Getting A “Taste” of United’s New Newark Airport Experience

United Airlines Newark Airport TerminalsThis past Monday night I was invited to attend a special event to learn about United’s big plans to update and upgrade their hub at Newark Liberty Airport (EWR).

United chose OTG to transform Terminal C in terms of food options, design and technology. OTG will be investing $120 million in this project.

OTG will be turning the terminal into what I’d consider a top culinary destination by partnering up with an overly impressive list of chefs. The terminal will also become a bit more tech savvy. TC will have around 6,000 iPads available to do things like check-in for flights, track flights, order food & beverages and surf the web. With a new electronic payment technology you’ll be able to pay for your purchases using your credit card with a swipe (similar to Square) or have the option to pay with your award miles.

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals

Along with these improvements, the terminal will get a new “state of the art design” from well-known architects. Around 60 gates will also “be updated with custom seating and tables creating a lounge‐like atmosphere” according to OTG. iPads will also be available at the gates.

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals

Prior to arriving at The United Experience, I read a little about what to expect. The event’s purpose was to “reveal an airport experience like no other”. I also read about some of the chefs that would be in attendance. Before even stepping foot into the event, I have to say that I was excited and impressed. The chefs that are attached to this project can definitely be considered some of the finest around (including 4 with Michelin stars) and many of them might be familiar to you from various food-television shows.

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals
image: OTG

When we arrived at the event, we checked in and then scanned a boarding pass on an iPad (image above) for a quick demo of how it will work in Terminal C.

Upon entering the room of the event, it was nice that it wasn’t overly crowded. There were iPads set up all around the room to test out the technology that will be available throughout the terminal upon completion of the redesign in 2016. I was told that the technology is in use at some restaurants already.

Many of the chefs that are a part of the redesign were in attendance, mingling with the crowd with many of them also offering a sampling of their food.

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals
L-Dale Talde, R- MW Travels

Kim and I enjoyed chatting a bit with one of our favorite Top Chef contestants, Dale Talde. Dale has a few restaurants in Brooklyn. We’ve visited 2 of them- I highly recommend checking out Pork Slope. We talked a little about his partnership with OTG in the upcoming Caps Beer Garden along with some other food chat.

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals

We then finally got to sample his Pretzel Chive Pork Dumplings which are on the menu of his restaurant, Talde. I’ve been wanting to go to the restaurant for a while now. After sampling the delicious dumpling and finding Dale to be a fun guy to chat with, it gives me more reason to stop by.

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals

I also enjoyed some of the Italian meat & cheeses on offer from Elizabeth Faulkner, had outstanding crab cakes from Paul Liebrandt, tasty croque monsieur from Alain Ducasse, enjoyed the spicy lobster chili toast from Marc Forgione and had shrimp from Alex Guarnaschelli and more!

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals

Possibly the best variety of samples being given out were from the amazing Jacques Torres, the famed chocolatier.

Kim and I have been visiting his shop in DUMBO, Brooklyn for years. We enjoyed favorites like hot chocolate, chocolate covered Cheerios & corn flakes, various truffles and my new favorite- dark chocolate bark!

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals
MW Travels with Jacques Torres

We also brought home a couple of cookies and bit of chocolate for Lucas which he enjoyed last night very much!

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals
L- Wilson Tang, R- MW Travels

I probably spent the most time talking to someone who I ended up having a lot in common with. Wilson Tang is the owner and chef of the oldest dim sum restaurant in NYC, Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Nom Wah’s food wasn’t available at then event to sample so I really need to pay a visit since I love dim sum and old, historical places/ restaurants!

The majority of our chat had a lot to do with travel (surprise, surprise) along with food. You can’t go wrong with those topics if you ask me.

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals

Other than chatting with some of the chefs and sampling the food, I also took some time to check out the iPads with the new technology.

The new technology at Newark will be the first in the industry to allow customers to use miles to pay for food, drinks and retail items. I wondered who would really want to….

Here are some examples of cost for using cash vs miles:

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals

This burger will set you back $16.90 or 2,200 miles.

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals

A choice of mixed drinks will cost $14.00 each or 2,000 miles.

Based on these prices, we’re being offered a very low exchange rate for our miles, something like .007¢ each.

Based on conversations I had, it seems like the casual miles earner is their intended target for redeeming miles for goods. For the family of 4 that only has 40,000 miles, I think it would be assumed that since they all can not fly with such a small amount of miles, maybe they’d burn them on a meal….

United Airlines Newark Airport Terminals

If you choose to pay with a credit card, you’ll slide your card with a swipe that looks just like the service Square. (I’d expect this to be the more popular way to pay.)

Overall, I still find the option to pay with miles an interesting one. I could see some people who rarely travel or those having small account balances now choosing to get something for their miles at the airport rather than slowly trying to build up their account.

To sum it up, United’s Terminal C at Newark Liberty looks like it is destined to be one of the better airport terminals in the United States. I’d expect it to even rank up there with some of the top ones in the world (at least from a foodie perspective.)

Time will tell if the pay with miles option will be used by many. I’m betting that it won’t be used by my readers (or anyone that plays the miles & points game).

I’m actually really looking forward to these new food options at United Terminal C along with the overall redesign!

Here is some more info about what’s coming to Terminal C (from OTG):

OTG at Newark Liberty Terminal C
  • $120 million capital investment in Newark Liberty by OTG Managemen
  • 55 new dining venues will give travelers an array of culinary choices
  • 6,000 iPads will be deployed within the Newark Liberty’s Terminal C
  • Over 20 different languages are available on OTG iPads/digital menus
  • Orders are delivered within 15 minutes of placing an order via an OTG iPad
  • 95 million travelers are United MileagePlus members
  • 20 million passengers travel through Newark Liberty annually  

OTG and Pay with MileagePlus Awards

  • An industry first: now United Airlines customers can use MileagePlus miles to purchase dining and retail amenities at Newark Liberty Terminal C restaurants using OTG’s unique iPad customer experience platform.
  • Customers voluntarily scan their boarding pass or enter their MileagePlus number on an OTG iPad.
  • The iPad displays the customer’s up to date flight information, and offers dining or beverage options with the cost of items displayed in both dollars and miles, along with the customer’s MileagePlus balance.
  • Includes language support for 20 different languages.
  • At check out, customers can choose to pay with award miles.
  • With OTG’s 2U program, customers can order travel amenities delivered right to their seat–from neck pillows to ear buds — and pay with award miles.
  • The program is rolling out now in select restaurants at Terminal C and will be available throughout the Terminal at completion of the redesign in 2016.  

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