Perks Returning? Big Three Airlines Offer In-Flight Snacks Once Again
Will 2015’s record profits bring lower fares to fliers in 2016? What about all those extra fees? Since they are out of the red, airlines don’t need the extra revenue from checked baggage fees, right?
Fees aren't going anywhere...
Record profits in 2015 haven’t inspired American, Delta and United to ditch baggage fees. Also, it looks like the legacy carriers will do just enough to compete with the likes of Southwest and Spirit when it comes to cheap fares. For example, American is lowering fares at its DFW hub to better compete with both Southwest and Spirit. On some other routes, however, fares remain largely unchanged or are even slightly higher than they were last year.
...but perks could be returning
One particular perk is coming back to the economy class cabins of all three legacy carriers. United and American will be joining Delta in offering free snacks to fliers in every class. (It should be noted that Delta never dropped its in-flight snack service). United rolled out the complimentary bites at the start of this month. American has already begun serving snacks on coast-to-coast flights and will serve them on all domestic flights by April. AA has said that it will also bring other perks back to its in-flight entertainment menu. These will include movies and videos streamed on seat-back screens on domestic flights.
Admittedly, this is not an earth-shattering announcement. Surely everyone would trade a handful of crackers, pretzels or mixed nuts for a free checked bag or slightly lower fares. At the same time, the snacks are a reminder of the welcome extras that we used to take for granted.
More perks to follow?
Legacy carriers used to be known for their full-service in-flight experiences. The lean decade following 9/11 saw the big players drop many of the things that set them apart from budget airlines. Because they were counting every penny, even basic snacks were given the boot by United and American.
Not only will the cookies bring back memories of better times for passengers, they are also a reminder that American, Delta and United were once full-service carriers that might have had higher fares, but that gave people better value overall. This has been forgotten in the age of a la carte pricing and fees.
The reminder is not just for passengers, but also for low-cost carriers who might sell snacks but rarely give them for free.
Appealing to every demographic
But what about people for whom price matters more than snacks or other “full-service” experiences? Delta has been offering the same kind of no-frills, middle-seat, no-cancelation fares that the ultra-budgets are known for. Delta doesn't have no-frills flights, but rather no-frills fares on regular full-service flights.
Both American and United announced last year that they going to start offering a similar fare class. So American and its peer could hypothetically appeal to both those interested in full-service flight experiences and those who make their flying decisions based solely on price.
Are free snacks the first sign of a return to the glory days of comfortable, full-service flying? Probably not, but they are a sign that the lean days are over for America’s legacy carriers, and they are searching for ways to differentiate themselves from their budget competitors.
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