A long time ago, in the distant past of the 1990s, before sad à la carte fruit and cheese plates and $11 spinach wraps for purchase became the culinary rule of the American skies, airlines served hot meals even to the huddled masses seated in coach on long domestic flights. The meals weren't anything to write home about, but in light of recent trends to weasel money from airline passengers for everything from checked bags to extra legroom to the right to use the overhead compartment, "free" meals feel like a goddamn luxury and affirmation of human decency.
But perhaps this downward spiral of the air travel experience could be reversed and our hope could be renewed, because for the first time since cutting free meals in 2001 to reduce costs, Delta is bringing back free food on long flights within the US. Rejoice.
Delta will be serving free sandwiches and breakfast options on 12 routes, starting March 1 with cross-country flights between New York's JFK and Los Angeles's LAX or San Francisco's SFO. You won't find the ubiquitous penne pastas and beef stews of yore, but on the menu are things like a Honey Maple Breakfast Sandwich, a Mesquite-Smoked Turkey Combo, and, of course, the ever-present fruit and cheese plate. On April 24, other major coastal cities will get in on the action, including select routes originating from Seattle, Boston, and Washington.
Delta began testing serving meals on transcontinental late last year, and, to no surprise, found that customer satisfaction increased significantly when they were given sandwiches for which they'd otherwise have to fork over around ten bucks.
"Our customers told us this is important to them, so we listened, and decided to offer complimentary, fresh and high-quality meals in some of our most strategic markets," Lisa Bauer, Delta's vice president of on-board services said in a statement sent tt MUNCHIES.
"People appreciate not being nickel-and-dimed on these long flights," Bauer told ABC. "We believe this will be a competitive advantage."
Airlines fortunes have rebounded in recent years after they were hit hard by the Great Recession of the late 2000s, and they can afford to add some perks to the customer experience.
If you're not a Delta person, the good news is that analysts predict other airlines like United and American will likely feel pressure to throw in free meals, too.
For shorter routes, though, it seems as if you'll still have to pony up for food on the flight, make do with pretzels, or otherwise suffer the indignity of unwrapping whatever weirdly pungent food you purchased in the terminal.
If you choose the latter option, remember to be merciful to the rest of us crammed in coach.