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United Airlines’ Tacky, Invite-Only Restaurant Is Begging for a Class War

Classified is exclusive, but it still looks cheap


Airports are already a hub for wealth-based stratification, but United Airlines is taking an extra step towards fomenting full-scale class war: The airline now has a hyper-elite, “secret” restaurant at Newark Liberty International Airport, with entry granted only to the most loyal United customers.

The restaurant’s name is Classified (get it? Because it’s hidden!), and it’s tucked inside Newark Airport’s terminal C. It’s a partnership between United and OTG, the company that runs dining services at Newark and eight other US airports.

United is keeping quiet about who earns an invite to the restaurant — although a New York Times report suggests passengers in the top strata of the airline’s frequent flyer program (that is, those with Premium 1K status, flying over 100,000 miles a year) would be more likely to be granted access. Invitations are sent out one day before travel. Even Classified’s website requires a login from a United frequent flyer member at the appropriate status level.

Reporters from Business Insider were given the opportunity to peep inside (see their video over here). Apparently, the 36-seat Classified is hidden somewhere behind airport steakhouse Saison, and for all the fuss about its hyper-exclusivity, it seems somewhat tacky.

First, there’s a TV blaring CNN (a hallmark of any good suburban family bistro), and in an apparent revival of a circa 2012-2014 trend, customers order via iPad (note: OTG is notoriously smitten with Apple’s tablet offerings).

Business Insider’s video runs through a few of the dishes, but pausing on the video stills gives a more thorough glimpse. Items like chili lobster and Wagyu sliders seem to foreground ingredients that confer a particular upper-class status on the clientele, but simultaneously feel like they’ve been inserted out of trendiness rather than any real sincerity.

There are also non-sequiturs that aim for a similar veneer of “fancy,” like the “seafood plateau” — a seafood platter, but with a French word inserted into its name. (For the record, “plateau” refers to a flat but elevated area of land, just like in English.) Then there’s “market salad,” which, given its name, could realistically incorporate anything available at a market, from raw chicken through to potted plants.

This isn’t the first instance of OTG articulating high-end aspirations: also coming this fall is Tsukiji Fish Market and Sushi, which will feature fish flown in by United from mega Tokyo fish market Tsukiji. It will also be in terminal C.

United opened a secret, invite-only restaurant hidden in Newark Airport — here's what it's like [Business Insider]
The Next Evolution of Airport Dining Is Happening Right Now [E]
Tsukiji Will Soon Provide Newark Airport's Sushi [ENY]
How iPads are making airports less terrible [The Verge]