Eating In Economy - It's getting Pricey!

Free food on Domestic US flights is very rare these days, especially in the economy class cabin. However as airlines have removed free food and snacks other airlines have not. Delta removed meals from their flights years ago, but have continued to offer free snacks, such as peanuts, pretzels, cookies, and snack mix on almost all flights. Continental was the last of the legacy carriers to pull free meals from the economy cabin, but these “delicacies”  were pulled in 2010 due to "costs", however I would say it was the company preparing itself to merge with United.

However as the airlines pulled free food from the back of the cabin, they found ways to nickel and dime passengers as they added snack boxes and hot and cold food items for purchase ranging from $2 for M&Ms upwards to $10 plus for a meal. This year though has been particularly interesting as airlines have raised the bar again (and the price) and started offering premium meals on select routes.  For example, early this year Delta announced DineUp meals between NYC and San Francisco and Los Angeles for $11.99+.  I have yet to order one of these meals, but this appears to be an increasing trend in the airline business.

Delta's Dine Up options


Delta is not the ONLY airline in the US to offer premium meals, Hawaiian airlines launched premium meal service between the Hawaiian Islands and the mainland years ago. Being the only US airlines to provide free meals at meal times they were looking for a way to increase revenue without removing the free meal offering, which gave them an edge on the legacy carriers flying between the islands and the mainland. So instead of ditching the meal, they offered a buy-up option, it was one of the first of its kind in the United States.



Now US airways, gleaning from its competition has decided to do the same thing. Offer a buy-up meal on flights where meals are already offered for free! Since US Airways does not offer meal service on any domestic flight, this meant only offering an upgraded meal offering on flights to South America, Europe, and the Middle East. The difference is, this is the first time a US carrier has offered an upgraded meal option on an International flight where meal service is already offered free of charge. Even Hawaiian, which has the upgraded meal option to/from the mainland does not offer an upgraded meal on international flights.

US Airways new service is $19.99 and is offered on all international routes to Europe, the Middle East, and South America. Meals come with a glass of wine and currently passengers can choose from multiple options serving both meat eaters and vegetarians. Sample options include citrus-marinated chicken skewers on Mediterranean orzo topped with mango chutney, served with lavosh crackers, shrimp cocktail, marinated grilled vegetables and crème brûlée cheesecake with fresh berries. Or for the Vegetarians; portobello tortellini marinated in sun-dried tomato pesto, served with caprese salad, lavosh crackers, hummus, baba ganoush and turtle cheesecake with fresh berries. Both options come with a bottle of wine.

As more US carriers offer premium meal service, I can only wonder what may happen one day to the free meal on international flights. Will the meals be reduced only to peanuts with all meals becoming al la cart like they have done on Domestic flights? Or will the fact that most international flights to South America, Asia, and Europe are 8 hours plus keep the airlines feeding those in the cheap seats. Sure economy meals, even on international flights, are nothing to write home about. But a meal is a meal and we all get hungry.  

US Airways Dine Fresh Option:



How do you feel about the new international premium meal? Is it worth it or should the airlines be upgraded their typical meal service? After all we pay to check out bags, early boarding, preferred seats, and just about everything else the industry can unbundle. Should we pay more to eat?




BR August 28, 2012 at 04:04 pm

I think it's better to have option to buy a meal than to not have a meal at all.

UA offered buy-up meals in economy on their p.s. flights, as well as a couple intl flights (SFO-FRA comes to mind) in 2010~. Not sure what the up-take rate was, though. The meals looked pretty good, though I was never on a flight where they offered one.

Elizabeth August 29, 2012 at 02:17 am

I bring my own food these days and enough for my seatmates. Not worth the "hassle factor" since the food on the airplane is usually bad anyway. I wish there was a way to have $ DEDUCTED since I don't take their food :)

Mike August 30, 2012 at 09:55 am

Everyone is catching up to PeoplExpress. Food for sale, even on international flights, back in the early 1980s.

nikos September 1, 2012 at 07:12 pm

I agree with BR, when possible I always upgrade the meal. I don't mind paying, it's always almost better than what is on offer, and it's a nice treat! Cheers

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