratis snacks in coach, more premium liquor, a refreshed cocktail selection for all cabins, and what could be the best news; illy coffee brewed fresh onboard, complements of United.

Some of this upgraded system-wide service has been happening quietly as early as last fall, but the official illy coffee partnership rollout debuts July first, just in time for summer vacation travel. You can already find the familiar illy red and white cups filled with the Italian fresh brewed coffee in United airport lounges around the world; but enjoying it in the air? This is something wonderfully new, and LuxeGetaways is thrilled to see this exciting partnership flourish between United and illy.

To learn about how illy beans are sourced, tested, selected, stored, made into coffee and put into their specially designed cans, LuxeGetaways traveled to illy headquarters in Trieste, Italy. Trieste was once part of the Habsburg Empire, and Viennese coffee culture is still very much a part of their DNA. In Trieste, you are never very far from a coffee house, many of which serve the hometown favorite, illy coffee. However, the concept of illy coffee differs from what most Americans know as “coffee.” It is a blend of many of the top 1% of Arabica beans from around the world, combined into a single flavor profile to maintain consistency of taste from year to year. No hazelnut chocolate coffee, vanilla bean flavored coffee or caramel. Not with illy. One distinct flavor and that is it. The simplicity is the beauty. They begin by sourcing beans and then assessing their flavors; before blending the beans much like a blended wine to create a symphony of flavor.


And in case you are wondering, the collaboration of United and illy was not love at first sight, but instead a carefully curated selection process. United invited several major coffee roasters to give it their best shot, considering the product foremost, but also supply chain, bid and perhaps a certain cachet; and illy (the premier brand served in 140 countries) was selected. Mr. Jimmy Samartzis, United‘s vice president of Food Services and United Clubs had this to say about the illy program rollout, “We acted on customer feedback, and we are delivering a product that our employees are proud to serve, while bringing excellence and passion to every one of the 72 million cups of coffee we serve in-flight every year.”

The most interesting things to consider here are your taste buds. At 35,000 feet, your perception of flavor changes. That is why your onboard chicken may have a lot of spices, your pasta might have too much salt, and dessert, well, could be way too sweet. United recognized this phenomenon and conducted testing in the air to discover just the right “United/illy blend.” United Airlines has many types of aircraft in their fleet, and all with varying coffee-maker styles in the galleys. Illy had to develop a universal coffee packet that would fit each, so they tweaked their sachet shape slightly with each test; resulting in great coffee while using these existing machines. Months of research and testing by illy included the parameters for grind size and roast. After testing with United customers, a dark roast with chocolate notes was decided to be best solution. For more on this interesting story on how United and illy discovered just the right in-flight brew, visit United Hub.

What this means for travelers is that when the United flight attendant says “Sit back, relax and enjoy your flight,” I will be looking forward to my cup of illy coffee, and you will too. Welcome aboard.

Photos Courtesy United