American Airlines and Delta have recently brought free meals back to economy class.
Welcome back, slick turkey and soggy bread.
Some airlines have brought back free meals to those of us in economy class on certain flights. American Airlines announced Tuesday that it would offer free meals to people flying to and from New York and L.A. and New York and San Francisco starting in May. Delta began offering free economy meals on those same routes at the beginning of this month, and will expand that offering to other longer-distance flights in April. Hawaiian Airlines also offers some free meals in economy.
“Some of our best customers fly our trans-continental routes, and we want to give them a top-notch onboard experience,” Fernand Fernandez, American’s vice president of global marketing, said in a statement. That includes a continental breakfast in the morning and a boxed lunch with a sandwich wrap, chips and a dessert for lunch and dinner.
At first, airlines began doing this this to differentiate themselves from other airlines, says George Hobica, the founder of AirfareWatchdog.com. “Now it’s simply catch up,” he says — adding that “of course it’s only on highly competitive routes, and it’s only a sandwich not really a meal.”
And while we love a freebie, many of us would prefer something besides a meal. Free WiFi, for one: More than half of passengers say they’d rather have Wi-Fi than an on-board meal, according to a survey of more than 9,000 travelers by Inmarsat. And a number of passengers — roughly one in three — aren’t happy with the quality of the food they get on a plane anyway.
To be fair, airline food has improved in recent years, and some airlines have stellar food. And it’s not entirely airlines’ fault that their meals often don’t taste that great: Pressurized cabins numb taste buds a bit, and the cabin humidity doesn’t help matters either.
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