Free Airplane Food Is Back, Like in the Good Old Days of Flying

Free Airplane Food Is Back, Like in the Good Old Days of Flying

It's actually an excellent time to be a passenger.

By Alesandra Dubin

Say what you will about airplane food, you have to admit you miss the days when you at least had the option to pick at the roll and mashed potatoes (even if the rest looked unappetizing) when you found yourself starving on a long U.S. flight, and without adequate snacks in your carryon.

Well, those happy days are back again, thanks to Delta, which is resuming free meal service on some long-haul domestic flights. The airline — and its competitors — kiboshed the meal service back around the turn of the millennium to save money as fares became ever more stripped and passengers started to expect everything a la carte.

Beginning March 1, Delta will offer free meals in the main cabin on flights between JFK and LAX or SFO. On April 24, the airline will expand complimentary meals to 10 other major domestic markets from Seattle, New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

Options vary by time of day. On morning flights, customers can look out for breakfast sandwiches, and fruit and cheese plates. During the day, think smoked turkey, Mediterranean whole-grain veggie wrap, or fruit and cheese plate.

The airline said this rollout comes after a test it conducted late last year, in which it closely monitored customer-satisfaction scores to determine the impact on the in-flight experience. And people loved some free food.

“We are all about making our main cabin experience the best it can be for our customers and offering free, high-quality meals is a big part of that experience,” said Delta in-flight service senior VP Allison Ausband in a statement announcing the news. “When we tested this concept, our customers loved it and appreciated it so we are implementing in our most strategic markets."

As we previously discussed, it's actually a pretty good time to be commercial airplane passenger. Thanks to consolidation and lower fuel prices, airlines have been less grabby about upcharging: Delta also made all its in-flight entertainment free last summer, and American followed suit quickly thereafter. JetBlue now offers free, gate-to-gate Wi-Fi on every flight.

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