In all honesty, the meals have gotten very positive reviews, and on many routes, they sell out. YYZ
seems to have banner sales.
To this point, buy on board has been offered where previously bar, beverages and snacks were offered, so in fact it was an option or an alternative.
The extension to the US on the above mentioned routes, is reflective of the changing landscape, where low-priced internet fares similar to what we see in Canada has grown to transborder routes. AC
has still exceeded the level of service offered by any US carrier. As an example, on the YYZ
has to this point provided full hot meals and complementary in-flight entertainment on all flights in all classes of service, while AA
offers simply a beverage service to its Coach customers. Full meals will continue to be offered in Executive Class, while buy on board will be introduced in the main cabin to maintain value pricing. Complementary meals will remain on all flights over 3:30 in duration.
To answer your question. Flights where buy on board is offered still offers complementary soft drinks, coffee, tea, light snacks (bar snack mix or cookies), as well as complementary reuseable headsets.
This is more than just a North American trend. High quality airlines such as Austrian and Swissair have made buy on board (including soft drinks and water), as part of the offerings on their short-medium haul European flights. Even good old Westjet is considering selling food on board.