The Day the Free Meals Died
Well, not quite yet. As of fall 2010, Continental Airlines will discontinue its free in-flight meals to airborne travelers, says Jane Levere of the New York Timessays Jane Levere of the New York Times. Until now, it’s been the last major airline that still included a meal with the price of your ticket.
In a way the demise of airplane food is almost sad: It marks the end of an era in which bored older sisters could pick up an entire scoop of mashed potatoes with a plastic fork and dangle the space-food quality mass in her little brother’s face. (But let’s not kid ourselves, nobody ever complained about the small chocolate treat that inevitably accompanied those meals.)
Airlines have made some interesting economical choices since they began charging for in-flight snacks or meals. Since they now have to compete with the food options available at the gates, which have became extremely popular since airlines started charging, they’re stepping up their game and offering better tasting, healthier food options for purchase on board.
American Airlines and Boston Market are now teaming up to offer healthy meals, and you can get a “healthy snack pack” on Alaska Airlines or order a vegetarian sandwich if you fly Air Canada. Jet Blue is even jumping on the bandwagon, and will begin offering in-flight meals for purchase for long-haul flights.
The companies that keep track of food sales in the air did their homework. Though the bulk of travelers were opting to buy their food in the airport (56 percent, versus nine percent in air), they noticed that their profits from alcohol sales on board were still pretty high. So they got creative, and started adding more interesting cocktail options. United Airlines flights to Hawaii offer an $8 Trader Vic mai tai, and Delta Airlines serves a $7 pomegranate martini.
Airline reps say the end of complimentary meals means that they can manage their food operations more like a restaurant, offering better deals and a greater diversity of food options for travelers. What do you think? Is having more healthy in-flight options for purchase better than getting a meal with your ticket? Do you buy food in the air or at the gate?
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Photo: JoeGray via Flickr Creative Commons