United Airlines Drops Free Snacks In Coach And So Much More…

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that United Airlines will no longer offer free snacks in coach starting September 2nd. They are also dropping complimentary meals in business class except for “premium transcontinental flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles to New York.” Shockingly, this move coincides with the airlines’ expansion of their “buy-on-board” food offerings, says the Chronicle.

The adjustments are outlined in an internal United Airlines memo that was distributed to flight attendants Monday and obtained by The Chronicle. The changes are all in the name of the “cost reduction and revenue-generating opportunities” United is focused on, the memo reads.

“In the wake of high fuel prices and a challenging economic environment, we must continue to examine every aspect of our business and find new ways to improve our day-to-day operations through efficiencies that still meet our customers’ expectations,” reads the memo, titled “Catering Changes Provide Value and Options.”

“These are difficult but necessary changes,” said United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski, in Chicago. “We are looking at everything we need to do to offset fuel prices, which are still skyrocketing.”

The memo also says that United plans to do away with complementary meals from Washington D.C. to Europe.

“We’ll monitor customer feedback,” said Urbanski. “The industry is changing.”

Since they’re so interested, we think you should let them know how you feel about this change. Is “buy-on-board” food a good way to offset fuel costs without raising fares?

United Airlines to drop free snacks (Thanks, Ari!)
(Photo: So Cal Metro )

Comments

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  1. Marshfield says:

    I miss airline breakfast on plates with the little fork and knife. Yes, I miss airline food.

  2. SkokieGuy says:

    “…..efficiencies that still meet our customers’ expectations…..”

    Can you provide the market research that indicates that customer expectations are for reduced services at higher prices?

    “We are looking at everything we need to do to offset fuel prices, which are still skyrocketing.”

    How about charging an appropriate amount for the ticket instead of monthly / weekly / daily changes to add-on fees for services that used to be included?

  3. Con Seannery says:

    Man, this isn’t even close to how US Despairways screwed over their flyers. If I had flown to Rome on there after they took out the entertainment systems and drinks, I would have gone insane, all in my spacious way too tiny seat.

  4. hank18 says:

    This is getting ridiculous. What are they going to do next? Charge for seat belts? Oh, you want a cushion in your seat? That’ll be $20. Armrests? $35. Seriously….

  5. chiieddy says:

    I’m flying to Europe this Spring. I wonder how much food I’ll have to bring on board.

  6. meg9 says:

    I can’t get my .03 cent pack of minipretzels anymore? And Bigfoot wasn’t real either? I’m having a very tough week.

  7. IphtashuFitz says:

    @hank18: $20 to leave by the jetway, otherwise you have to climb down a rope dangling from the rear of the plane.

  8. Coelacanth says:

    Taking away business class perks? Now that’s just downright dispicable…

  9. Sevarious says:

    I’m going to have to start packing for flights like I pack for camping trips. Bring my own food and probably my own water filter. Just think about how much money airlines could save by switching to non-potable water. And then charging you for it!

  10. Darkwing_Duck says:

    @Con Seannery: Argh don’t say things like that. I flew NY to London on Virgin; there’s only so much iPod music, repeated shows, and staring at the colorful seats I could take, can’t imagine US Dareways

  11. SkokieGuy says:

    Saturn won a decent market share with fixed pricing. It appealed to the millions of car owners who dread the car buying experience.

    Saturn wasn’t the cheapest car, and people paid more over cost than a decent negotiator would with a competing brand, but lots of people did it willingly to avoid the negotations hassle, and to know that the guy that pass on the street in the same car paid the same amount.

    Some airline is going to offer one-price tickets. Everyone pays the same price, all ammenities included, everything spelled out upfront. You know that the guy in the seat next to you didn’t get it for $200.00 less, and you know that you won’t be suprised at check in with new charges you didn’t budget for (Miss, you’re wearing plaid, we have a Tartan Surchage, will that be cash or credit).

    I will fly the airline that does this when / if it happens.

  12. MrDo says:

    The major airlines have no incentive to perform to customer expectations, since they consider themselves beyond the reach of simple bankruptcy. They always know that their influence peddling on Capitol Hill will have bought them the security of the bailout. So why bother trying? Squeeze as much profit as you can, customers be damned!

    If they were a legitimate business, we would allow all of them to fail as they should since their business models are unsustainable as currently implemented.

    They should either raise prices for tickets, or close up shop.

  13. Geekybiker says:

    Still skyrocketing fuel prices? Haven’t those started to head down for the last couple of weeks at least?

  14. admiral_stabbin says:

    1 – This is new? When I flew UA to Florida a few years ago…I recall buying a snack box on my return flight home…I don’t recall free snacks…nor would I be very upset if they decided to stop.

    2 – They still served “meals”? Wow…I would rather lick the seat than eat that shit.

    Now, if they take away my free bloody mary mixer and/or coffee…well, I’ll just drive myself everywhere. :-)

  15. goodywitch says:

    I wouldn’t mind so much if their buy on board stuff actually had veg options. AA def doesn’t have that option, mebe United will? It sux, because they don’t have to be equitible. Yea traveling.

  16. vastrightwing says:

    I actually want the airlines to add the “crying baby” surcharge. This will solve two problems: revenue and less noise.

  17. ludwigk says:

    @Sevarious: Dude, Flying is basically the equivalent to camping, except that you can’t leave, so you better prepare well. You’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, and you have no easy access to food or water.

    Last time I flew, I brought trail mix, beef jerkey, fruit leather bars, and half a dozen protein bars. Past security, I picked up a liter of water as well. On top of that, I filled up on burgers at the terminal before taking off. I think that’s just part of being a prepared traveler.

  18. hank18 says:

    @IphtashuFitz That’s hilarious! They’ll demand $50 per passenger to start the engines, or everyone has to get out and push.

  19. Canino says:

    I always thought food service on airlines was kind of dumb. It seemed to be just something to kill time and give you something to do. I’d rather catch up on work or sleep and pay less for the ticket than be bothered with all the ruckus it causes to distribute meals in-flight.

    I’ve made many short business flights where the drink service is comical because of the short flight time. Dallas/Austin/San Antonio/Houston routes are mostly under an hour. It’s just not necessary but they all run around like crazy making people finish up their drinks they just got a few minutes before so they can prep for landing.

    If you’re on a flight that’s 6 hours or more it is appropriate, but other than that if you’re so delicate you can’t go a few extra hours without food you probably shouldn’t be on a plane anyway.

  20. JustThatGuy3 says:

    @SkokieGuy:

    Delta tried it, or something very much like it. Called it Simplifare, if I remember correctly – they dropped to I believe four fares total, with very clear rules on each. It was a disaster (revenue took a dive), and they gave up in less than a year.

    You said you’d fly that airline with all one fare. Really? Even if that fare was well above what a competitor was offering? You’d really pay $600 to fly LA-NYC when a competitor had the ticket at $400, just to know that there wasn’t anyone else on the plane who was paying $300? No offense, but I very much doubt there are many of you.

  21. PDX909 says:

    So utterly sick of this constant nickel and diming game. Why doesn’t some airline really go for it on the customer service front and even start providing the creature comforts for ‘free’ again. I’m happy to pay a reasonable cost for my tickets, I’m not a bargain basement flyer… I just want to enjoy traveling again. Virgin Atlantic did it in the 90’s, that was the best coach service I’ve ever had and I’d use them all the time if it were an option.

  22. JustThatGuy3 says:

    I’m amazed that they’re considering doing this in _business_. Those are pricey seats, occupied by valuable customers who actually give a darn about service.

  23. caj11 says:

    One thing I’d like to mention – after Skybus, the
    ultra-discount airline (I don’t know how cheap their fares were – never got a chance to fly them) that charged extra for EVERYTHING – checked baggage, drinks, food, etc., shut down, most of the “full service/legacy” airlines either got ideas from their business model, or just decided that since there’s no more Skybus to be compared to, we can start acting like them. Continental is among the few remaining legacy airlines that still gives out snacks (well, tiny bags of peanuts) and soft drinks at no charge and allows one free checked bag (I think). The “discount” airlines – Southwest, JetBlue & Airtran all come to mind – now provide MORE than American, US Airways & United (and maybe some of the other “full service/legacy” airlines I can’t think of). “Discount” is now better than “full service” in the airline industry. Go figure.

  24. bobpence says:

    Someone needs to do a study of two near-identical flights, one with free soft drinks and snacks, one without. In the week following, how many travelers went to the doctor’s office feeling light-headed? A lot of air travelers are tight with a buck — students, government / military / business travelers (many of us in coach) who don’t want to spend money if they won’t get a receipt needed for reimbursement.

    The condition of those who are dehydrated or have low blood sugar as a result of not buying the food and drink is essentially an economic externality of United’s business, just like pollution.

  25. SkokieGuy says:

    @JustThatGuy3: Yes I would pay $600.00 for a flight that the competing airline has listed at $400.00**

    Competing airline, $400.00
    **Taxes, airport fees, security fees $85.00
    **1st bag $25.00
    **2nd bag $50.00
    **Water $4.00
    **Snacks $4.00 /ea.
    **No movie, no headphones, no blankets, no pillows, no seating upgrade.

    Oh and if we don’t sell enough high-revenue seats, or the flight isn’t sold out, we might just cancel the flight to save money, but you won’t know that till the very last minute and we’ll blame it on ‘weather’ and not compensate you.

    Passengers who insist on the lowest possible fare kinda lose the right to bitch about service, yes?

    Do you expect the same level of service at a Kia dealership as you receive at Lexus?

    Do you send back your burger at McDonalds if it is not properly ‘medium rare’.

    There is a percentage of disgusted flyers who are willing to pay more than the cheapest possible fare for a guarantee of a reasonble level of service.

    And the comment of PDX909, right after mine means there are at least two of us right in this thread.

    Isn’t that what people are doing when they upgrade to business class or first class, paying more for a higher level of service?

  26. JustinAche says:

    So what happens if you bought a ticket before the 2nd? Especially business class, and you expect a meal? Are they going to go down the row “I need to check your ticket to see if you get food”.

    I remember flying business class Lufthansa, all you could drink booze (on a flight headed to a Muslim country, I was the only taker), a great meal with a menu, real silverware, a flight pack with eye shades, comfy socks, wet naps…this was as recent as 2 years ago

  27. FreemanB says:

    I flew on United from DC to London and back last week. I can assure you that this is not a new change. They haven’t been serving anything I would call food for quite some time now. Fortunately, I planned ahead and stocked up on beef jerky and candy bars to sustain me through the trip.

  28. I looked into chartering a jet for a family trip. It’s costs about $3000 round trip and the jet seats up to 12. So that’s $300 per person for a private plane with no baggage fees and decent meals for all.

  29. trekwars2000 says:

    @chiieddy: You won’t have to bring any. You still get free food in coach on TATL flights ex-ORD or SFO/LAX.

  30. @ceejeemcbeegee: Correction: it’s about $3000 each way. But still, $600 isn’t bad for a private plane.

  31. trekwars2000 says:

    @goodywitch: The Right Bite snack box on UA is the Veg option.

  32. Sevarious says:

    @ludwigk: You are a genius. I’m going to be flying a lot in a few months for job interviews and I’ve been dreading it. But with the power of trail mix and beef jerky it will be all the better. It will also make surviving being stuck in the plane for an extra 45 minutes before takeoff or landing that much easier.

  33. trekwars2000 says:

    @DemolitionMan: UA will still be offering free meals in business class except on Domestic 3 class airplanes (i.e. ORD-DEN, DEN-IAD, IAD-SFO/LAX where these aircraft often operate).

    Meg your statement is a bit off above. In addition, the passenger in C class will get a free BoB option as well as free drinks. They just will no longer get a free hot meal.

  34. Jenng says:

    Huh I flew United this pass weekend (3.5 hour flight) and didn’t get any snacks. Thank goodness we packed our own.

  35. ThinkerTDM says:

    Apparently, reducing payroll and bennies for upper management isn’t the way to go to “offset the cost of fuel”.

    I wish their PR people would say it like it was: “..to offset fuel prices AND keep the CEO making millions.”

  36. arras says:

    I would consider any add-ons during the flight – meals, drinks, headphones – as part of the fare. So, in my view, if they’re now charging for snacks they’ve already raised the fares.

  37. Overheal says:

    I’ve gone on the assumption so far that the removal of complimentary food was on the shorter domestic flights. That I could begrudgingly understand. But I think its outrageous to pull those services from long haul flights. Even if they wanted to pull the meal service they at least need to provide some source of complimentary food or drink.

    Those flights are simply too long to pull that crap: you’re guaranteeing that everyone on board will at some stage during that long haul flight be required to pay up for food – So why not keep it right in the ticket?

  38. PeteyNice says:

    This is America, “CEO making millions” is understood to be the last thing to go when a company goes bad. Anything else would be unAmerican.

  39. fuzzycuffs says:

    I’m flying United next month, but it’s an international flight to Japan. They usually serve food, and it’s actually not so bad.

    I wonder if it’ll be pay for, since my ticket does say that 2 meals will be provided going and coming back.

  40. steegness says:

    Charging me just guarantees that I won’t partake in it. It WILL save them money, since they can buy less pretzels.

    I don’t think for a second they’re truly entertaining high hopes of people actually BUYING this ‘value-added’ food, certainly not in quantities enough to matter. But if they’re buying less because misers like me won’t shell out, then that’s a cost-savings too.

  41. samurailynn says:

    It sucks that they are taking away a service that people have come to expect. However, a lot of people are acting like they are going to wither away if they do not get a full meal on their flight. How many hours is a cross country flight? 3? 4? The average person really can’t go 4 hours without a full meal? Diabetics and others who have medical conditions are one thing, but most of us will be just fine if we don’t get a full meal on the flight. If I’m going on a long trip, I usually pack a couple of snacks anyway, even if I think the airline might be serving a meal. What has happened in the past when people didn’t like the options that the airline was serving? Did we have people dying of starvation on 3 out of 5 flights?

  42. Cattivella says:

    So they’re not giving me a tiny pack of mini pretzels?! Whatever will I do! Those things MADE the flight for me and I just can’t imagine flying without them.

    Sarcasm aside, I met a recently ex United flight attendant and she had nothing good to say about the company. Disorganized and mismanaged from the bottom to the top, including almost no communication between departments that NEED to communicate. As an example, she was once flown from her home airport to another location to work a flight, but once she got there she found out that the flight had enough attendants (and had always had enough), so they had to fly her back same day, one the occasions they didn’t fly her back same day, they had to pay for her hotel room. So because of non-communication they lost revenue for a seat on two flights (because paying customers are always bumped in lieu of attendants/pilots that need to be somewhere) AND paid for a hotel for the night. According to her this happened pretty frequently. She also said that your friendly flight attendants are making about $17k a year. No wonder they’re so grumpy.

    Maybe they wouldn’t need to cut back on in flight amenities if they stopped hemorrhaging money from the inside out.

  43. ELC says:

    @SkokieGuy: Sounds good!

  44. ideagirl says:

    I wonder how long until the ban customers from bring their own food? i used to always travel with two small bottles of water, but the (*&^*^ TSA screwed that up for me, so now I buy over-priced airport water for the plane (hey, when I want water I don’t want to wait an hour for the dang cart to come back around). If they ban my apples and cookies, I’m screwed. My buy on board snack purchasing experiences have been pretty disappointing–the same small portioned junk they used to give away for free, now with a $5 convenience fee. I’d rather have an apple.

  45. blainer says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: I gotta be honest . . . unless you’re flying from NYC to Jersey City, I’m having a difficult time believing that.

  46. TPS Reporter says:

    @SkokieGuy: Yeah, I’d pay the extra to make sure I didn’t get hit with a bunch of extra and unknown fees at check in. A local Toyota dealer does the same thing as Saturn and we bought a new Corolla there and it was very easy and unstressful.

  47. ideagirl says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: That’s brilliant, can I steal that from you??

  48. trekwars2000 says:

    @ideagirl: You can still travel with thoes water bottles and fill them up AFTER security.

  49. SkokieGuy says:

    @ideagirl: Bringing your own food seems logical, but has problems.

    You can’t bring a beverage (bring empty bottle to fill or pay airport prices).

    You have to bring non-perishble food (no yogurt, no cheese, no meat) since you have to get to the airport early, and your flight may be delayed

    You can’t bring too much food, since checked luggage is being charged for, your carryon will likely be more filled with ‘stuff’ you used to check.

    When you travel, you will need to shop for your return flight food. To me, looking for a grocery store in Cancun to obtain non-perishable food to carry with me on my return flight is not my idea of a vacation. What do you do if you’re on a cruise? Steal crackers from the buffet?

    And for most people, it’s not the loss of a bag of pretzels, its the relentless elimination of token amenities, and initiation of new fees instead of the appropriate raising of fares and upper level cost cutting (upper management, CEO salaries, etc.).

  50. u2acro says:

    I totally get doing away with meals within the U.S. — we *are* spoiled brats and should be able to take care of ourselves for two or three hours. However, I find it insanely stupid that AA would take away meals for DC-Europe trips. That’s 6-8 hours, depending on where you’re going! That definitely crosses over at least one meal time, if not two.

  51. chauncy that billups says:

    I haven’t had a ‘free’ meal on a domestic flight since 1997. I think this is far less egregious than surreptitiously adding massive ‘convenience fees’ to ticketsm, as most of these airlines are starting to do.

  52. papahoth says:

    How come they don’t mention any of this on their cool new Olympic commercials?

  53. Lightmatrix says:

    Doesn’t Continental still offer free “meals” on domestic flights? I recall flying in coach from Houston to San Francisco and getting a warm sandwich.

    Also, (I wish they flew more places) Midwest Airlines would give you 2 warm cookies, and had very large comfy seats!

  54. Norislolz says:

    @SkokieGuy: People like you chase me away from these websites. I’m going to go watch some FoxNews and hang out with some hedgefund managers just to get the whine out of my ears.

  55. Inglix_the_Mad says:

    Here’s an idea, make flying pleasant again. Slightly increase seat / leg room (especially leg room), charge for 1 regular (60-70″) checked bag, and ONE carry-on. Charge a bit more up front. The trick, make flying pleasant on your planes. People will pay for good customer service, and the ones that don’t well they deserve what they get. Nowadays you don’t even get a real choice unless you buy first class. I’m sorry, but even first-class is a joke nowadays and business-class is really a mockery of what it once was.

  56. Norislolz says:

    @Lightmatrix: My boss flies Continental and I think they still have something to that effect. He also gets infinite free upgrades because of his decade-long loyalty to the airline.

    Hint- if you don’t like an airline’s policy, don’t fly them.

    I have it outlined in my business travel that I only want Midwest Express (no middle seat) or NWA (because I have a pile o miles with them).

    The information in the piece is worthwhile. It’s good to know airline policy. However, I don’t know how all these commenters are victims when they can just NOT FLY UNITED.

  57. HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

    Are they still providing drinking water for free?

    The answer to that question will determine if my reaction is “Sucks, but necessary”, or “DIE UNITED!”

  58. Gannoc says:

    Why don’t they allow you to pre-order stuff? That would be great. When I buy my ticket, I check off a box saying “Yes, I want the Flight Deluxe with unlimited soda and a light meal for only $18.50 more! Or the Flight Supreme with meal, snacks and 2 alcoholic beverages for $29.99!”

    They’d also be able to better judge what they need to bring on board.

  59. SkokieGuy says:

    @Gannoc: Fabulous idea! My guess is that the airlines would love to do this, but when you have airline sites, partners, resellers (Orbitz, Travelocity, etc.) it’s hard to quickly ramp up to this. On the other hand a 2nd baggage fee can be implemented much quicker. So many industries accept this model as S.O.P.

    i.e. – Do you want the 4 cylinder or 6 cylinder?
    i.e. – Would you like fries with that?
    i.e. – Do you need shirts and ties for your new suit?

    In other words, upselling and add on sales are a long-standing and accepted sales technique, that is less offensive that finding out about last minute charges and changes to policies and services.

  60. haoshufu says:

    The big airlines are starting to model Southwest. But even Southwest will give you peanuts.

  61. JustThatGuy3 says:

    @SkokieGuy:

    You’re mixing apples and oranges.

    First question: standardized pricing. You said that you would fly an airline that had standardized pricing (i.e. everybody pays the same) vs. one where there was different pricing. I said there are very few people who would pay more _just to know that nobody else paid less._

    To compare apples to apples, the service level has to be the same (and given that standard pricing cuts revenue and hence puts more pressure on costs, the standard pricing airline would likely have even _less_ service).

    Second question: paying more for better service. I agree, there may be a market for a “premium economy” product, as there is for some international routes. Get another 5 inches of legroom, better/free food and wine, and pay 20-30% more than coach, but 1/2 as much as business. United has a little bit of this with their Economy Plus offering, which at least gets more legroom, and is included for full-fare coach passengers and status freq fliers, and is sometimes sold on the day of flight to regular passengers, if there’s space.

    As

  62. timmus says:

    The way airline travel is getting, they might as well just scoop us up like that front loader from Soylent Green, dump us into the airplane, and seal us up. Those amenities they call “seats” and “seatbelts” are obviously just there to please FAA safety regulations. Fortunately since corporate America is slowly buying out US government we ought to see those safety regulations going out the door soon and then we get get on with being hauled out onto the tarmac with a front loader. At least if we’re sealed up like that I’ll probably be able to sneak some shampoo and mouthwash on board, finally.

  63. JustThatGuy3 says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee:

    $3k round trip? That’s an incredibly low price, unless you’re only going 50 miles.

    Netjets rates start at about $5k/hour+tax, and that’s for a 7 passenger jet. New York to Chicago round trip, for 7 passengers, would be about $23-25k. Even if you’re completely filling the plane, that’s still about $3500/person, which is well above the $1000-1500 a round trip first class ticket costs.

  64. Quilt says:

    I just want to know how much they’ll be charging. Somehow I see them charging ridiculous prices, then creating a situation where passengers are forced to buy their food. Just wait for it…

  65. SkokieGuy says:

    @JustThatGuy3: Standardized pricing is just as much to insure that when a (person, business, family) budgets X dollars for an airline ticket and purchases the ticket, they are done. They have no need to monitor airline websites to keep abreast of constant changes.

    Saturn proved that people will pay more than lowest possible price to obtain a car at a fair price (and avoid the price haggling game).

    The airlines obviously don’t have to offer identical ammenities, but if know that airline A & B offer a fixed economy price with no add on fees (or a published menu of options as proposed above), I can compare their rates, the included ammenities and make an intelligent decision.

    Currently, comparing fares is semi-meaningless without the drudgery of determining all the add-on costs, then monitoring any changes that may be implemented after purchase.

    Leaving screen – pls. feel free to rip my ideas a new one.

  66. @Canino: I always thought food service on airlines was kind of dumb.

    If you’re flying <45 minute routes, then that makes sense, but consider that the vast majority of people are stuck on the airplane for at least two hours per hop – then look at the shrinking connection times, the dreadful food options at the airports, and the fact that flying used to be seomthing that people looked forward to, and it starts to make sense that the flying public is ticked off about losing more and more of what used to be included with the price simply because the airlines don’t have the balls to raise prices in the face of rising fuel costs.

    I remember those times, and I’m in my mid-thirties. Have so many people gotten inured to the poor service and lack of options that it’s considered normal to suffer? No wonder the middle class is vanishing.

  67. Green Goth Brit Chick - AlternatEve says:

    Flew to the US a year or so back from Manchester, England. Before this, I’d only ever been on package holidays (don’t get me started on Airtours or Going Places). I was flying BMI to Chicago O’Hare, then a US airline to Texas. Can’t remember which airline that was.

    Tickets included two meals – was a 9 hour flight if I remember correctly. Not only did I get two bloody lovely meals, I got a shedload of complimentary booze (three small bottles of vodka and a half bottle of wine with each meal). The flight also had LOTS of movies, random TV shows (ended up watching the new series of Dr Who that I had already watched on BBC but liked hehe), games etc with a screen on the back of my seat. Oh, and snacks. Lots of snacks. The cabin crew were brilliant and it was a great flight going AND coming back three weeks later.

    The internal flight was extremely different, but I don’t remember much of it – going to Texas I was sleeping off the drink, coming back I had stomach flu my friend’s son had picked up in daycare so I was dosed up on anti-nausea meds.

    I do remember being delayed coming out of Chicago due to something going wrong at Manchester (Fog I was lead to believe heh), so I spent a few extra woozy hours there. But the flight back on BMI was just as great as the one going. If you’re going to the UK and can get tickets on BMI (British Midland International) DO IT. There were a LOT of happy return customers on that flight.

  68. Here’s what you get by airline, in my experience.

    -U.S. Airways: Older airplanes that are refurbished with paint rollers instead of actually cleaning the bulkheads and plastics. No food. Pay for drinks. Something of a roll of the dice when it comes to flying, but at least Phoenix has free WiFi.

    -United: Aging international fleet and older domestic fleet. Has screwed over their workers several times since 9/11. Was bailed out by taxpayers at least once in the past ten years. Hubs are located in foggy, snowy and stormy places, so delays are common, but the airline does not seem to put customers first by holding unboarded flights.

    -Southwest: Oddly, very little has changed on Southwest in the past twelve years. Still fun, still almost no frills, but now second behind Continental on features.

    -Continental: Still serves hot meals in coach. New domestic fleet, new international fleet, hasn’t screwed its unions over, so the employees tend to be amuch happier than USA, United, and AA. Hubs are a mixed bag; Newark is delayed all the time, but GHWB Int’l isn’t bad. My airline of choice.

    American Airlines: Seems determined to go down the same road United is, only faster.

  69. Fly Girl says:

    @Inglix_the_Mad: Amen. This policy = suicide. There’s problems on both ends– American consumers want 1960’s service and 1990’s fares in 2008’s economy. It’s time for all of us to get real about how much things cost. It’s expensive to run an airline, especially with fuel prices skyrocketing. Those additional expenses have to be absorbed by the consumer. It’s not like the airlines are nickle and diming us as they roll around in piles of money– for the most part, they’re losing money every quarter. Lots of money.

    But, on the other side of the same coin, airlines need to quit playing games with pricing. When the cost of operating a buisiness goes up, the prices should refelct that. Who do they think they’re kidding with all of the hidden fees and $300 fuel surcharges?! We’re not dumb. It all ends up being the same price in the end, so why not just offer the services and increase the base price? It would be refreshing to see an airline with that business model.

    It’s infuriating for a customer to see a base fare of $300 advertised, and then to get a final price of $750 after the taxes and fuel surcharges have been tacked on. And then they know that when they get to the airport, they’re going to have to shell our money for a blanket, a pillow, a bottle of water, a checked bag, a window seat, a set of headphones, a meal… Why not just advertise a price of $900 and get it over with?!

  70. picardia says:

    I’ve traveled with nothing but carryons for years, and I see I now have to invest in a superlight travel blanket and pack some PB&J ahead of time. Got a travel pillow. Don’t care about their headphones. I will give them as little revenue as possible, b/c God knows I pay enough for the dang tickets.

  71. DarkKnightShyamalan says:

    @Fly Girl: Exactly what I was just about to say. If they made their pricing transparent, i.e., explained the fare based on the going rate of fuel, etc., then I don’t think anyone would complain. We’re not idiots. We know it costs a lot more to fill up a tank these days, and the tank in a 747 is slightly bigger than the tank in a Buick.

    And for god’s sake, no more of this knee-jerk “Amtrak is 10x better!!!!” business. Even at hugely inflated prices, there are significant advantages of air travel over train travel. I priced out two Amtrak tickets from L.A. to Portland this year, and the fare was about the same as Delta. Except, of course, the trip takes 35 hours by train vs. 3 hours by plane.

  72. MercuryPDX says:

    @Fly Girl: Why not just advertise a price of $900 and get it over with?!

    My guess… no one wants to be first. When you use Hotwire/Expedia/Kayak/et al. how often do you look beyond the first page or two of flights? If “your” airline is offering the same flight “correctly” priced and no other airline is, you’ll sell less tickets.

  73. Snakeophelia says:

    I haven’t flown since March and I don’t know that I can bear to, seeing as how that flight was on Quantas (LAX to Melbourne). I was in the very last row of the coach section of the plane, but the seats were huge, we had first-run movies plus tons of TV shows available onscreen in the seat in front of us, food was available throughout the flight, we got little eye masks and socks, and the flight attendants could not have been nicer or more attentive.

    I guess I’ll see if Continental has a PHL to San Antonio flight this November for my next conference…Sigh.

  74. Fly Girl says:

    Also, I think that the government needs to step in and do something. They could help out in a few areas:

    -Mandate fair and honest pricing. Base fares are basically lies. “Taxes” (airport taxes, 9-11 security fees, etc…) on a domestic ticket are only about $30-$75 on a round trip ticket, depending on where you’re flying. “Taxes” (including immigration taxes) on an international ticket can be anywhere from $75-$300, depending on where you’re flying. So, if you see a base fare of $190 from San Francisco to Chicago advertised, common sense would dictate that the total for the ticket would be about $225, give or take some change. How did that ticket end up costing $350? Freakin’ fuel surcharges. I just don’t understand how that is legal. “FUEL” is something that should be taken into consideration when pricing tickets. Something that should be included in the BASE fare, not tacked on at the end.

    -Luggage. I don’t think that passenggers are entitled two two bags at 50 pounds each. But I DO think that there should be a free bag alottment, especially when no liquids are allowed through the security checkpoints. Something reasonable, like one free bag at up to 30 pounds, should be mandated by the government.

    -Food and Beverage. Should coach passengers be served steaks on China? No. But a standard should be established. Something like… ALL FLIGHTS: Free drinking water. FLIGHTS 2-4 HOURS IN LENGTH: Free drinking water and a free small snack. (Peanuts/pretzels/granola bar, etc…) FLIGHTS 4 HOURS PLUS: Free drinking water and one free hot meal for each five hours of flight time.

  75. @blainer:
    @ideagirl:
    @blainer:

    I’m just reiterating the quote I got a few days ago.

  76. amggal says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: …and the distance you were flying for said family trip?

  77. vespa59 says:

    I think this is a great idea. Look, there’s no denying that fuel has gotten crazy expensive in the last year, and yeah, airlines use a ton of fuel to fly our fat asses around, so they’re obviously going to have to come up with ways to make up the difference. I far prefer the inconvenience of having to (gasp!) bring my own snack on board to being forced to pay a huge fee for my bag to be able to go on the flight with me. The former is two minutes extra that I have to manage to squeeze in at any of a thousand or so fast food stands, 7-11s, grocery stores, taco shops, etc. between my house and the airport, and that’s assuming I can’t possibly make the flight without eating along the way. The latter is a matter in which I usually wouldn’t have a choice.

    Give and take, people. Get your own damn peanuts.

  78. Grive says:

    @DemolitionMan: Forget two years ago.

    I flew to paris through aeromexico (to) and air paris (from) a couple months ago, and both ways, I got two hot meals (dinner/breakfast and lunch/dinner), a pillow, socks, earphones, free booze, eyecovers, and snacks.

    The trip costed me about the same as what Continental and AA were charging. (5% more in one instance and negligible on another)

    @SkokieGuy: I absolutely agree with you. I routinely choose to pay more (and I fly a lot) for better service, better options, better food, and all-around a pleasant experience.

    This goes double for longer trips.

  79. .
    You simply cannot combine United’s nickel & dime approach with their legendary surly service.

    It looks like it’s time to redeem all those miles and switch credit cards to some other loyalty program.

  80. Syrenia says:

    @DemolitionMan: Pretty much the same last month.

  81. howtragic says:

    As far as I’m concerned, the less time the flight attendants spend blocking the aisle with that little cart, the better. I can’t remember the last time I had a meal on a domestic flight anyway, but I think it was 1996. At least now you have the OPTION of getting a meal on the airplane.

    On my way from SEA to LAX a few days ago, I got a sandwich at the airport for which I paid about $9. On the plane they were selling them for $5. It’s not like Alaska airlines was giving out free sandwiches and then stopped. They simply added them to purchase.

    Also, I don’t get all the complaining about charging for the second checked bag. Who on earth needs 2 bags for a domestic flight? Unless you’re moving somewhere, you don’t need that much stuff. I’m a girl and I take one little rolly bag with me on every single trip.

    Here are my rules for traveling and so far I have yet to hit all the snags everyone here complains about:

    - One small rolling bag to check plus one backpack carry-on. No purse.
    – own headphones, neck pillow, two books, ipod, cash for in flight boozing
    – comfy clothes and NEVER any belts, clasps, or jewelry (get your beeping ass out of my way!)
    – chill at airport bar if there’s extra time.
    – get on plane last. I knock off about 20 minutes of sitting on plane time by doing this.

  82. hallam says:

    This policy is going to kill paid business class.

    What is the point in having a business class if the service is going to be the same as in Economy? Or is it that nobody is paying business class prices anymore and everyone is getting upgrades?

    United have not had working laptop power in their business class seats for years either.

    So all you get for paying twice as much (at least) is a bigger seat – which is not that much of an advantage over Economy Plus.

    I don’t mind bringing my own food on board. But I do mind the fact that the concessions at Logan are not open in time to buy something before the 6am flights take off. Guess this means no more 6am flights.

  83. jimmydeweasel says:

    I miss Greyhound. A better class of people.

  84. nerdychaz says:

    Don’t be mistaken, there is food on board. You can get it from the walking vending machine (stewardess). I hope you like $20 peanuts and $5 dixie cup of recycled water from the storage tank.

    When will airlines understand that if they want to charge luxury prices that they need to offer luxury? Next time I am taking a train, seriously.

  85. jonworld says:

    No food…not even in business class!!!??? Thats like half the reason why I ever fly business class…cause you actually get to have half-decent food served to you.

  86. t325 says:

    That’s why when I book my flight to Berlin next year, I’m going to get every leg possible on Lufthansa. Looks like I might have to deal with United just for a short, hour long leg between STL and ORD.

  87. @SkokieGuy:

    You damn right.

  88. dragonfire81 says:

    Remember folks it’s not “nickle and diming” it’s “revenue generating”, isn’t it great how companies can make it sound like charging MORE money is a good thing.

  89. ochobit says:

    I want one airline to just come out and give us 1960’s service and charge whatever the fark it costs.

    I’m tired of being nickle and dimed…

  90. lorenjfisher says:

    The problem isn’t with the aircraft, it’s with the runways. While the number of planes in service has increased over the years, the number of runways has not kept up. Planes are forced to fly around, unable to land, burning fuel, waiting for a runway to be available.

  91. Aresef says:

    @fuzzycuffs: Yeah, that’s pretty much the only reason I have to ever use United again. I’m planning a trip myself and United and ANA are the only planes that fly direct out of Dulles, and I don’t want to have to get off on the way back in, say, Denver, to go through Customs and get back on a plane. And I don’t want to pay twice as much for ANA, so I’m kinda stuck.

  92. Aresef says:

    @jimmydeweasel: And far more head room.

    Thank you, I’m here all week. Tip your waitress!

  93. scar4711 says:

    Just flew Delta from LAX-Tampa..
    Going was a red-eye.. only 1 service for drinks and they have a small selection of free snacks.. cookies, crackers, peanuts.. then they have the upsell stuff like a cheese & fruit plate.. sandwiches etc..

    on the return flight.. 7am.. they had some “brunch” items for sale.. which I did try a $4 crepe… that was a mistake :)

    But as much crap that people give Delta.. they still have some freebies.

    Also.. on the long flights like this they have the newly refurbished 737s with the new seats and entertainment.. so I got to watch the Olympics on my return flight ..

  94. jamar0303 says:

    @Fly Girl: Why is it that only US airlines have a problem providing this? I say open up the American domestic market to foreign airlines; they seem to not have a problem providing decent service for a reasonable price.

  95. Surfergirl1286 says:

    I think that is completely ridiculous. The last time I flew was 3 yrs ago and all free smacks were pretzels and a soda. Both were really small. So if that is what they are trying to save money on by charging for those then they are in more trouble than they realize. Per person for those 2 items, plus 1 napkin, cup with 2 ice cubes would be about $1. 25 cents for the pretzels, 50 cents for the soda then 25 cents for the cost of the other items. When tickets are $450 you should get a full freaking meal for that price. If its the fuel cost theyre so worried about then they should tell the f-ing republicans to stop inflating the price because we all know if it wasn’t for Bush we’d all be driving around for about $2 a gal.

  96. lemur says:

    @SkokieGuy:

    You have to bring non-perishble food (no yogurt, no cheese, no meat) since you have to get to the airport early, and your flight may be delayed

    You can’t bring too much food, since checked luggage is being charged for, your carryon will likely be more filled with ‘stuff’ you used to check.

    You can’t bring carrion because that’s also perishable.

    Wait… oh, you meant “carry on”. Never mind then. Carry on!

  97. JustThatGuy3 says:

    @jamar0303:

    Amen to this.

  98. cashmerewhore says:

    I had no problems with skybus doing this, because I was paying $10 for each leg of my flight.

    For market rates, I expect a tiny free bag of peanuts or pretzels and 1/4 of a can of cola.

  99. savvy999 says:

    My problem with this is how many people mentioned bringing a bag of peanuts on board. One of my kids is a ‘peanut kid’, severely allergic. We didn’t have to worry too much when the airline itself provided (usually nut-free) snacks; there was little to no incentive for fliers to bring their own huge can of Planters on board. Now, they will.

    I would like to state for the record that this policy is going to seriously fuck with people with bad food allergies.

  100. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @savvy999: Oooh, that sounds serious. Have you talked to your doctor about how dangerous it is for your kid to be out in public where people might be (gasp) eating food? How dare they have a peanut butter sandwich in public where an allergic person might be around.

    I’m allergic to ninnies who think I need to circumscribe my life to allow for the vanishingly rare possibility that something perfectly normal that I do might have harmful consequences to people without the common sense to protect themselves.

  101. trekwars2000 says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: You talk about an aging int’l and domestic fleet for UA.

    But you fail to mention on CO you are often on Jungle Jets (Commuters). I almost never fly an express flight on UA and they actually fly to Asia. In addition, UA runs wideboys internationally instead of 757s like CO.

    My point is there are ups and downs of each airline. Southwest is automatically out for me becuase they don’t fly int’l or to NYC or to Atlanta or to Boston or to Hawaii or to …. or to any smaller cities I might need to go to. Also, if I want to fly transcon on southwest I probably have to stop multiple times. A big deal breaker

  102. trekwars2000 says:

    @jamar0303: Have you flown Ryan Air or other LCCs in Europe?

  103. trekwars2000 says:

    @savvy999: Talk with the GA about the issue before you board. Often times I have heard announcements before boarding about beinging Nuts on board due to a passanger with allergys.

  104. silentluciditi says:

    @Lightmatrix:
    My boyfriend convinced me Midwest was the way to go when we flew at Christmas (he’s flown them for a few years, I typically fly United). He bribed me with those larger seats and fresh, warm cookies. I dreamed of cookies, and the larger seats seemed to be a good trade to my Economy Plus seats on United.

    And then, we spent five hours at our departure airport, finally had the plane arrive, no communication about what was going on from gate or desk agents, and when I got on board there were not damn cookies or comfy seats. Dinky plane, dinky seats, and when beverage/snack time came around I got a cup filled to the brim with ice and a tiny bit of soda (I’ve always been able to get a full can, no ice, from United… and on our short route from COS-DEN been able to chat the attendants out of a can or two even without beverage service) and some sort of crackers that tasted like cardboard and had about five tiny pieces in the bag. Yeah, ‘Best Care in the Air’ my arse.

    Flight back was better, but still no cookies because apparently they don’t offer them unless you’re on a flight after 10 AM. Same tiny seats, a HFCS-laden Quaker Oats granola bar for ‘breakfast’ (unless you ponied up the $5 for a breakfast, which we did, and split. A muffin, yogurt, and some fruit.). I wasn’t impressed, and even with the United not having meals available except BoB, I am more inclined to fly them than Midwest again. besides, I’ve been bringing my own snacks on board since I started flying a couple decades ago.

    I know, blasphemy, but I’m sticking with United.

  105. Fly Girl says:

    @jamar0303: “Why is it that only US airlines have a problem providing this? I say open up the American domestic market to foreign airlines; they seem to not have a problem providing decent service for a reasonable price.”

    That’s a good question, and one that I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer, since I’m no more than an armchair economist, but … I’ve got a couple of theories.

    As a travel agent, I know the standard price for pretty much every routing everywhere in the world. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the airlines operating around the world are charging more money-per-mile than most major U.S. carriers.

    I think that has something to do with the consumers in those countries being used to paying more for transportation. I mean, gas in Europe has ALWAYS been expensive. To them, $4.50 a gallon is a damn good deal. So, they’re more realistic about what it costs to get from Point A to Point B.

    The major airlines in Europe are also, for the most part, a government subsidized industry. As such, they get money to ensure that they can keep operating at a certain level, PLUS they have more regulations that ensure the quality of the service that they provide. That’s something that we don’t have here in the US– our government won’t give us a passenger’s bill of rights, won’t mandate levels of service, and won’t step in and take control of our flailing airline industry.

    Finally, the competition in other countries is with companies like Easyjet and Ryan Air. Those private companies are giving you NO service– no meals, no checked bags, no drinks, no entertainment, no blankets, no nothing. But they’re damn cheap. Crazy cheap. Ten Euros non-stop London to Paris cheap. They save money by cutting everything they can, including customer service, but their passengers are okay with that because they know what they’re getting. They know that when you pay $15 for a ticket, all you’re getting is a seat on a big flying bus., Nothing else.

    But Americans… We want to pay $15 a seat AND get all of the amenities that we’re used to. It just doesn’t work like that, which is why airlines like Sky Bus have failed.

    Now, why our government doesn’t allow foreign carriers, who are willing to take the risk, to give it a shot here in the US?… I don’t know, that is just B.S. as far as I’m concerned. I’d be SO HAPPY if Easyjet was an option for my domestic trips… (I was SO HAPPY about Sky Bus, but they didn’t even last long enough for me to take an inaugural flight.)

  106. shufflemoomin says:

    @Geekybiker: That’s what I believed

  107. bohn002 says:

    so who should we fly with?

  108. jamar0303 says:

    @trekwars2000: OK, maybe I should have been a little more specific, since I’ve only been to Asia and on Asian carriers (and United for comparison).

    And @Fly Girl:
    “The major airlines in Europe are also, for the most part, a government subsidized industry. As such, they get money to ensure that they can keep operating at a certain level, PLUS they have more regulations that ensure the quality of the service that they provide. That’s something that we don’t have here in the US– our government won’t give us a passenger’s bill of rights, won’t mandate levels of service, and won’t step in and take control of our flailing airline industry.”

    It seems that similar circumstances existed in the US as well- regulations (that were abandoned some time ago- look where we are now) and government subsidies (Ch 11). Not that I really have a point to make with this- just an interesting observation.

    And why does the first mention of opening up to international competition bring Europe to mind? When I wrote my comment I was thinking more of Asian airlines (since that’s what I’m used to living where I do) such as Singapore, Thai, ANA, etc. More than once I’ve asked about my annual PVG->(insert connection(s) here)->BNA flight and have found at least once that booking ANA for most of the flight (like this- PVG->NRT->ORD) and then booking the rest on United (ORD->BNA) is cheaper than booking United all the way. And not too much hassle either- after all, at ORD I have to take out my luggage anyway for Customs and re-check it.

  109. BrianDaBrain says:

    @SkokieGuy: Your posts on this topic are some of the most intelligent I’ve read in a long time. I’ve often thought about a one-price ticketing method like you describe, and I would certainly pay extra for that piece of mind. Imagine, getting to the airport with your paperwork and not having to worry about hidden fees, extra charges that may have gone into effect since you purchased your ticket, etc. Like you said, Satrun proved that it is a successful business model, but think of some other things that people pay extra for. Things like organic food. Organic food is certainly not cheaper than their conventional counterparts, but people will pay extra for it because it is (arguably) healthier for you. Name brand anything also comes to mind. You pay extra for that Sony TV because Sony has a better reputation than Westinghouse. You pay extra for Nike because it is supposed to last longer than the no-name shoe. I mean, there must be some reason these companies are still in business even though there are cheaper alternatives.

    It all comes down to piece of mind, and I think a lot of people are willing to pay extra for that.

  110. Norislolz says:

    @silentluciditi: Anecdotal experience does not define the overall experience?

    And QQ more.

  111. econobiker says:

    @Fly Girl:

    “Mandate fair and honest pricing. Base fares are basically lies.”

    Hey, if the telecom companies can do it why not the airlines. Ever paid the “governmental regulation recovery” fee on your phone/cell phone bill? How does the $49.99 per month offer become $57.88?

    Fear the *.

  112. yikz says:

    United can go f*** themselves. Any airline that steals from their employees to keep the executives on top is not worth having as an airline. United took the employee pensions. Stole that money, and screwed those employees. 20 to 30 years with the airline… and most of that was prior to 401K plans being available… most of that money was the only thing those people had for retirement… and UA took it. If I were the employees, I would have banded together and marched on the headquarters. I would have gone out on strike, telling the shareholders to replace management and the board completely. UA is a worthless, no-good steaming pile of crap.

    During part of the ’90s, I used to fly UA as the airline of choice for my previous employer. Then, I proved that NWA/Delta/Continental covered more territory as codeshare partners for a lower price than UA. I’ve never had such bad service as I’ve had with UA. They cancel a flight and just walk away from the counter. They won’t rebook. They won’t find another plane. They just cancel and walk away. 3 times in a month. 150 angry people standing around with no where to go. And it wasn’t weather. They don’t care.

    I see those ads on the Olympics with Robert Redford doing the voiceovers and it makes me want to puke in a bag and ship it to Redford with a note telling him what I think of him and his ability to take money from a scumbag airline. Redford spouts all of this political rhetoric, and then he’s taking money to do voice-overs for a worthless no-good filthy airline? Redford is a hypocrite.

  113. Melt says:

    David Puddy:(Back to the transaction) I just left out a couple of things: uh, rust-proofing…
    Jerry: “Rust-proofing”?
    David Puddy: (Reading off what he’s adding up on the calculator) Transport charge, storage surcharge, additional overcharge, finder’s fee…
    Jerry: “Finder’s fee”? It was on the lot!
    David Puddy: Yeah, that’s right. (Continues reading off the list) Uh, floor mats, keys…
    Jerry: “Keys”?!
    David Puddy: How ya gonna start it?

  114. savvy999 says:

    @speedwell: sorry, it’s been a while since I could reply, but here ya go:

    Suck it.

    See a child in anaphylactic shock, and you may change your mind. Or, if you still choose to mock and scorn people born with a (controllable, but not always) medical condition, then I would be more than happy to change it for you.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @savvy999: Try taking responsibility instead of being such a victim. Your child has a problem, I don’t. It’s not my fault your child may drop dead by being out in public where normal people are doing normal things, nor is it your child’s. You are the parent. Suck it up and deal with it.

      I’ll go out of my way to avoid compromising your child if I know about their problem first, so you reciprocate by handling the problem so it is safe for your child to be in public. If you can’t protect your disabled child from deadly situations, maybe you are not cut out to be the parent of such a child. Tres simple, chum.

  115. mythago says:

    @speedwell: Yes, having to forego a bag of peanuts in favor of a bag of pretzel snacks is a HUGE life-circumscribing event. Why, we should have a march on Washington about it.

    I’ve been on plenty of flights where the attendants announced that somebody had peanut allergies so they would serve different snacks. Nobody threw a hissy or demanded their right to bathe in peanut butter before the plane touched down.

  116. consumerman says:

    It is all bull. united airlines treats customers that way because they can. because federal regulators are not doing their job anymore.I flew on BMI from chicago to manchester and it was wonderful. nice new airbus plane, food food, snacks and as many bottles of water as you want. also individual lcd televisions in the seatbacks with a wired remote, blankets and pillows, slippers etc etc. they did this for $200 less than what united wanted to charge me for the exact same flight. Then united leg of my journey was terrible.
    They actually had to return to the gate for an hour because they overloaded the plane with cargo. when an airline cannot do basic math, that is a bad sign. get out of the USA and you will realise what an orwellian nightmare it is compared to the real world.

  117. asten77 says:

    I just flew on a 3+ hour united flight on sunday, and didn’t get any snack already.