OB1783P
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Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 1:38 am

I just flew from MEX to IAD on UA yesterday. It was a perfectly fine flight in all respects, yet I find it odd not to be offered a complimentary snack on a four hour flight that clearly overlaps with a meal time (10:00 to 3:00). I knew what to expect and I ate at MEX, but it still feels weird (and it makes the flight appear longer). I'm not asking for the big tray necessarily, but a little sandwich or a muffin, like on Lufthansa Express. There was food for purchase, but hardly anyone ordered it... which made me wonder if it was kept from a previous flight, or from the previous day (not a great feeling). Do you see this fairly recent trend as being a permanent thing? And if it is, shouldn't there be nicer options at the arrival side in airports?
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1337Delta764
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 2:01 am

Interestingly, UA is the only U.S. airline to operate an in-house catering company (Chelsea Food Services), which was inherited from CO. I'm very surprised that UA hasn't sold them yet considering the reduced meal services these days. In fact, I think UA is using LSG Sky Chefs at DEN despite there being Chelsea ops there.

UA should probably consider selling Chelsea to Gate Gourmet, where Gate Gourmet would gain ops in IAH, DEN, and CLE. LSG Sky Chefs may show interest as well, however, there would be overlap at IAH and DEN where they already operate, and considering they pulled out of CLE a year or two ago, I don't know if they would be interested in returning. The only PMCO hub with Gate Gourmet ops is EWR.
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BD338
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 3:13 am

Food on US carriers domestic service went the way of the do-do several years ago. At first they offered some decent salads/snacks/sandwiches for sale now it seems to be mostly ultra-processed "food" with a shelf life reminiscent of the half life of plutonium. I don't expect any meal in Y for free these days but a reasonable healthy selection for purchase would be a welcome change. Even Ryanair and Easyjet offer better food options than US legacies. I always either eat in the terminal if I have time, buy a sandwhich at/on the way to the airport or bring something from home.
 
Bobloblaw
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 3:58 am

I suspect that US carriers desperately want to drop complimentary meals on trans Atlantic flights but no one wants to go first. UA tried but was rebuffed in 2008 and I suspect US Airways scheme to pay for a better meal or get a basic one free is just testing the waters to see if pax are willing to pay
 
BD338
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 4:04 am

Quoting bobloblaw (Reply 3):
I suspect that US carriers desperately want to drop complimentary meals on trans Atlantic flights but no one wants to go first. UA tried but was rebuffed in 2008 and I suspect US Airways scheme to pay for a better meal or get a basic one free is just testing the waters to see if pax are willing to pay

I have a strong suspicion you might be correct.
 
Birdwatching
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 5:20 am

I was on a 10+ hour train journey a couple months ago and guess what, no free meal. Also I drive my car up north every now and then which is 8+ hours and for some reason I never get served a free meal in my car. What gives?

Why do people expect to get a free meal whenever they are on a plane, but not on the train, bus, car, in the movie theater, the public library, the dmv...
I hope all airlines get rid of any sort of free meal on all flights. I don't want to prepay any sort of catering that I might like or might not like, and that I might or might not be hungry for on my day of travel. What I want is the freedom to choose to have a meal or not to have a meal, if the airline wants to make me an offer on board then go ahead, but I'll include my own food or the airport in my range of choices. Just like at the mall.

Whoever expects free food on a flight does so because it has been this way in the past, but if you think about it, it makes no sense.

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RamblinMan
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:48 am

Dunno, for some reason it just became the standard for food to be included on planes. Nobody expects it on trains or buses even for long trips. You ask me, I've never had a complimentary meal (on a U.S. carrier at least) that was worth a cent more than I paid for it. Scrap the free pig slop and sell me stuff that's actually good.
 
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airportugal310
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:15 am

Quoting 1337Delta764 (Reply 1):
In fact, I think UA is using LSG Sky Chefs at DEN despite there being Chelsea ops there.

Probably, and most likely, a contractual issue.

Quoting bobloblaw (Reply 3):
I suspect that US carriers desperately want to drop complimentary meals on trans Atlantic flights but no one wants to go first.

Well, until their European counterparts on the same route do the same, it probably wouldn't be a good idea.
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TomFoolery
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 11:19 am

Quoting Birdwatching (Reply 5):
hope all airlines get rid of any sort of free meal on all flights. I don't want to prepay any sort of catering that I might like or might not like, and that I might or might not be hungry for on my day of travel. What I want is the freedom to choose to have a meal or not to have a meal, if the airline wants to make me an offer on board then go ahead, but I'll include my own food or the airport in my range of choices.

There are airlines who answer to your needs. Some carriers will even offer to allow you to pay for your water if you so desire.

There are some consumers who see value in a price structure which includes basic inclusive service(s). Some are better than others with regard to offerings and quality. This is not only meals, but baggage allowance, entertainment, seat allocation, etc.

It goes to reason that if a carrier opts to get rid of meal services, they can also reduce the amount of work required by cabin crew. To this end, it is reasonable to conclude that less work to do means a possible reduction in the number of crew required (provided mandated minimum crew requirements are still met). Food costs, ovens cost, carts cost, extra weight can be reduced (trash, galley equipment, etc.) and if you can do this with one less crew member, even better.
So long as the remaining cabin crew get a slice of all on board sales (food, duty free, skymall, whatever), they often will not object to taking on the added burdon of distributing meals (for sale, of course) and collecting the packaging at the end of the service.

Unless someone out there in the US market raises the bar significantly and shows meaningful success by adding meals to their domestic offering, I really dont see the trend of economy class meals turning around. It will be just a matter of time before someone limits the international meal service. I would suspect this will be the dividing line between Y+ and Y.

Who will be the first? UA did toss the idea up on Trans Atlantic flights, and loyal customers objected. Lets see who continues the trend...
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cedarjet
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:34 pm

I just think US carriers are missing out on a lot of revenue by not getting the buy-on-board option right. I was on an AA 767-300 from JFK to MIA with a departure time of 17h00 and landed in Miami at c. 19h45 - right in the middle of dinner - and all they had to sell were these giant plastic tubes (like Pringles but bomb-proof) of potato chips that would feed a family of six. Hardly nutritious or appetising. A couple of really tasty sandwich options (say one with meat and one without) and a few other snacks - basically what all European low cost carriers offer, and where they make most of their money - would have resulted in maybe $1,000 worth of revenue on that one aircraft. And this story must repeat itself every hour of every day across the whole US airline network. Crazy.
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eaglepower83
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 2:10 pm

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 9):
A couple of really tasty sandwich options (say one with meat and one without) and a few other snacks - basically what all European low cost carriers offer, and where they make most of their money - would have resulted in maybe $1,000 worth of revenue on that one aircraft. And this story must repeat itself every hour of every day across the whole US airline network. Crazy.

Agreed. There was a period of time where I was actually buying UA's turkey club sandwiches on the plane a few years back. They were actually pretty good, decent price ($8) and didn't have weird ingredients.
It was more relaxing and convenient than eating in the terminal.
But now it seems like their food has gotten lamer.
AA's BoB menu looks good but their times are different so they usually only have snacks on my flight times :/
I figured I'd avoid most of the AA snacks that come with "cheese food product."
 
rising
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 3:47 pm

Quoting Birdwatching (Reply 5):

I was on a 10+ hour train journey a couple months ago and guess what, no free meal. Also I drive my car up north every now and then which is 8+ hours and for some reason I never get served a free meal in my car. What gives?

Because there is no station to stop at or exit to take when you're on an airplane. Your options are much more limited. Indeed, you can bring your own food aboard, but with limited space, I am not quite sure if that is the best solution, especially on a long-haul route.

From reading the rest of your post, I think we would agree, nothing is free. I always chuckle when I hear people talk glowingly about how LUV has "free checked bags." It's the biggest PR stunt in the business today. Is it really free? Of course not. They just can either offset the costs, or have the ability to factor the cost into the fare. But there is still a price.

The real questions is, do we pay the price in the fare, or directly via a Buy On Board program/ at Check-in? I think the market today and customer sentiment is showing a move toward the latter.
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RKSofACinUSA
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 3:56 pm

Quoting Birdwatching (Reply 5):
Why do people expect to get a free meal whenever they are on a plane, but not on the train, bus, car, in the movie theater, the public library, the dmv...
I hope all airlines get rid of any sort of free meal on all flights. I don't want to prepay any sort of catering that I might like or might not like, and that I might or might not be hungry for on my day of travel. What I want is the freedom to choose to have a meal or not to have a meal, if the airline wants to make me an offer on board then go ahead, but I'll include my own food or the airport in my range of choices. Just like at the mall.

An airplane is different from other modes of transportation because it is a sealed tube, no stops and safety restrictions that often force people to stay in their seats for many hours without getting up. There is a reason low-cost international airlines mostly still offer complementary meals. I can imagine some safety and publicity nightmares for an airline attempting to have only meals for purchase on very long flights. 1) Unprepared people with no credit cards passing out mid-flight due to blood sugar issues 2) People bringing aboard products that others are allergic to 3) People bringing aboard food that spoils and smells bad before the plane arrives at its destination.
 
Josh32121
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 4:01 pm

Quoting rising (Reply 11):
Indeed, you can bring your own food aboard, but with limited space, I am not quite sure if that is the best solution, especially on a long-haul route.

There are plenty of meal options available for purchase in the airport that will be perfectly fine if not consumed for a few hours. And if you're buying the food, you know you'll eat it. If the airline is making the menu, they're never going to please everyone all the time. I completely agree with the posters who compared plane travel to other modes of transport where no meal is offered or expected. It's an archaic practice. Even the beverage service is kind of bizarre if you think about it. People can easily buy sodas and bottled water to bring on board with them. Why not just make the beverage service purely alcohol since that's the one thing you can't bring on board with you? If anything it would make for a more pleasant flying experience for all passengers because the aisle wouldn't be blocked most of the flight with a cart because the service would take so much less time.

Businesses today are all about questioning the status quo and reevaluating ages-old practices to see if they still make sense. "Because it's always been done that way" is an unacceptable answer.
 
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IrishAyes
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 4:16 pm

There are plenty of network carriers that serve meals and are still profitable. It really just depends on the business model and what the market demands.

While I'm always partial towards the airline that places high value on catering, I have enjoyed the experience on plenty of hybrid or LCCs (WS, DY etc) that have very good BOB options at reasonable prices.

United has used a BOB service for awhile that is generally very good, and I love the TAPAS snack boxes (often times I get it for free because the scanner is "broken") but the menu has stayed stagnant for sometime.

Quoting rising (Reply 11):
From reading the rest of your post, I think we would agree, nothing is free. I always chuckle when I hear people talk glowingly about how LUV has "free checked bags." It's the biggest PR stunt in the business today. Is it really free? Of course not. They just can either offset the costs, or have the ability to factor the cost into the fare. But there is still a price.

LOL I agree. Wait till the FL merger is completed. "Bags Fly Free" will see numbered days.
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HBGDS
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 9:53 pm

Quoting RamblinMan (Reply 6):
Why do people expect to get a free meal whenever they are on a plane, but not on the train, bus, car, in the movie theater, the public library, the dmv...
I hope all airlines get rid of any sort of free meal on all flights. I don't want to prepay any sort of catering that I might like or might not like, and that I might or might not be hungry for on my day of travel. What I want is the freedom to choose to have a meal or not to have a meal, if the airline wants to make me an offer on board then go ahead, but I'll include my own food or the airport in my range of choices. Just like at the mall.

Before there were movies and music, there was food. It's a legacy thing. If you're bored, you want your peanuts/pretzels and your tomato juice (boosted with a mini vodka bottle to help you fall asleep or to ignore the screaming baby next to you). Laker was able to cut food on Transtantic, but look at it now: even a "free" FF mile ticket still costs you US $ 300-400 RT, so you expect some kind of handout. That said, though I agree that this is the way it is going. But what of airports where food outlets close an hour before your flight departs? (Was at CVG a week ago on a Saturday night. four of the five bars/restaurants food places closed by 7:00 pm...)
 
gkpetery
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:31 pm

I was on a flight from HNL to LAX yesterday on United and bought one of their $7 cheeseburger. I have to admit, it was really GOOD! Really.... I don't understand how they could keep the meat juicy and the bread bun not soggy. When the flight attendant asked me how it was... I told her that I really liked it. And she said, "yes, it's amazing, they are very good... as long as you don't think they were probably made a year ago" with a chuckle.

Honestly, I would happily pay for my $7 United Cheeseburger again.

I would rather have the lower fare then increase the overhead cost and my airfare for some people who really want to eat on board. I'd rather pay for the lower ticket price and make sure that the airlines are flying where and when I want than if I get a complimentary meal on flights less than 6 hours. A granola bar or some chips will usually tie you over until you land anyways.

It's not so hard to just bring the stuff you really want yourself on board in economy. If you feel so strongly about it, upgrade to Business or First.
 
CalebWilliams
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:31 pm

Quoting RKSofACinUSA (Reply 12):
An airplane is different from other modes of transportation because it is a sealed tube, no stops and safety restrictions that often force people to stay in their seats for many hours without getting up.

Thanks for pointing out this glaring difference. Also, most buses don't have galleys like are built into planes, so there is less expectation of food. Trains are a bit different and I suppose that really depends on the location of travel.
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JAGflyer
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:44 pm

How much does airline food overall cost an airline? The meals themselves on most NA carriers are similar to the likes of frozen TV dinners which just have one main course to be heated. The cost of the extra weight of the meals/ovens/galley systems cannot be that large. When someone is paying hundreds of dollars to fly 6-7+ hours a meal must be served. $1000 to fly from NA to Europe is very poor value IMO if you aren't at least served 2 meals with unlimited drinks. I could see LCCs perhaps charging for meals but not on transatlantic/transpac flights. Not providing a meal for the cost one pays for air travel is absurd to me.
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woodsboy
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:02 am

From what I see on my travels mostly on AS and DL, people buy quite a lot of BoB stuff on all but the shortest flights. Certainly alcohol is popular even at $6 or $7 fa pop. Maybe unlike others, Id rather not carry food onboard especially when connections are close and then buy a snack or sandwich if flight. AS does an increasingly good job with their menu although Id still like to see the criteria for flight duration pared down a bit so you can get something more substantial than a snack pack on a 2.5- 3 hour flight. I know why they do it though, unless you are going to or from Alaska our out of Seattle transcon they don't have to stock the more substantial food.

Oh the days of full meals even on what we would now think of as short flights! When I was a kid and we would fly out of DEN to DFW or IAH for summer grandparent visits you would ALWAYS get a hot meal and that is a 2 hour flight! But all those airlines are gone now...Branniff, the "old" Frontier, Piedmont, TWA, Texas International. Those 732s and 727-100s and 200s had to have pretty big galleys with electric ovens to serve a 120-160 people a hot meal!
 
b777a340fan
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:06 am

I am not one to require food service on a flight, but just like any other services, it's a token of appreciation and contrast for customers. What startles me more than anything, however, is how airlines have taken away food service and/or started to offer a paying option under various economic justifications like fuel prices, etc. However, I cannot recall the last time fares decreased or complimentary food became available again once passenger loads increased, fuel prices dropped, and/or other cost measures (e.g., reduction of flights) went into effect. The only things I seem to observe are lowering customer service and adding a fee wherever possible. Airlines are private companies who answer to shareholders and banks, not customers. They seem to be doing all they can in order to reduce services and maximize profits, until there is some massive revolt that will bring bad publicity. Even then, it appears that the legislature will do little to protect customers. I have flown with Asian airlines in the past and the constrast is like night and day. It's really sad.
 
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cosyr
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:10 am

Quoting Birdwatching (Reply 5):
Why do people expect to get a free meal whenever they are on a plane, but not on the train, bus, car, in the movie theater, the public library, the dmv...

Because we used to get it.

What does the future hold? Well I like the dining car on AMTRAK. It's not fancy, sort of 7-11 quality, but there is variety and hot food.

I hope the future includes more hot options. United is the only one with warm BOB food, but it is only one option and only on sCO aircraft. However, as a picky eater, I'm glad its a cheeseburger with the toppings on the side, and not some southwestern wrap with aioli and other things that people who don't like them can't pick off.
 
RamblinMan
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:11 am

Quoting JAGflyer (Reply 18):
How much does airline food overall cost an airline? The meals themselves on most NA carriers are similar to the likes of frozen TV dinners which just have one main course to be heated.

That's pretty much the entire reason I object to it. By having "free" tv dinners I am usually deprived of the opportunity to buy something edible. And we all complained about those tv dinners for YEARS. If we have to keep offering this crap then can I at least have the option to pay extra for the business class meals?

One of the most disgusting airline meals I've eaten was on EI ORD-DUB. I remember it well because this was back when they used the A330s on shorthaul and domestic flights as well, so there was a BOB menu card in the seat pocket. No BOB for longhaul though, and the whole flight I was really wishing I could purchase one of the meat sandwiches they had on that menu.

Same story a while back on CO going to Hawaii. 8 hour flight, prison-quality barbecue sandwich was THE meal choice. Nowadays on the same route with UA I would be able to buy one of those excellent tapas boxes or a cheeseburger. This is a definite improvement for everyone involved...I get food I want, the airline makes some extra cash, we're all happy.
 
TWA1985
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:42 am

I read on A.Net a month or so ago, that an AA insider mentioned that AA is looking to bring back complimentary meals (snacks) in coach on domestic flights over 2 hours ... so perhaps the free food in Y concept is not all together dead?!?!
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lewis
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:46 am

Quoting rising (Reply 11):
From reading the rest of your post, I think we would agree, nothing is free. I always chuckle when I hear people talk glowingly about how LUV has "free checked bags." It's the biggest PR stunt in the business today. Is it really free? Of course not. They just can either offset the costs, or have the ability to factor the cost into the fare. But there is still a price.

This:

Quoting B777A340Fan (Reply 20):
However, I cannot recall the last time fares decreased or complimentary food became available again once passenger loads increased, fuel prices dropped, and/or other cost measures (e.g., reduction of flights) went into effect

  

I do not mind paying to check in a bag, I don't even mind BoB or bringing my own snacks on board. Its just that, even with those frills being cut, there is no tangible reduction in the price we pay for tickets.
 
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totesen
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Tue Nov 20, 2012 7:39 am

Quoting RKSofACinUSA (Reply 12):
3) People bringing aboard food that spoils and smells bad before the plane arrives at its destination.

Happened to me last friday, on a Volaris flight to Cancun, the lady next seat, brought out a McDonald´s burger. clearly it stinked the entire cabin, and was completly unessesary on a 2 hour flight.

Here in México even low cost carriers like Volaris offer complementary snacks, it has been proven that the Mexican public gets offended if they are asked to pay, so you can expect free drinks (including beer, rum, vodka and tequila), as well as a bag of chips on all carriers, except VivaAerobus(The Mexican Ryanair). if the flight is longer than 3 hours, the same service will be repited, i belive that AM restarted offering sandwitches and salads on economy on domestic flights longer than 2 hours. But t
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HA_DC9
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RE: Future Of Food Service On US Carriers In Y

Tue Nov 20, 2012 8:36 am

I would argue that the gold standard for food service on American carriers in Y class is HA:

http://www.hawaiianairlines.com/Services/in-flight-dining

They didn't take away meals, rather they added to it. I think they found a good balance of offering complimentary meals, plus BoB and locally made products. Their CEO has said they could cut out the meals and save some cash or go strictly BoB like everyone else, but it would take away from the overall service and experience that sets HA apart from AS/UA/DL/AA/G4 and everyone else flying to Hawaii. In this case, you gotta be willing to spend some money to make money.