Ice Cream Sundae Service Is Back on United—Here's How It Gained a Cult Following

The beloved treat will return to all long-haul international routes in February

United Ice Cream Sundae

Astrid Taran

Frequent flyers know that a significant benefit of logging so many miles is indulging in premium culinary experiences on their airline of choice. While the past three years have been a bumpy road in return to the quality of in-flight service seen in "the before times," most U.S. airlines have restored many of their pre-pandemic food and beverage offerings.

But until just last month, there remained one holdout.

United Airlines' ice cream sundae service, which allows travelers to select from an array of toppings to create a made-to-order sundae, has been a favorite since it was first served in domestic first-class decades ago. With options ranging from hot fudge, caramel, strawberries, whipped cream, almonds, and cherries, the sweet treat was often the highlight of flying business class on United, which may be unsurprising, given Americans' obsession with ice cream as comfort food. A coworker of mine even shared many childhood memories of her father raving about the sundaes after flying home from business trips.

The sundae service became a staple of the airline's newer Polaris offerings. But like many airlines, United was forced to phase out the sundae in the wake of the pandemic, when it was replaced by a pre-packaged frozen sundae featuring vanilla ice cream with just one topping.

United loyalists were up in arms. In a Reddit thread entitled "Why did they ruin the Polaris sundae??", one frequent flyer criticized the change, writing, "Mine arrived rock hard and wasn't even edible. You needed a pick axe to get to the ice cream because it was frozen solid."

Early last month, United announced that it would finally reinstate its beloved sundae service on Polaris business class. On December 1, the sundaes returned on select routes from San Francisco: SFO to Frankfurt, SFO to Brisbane, SFO to Sydney, and SFO to Singapore.

"Based on customer and flight attendant feedback, we're revamping the Polaris dessert service and are bringing back a new three-tier dessert cart for our signature ice cream sundae service," said United in a memo.

In serendipitous timing, I was booked on a Polaris flight from San Francisco to Singapore just days after the service was scheduled to be reinstated. My initial attempt at experiencing the comeback for myself failed—the flight attendants ran out of ice cream before they could get to my seat. Proof of popularity or an underestimation of resources? You be the judge.

Luckily, I eventually got my hands on a fully loaded sundae that met my expectations.

Now, after a successful trial run of their soft launch, the airline announced that it will be reinstating the sundae cart on all long-haul international routes this February. After a long wait, loyalists will finally be reunited with one of their favorite experiences on the airline.

Article Sources
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  1. Eater. "How Ice Cream Became the Ultimate American Comfort Food." August 27, 2021.

  2. Live and Let's Fly. "United Airlines Will Reintroduce Polaris Ice Cream Sundae Service On Select Routes." November 17, 2022.

  3. United Airlines. Instagram Post. January 6, 2022.