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New York - Airlines Restore Tiny Perks, Like Pretzels, To Pacify Fliers

Published on: February 1, 2016 11:00 PM
By: AP
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FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2016, file photo, a passenger talks on the phone as American Airlines jets sit parked at their gates at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport. After 15 years of cutbacks, U.S. airlines are starting to add back some small perks for everyday coach passengers. On Monday, Feb. 1, American became the latest carrier to add something back, announcing the return of free snacks in the economy section and more free entertainment options on some aircraft. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2016, file photo, a passenger talks on the phone as American Airlines jets sit parked at their gates at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport. After 15 years of cutbacks, U.S. airlines are starting to add back some small perks for everyday coach passengers. On Monday, Feb. 1, American became the latest carrier to add something back, announcing the return of free snacks in the economy section and more free entertainment options on some aircraft. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

New York - After 15 years of near austerity, U.S. airlines are restoring some small perks for passengers crammed into coach.

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Don’t expect ample legroom or free checked bags. But fliers will find improved snacks, a larger selection of free movies and — on a few select routes — the return of free meals.

Monday, American Airlines became the latest carrier to add something back. It announced the return of free snacks in the economy section and more free entertainment options on some aircraft.

American, which recently merged with US Airways, hasn’t offered free snacks since 2003. US Airways stripped passengers of snacks in 2008.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the subsequent recession, airlines removed almost ever perk imaginable. Hot meals disappeared along with legroom, blankets and pillows.

“It was really about survival,” says Fernand Fernandez, vice president of global marketing at American.

When Continental Airlines stopped giving out free cookies and mini bags of pretzels in 2011 — after its merger with United Airlines — it said the move would save $2.5 million a year.

Since then, mergers have created four mega-carriers that control more than 80 percent of the domestic market. They started charging $25 for each checked suitcase. And more seats have been crammed into planes to maximize profits. Now the industry is making record profits.

“What has changed ,” Fernandez says, “is that the airlines have been able to fix our core business and be able to reinvest in our customers.”

That means new planes, larger overhead bins and for a long time, nicer first class cabins.

Now a bit of that wealth is trickling back to coach.

In February, American will start offering Biscoff cookies or pretzels to passengers flying between New York and San Francisco or Los Angeles. By April, those snacks will expand to all other domestic routes. In May, American will bring back full meal service for coach passengers between Dallas and Hawaii.

“We know that we have customers who select our airline based on price and we’re really excited to offer them a product that is superior to choosing an ultra-low cost carrier,” Fernandez says.

United recently announced the return of free snacks on its flights starting in February. Delta Air Lines — the other big legacy carrier — never removed snacks, even during bankruptcy.

American is also expanding its complimentary entertainment on domestic flights with in-seat TVs. Passengers will be able to choose from up to 40 movies, 60 TV shows and 300 music albums. Delta has taken a different path, focusing more on entertainment that passengers can stream to their own devices. It now offers about 67 movies and 138 TV shows for free.

“These are token investments in the passenger experience that will not cost airlines a lot of money but are small ways to make passengers a little bit happier,” says Henry Harteveldt, the founder of travel consultancy Atmosphere Research Group. “American and United realized: We don’t let other airlines have an advantage on price, why let them have one on pretzels.”



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Read Comments (8)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Feb 01, 2016 at 11:25 PM lazerx Says:

I gave up on airplane food long ago.. I bring my own and enjoy a decent mezzonos roll sandwich and kosher snacks when I want, not when the stewardesses decide to give out.

2

 Feb 02, 2016 at 07:46 AM mewhoze Says:

yes, because pretzels will make everyone happy. paying for your bag to get to your destination should not be allowed. what should you do? send it ups a few days earlier? next step will be ''pay to use the bathroom''

3

 Feb 02, 2016 at 09:38 AM why-not Says:

The question is are mezonos rolls really mezonos? You may be missing out on bircas hamazon- d'ohraisa...

4

 Feb 02, 2016 at 10:09 AM anonymous Says:

As if pretzels or any other small perks they purchase for a peanut-and-a-half will make the crammed passengers happier.

5

 Feb 02, 2016 at 10:14 AM Former Flyer Says:

I stopped flying on commercial airlines. As I told a representative of US Airlines, when she called me to straighten out a matter, "flying is no different than riding on the subways". First of all, since flying was opened to the masses, the kind of passenger who fly today consists of a lower socio-economic element, consisting of bare midriff female passengers with tattoos and rings, foul mouthed male passengers (who are grossly overweight), who shove and push, passengers who refuse to stop using their cell phones, passengers who love to kick the seat in front of them, sexual perverts, flight attendants who have an attitude problem from the minute they wake up in the morning, gate and ticket agents who are the same, and incompetent, nasty, and thieving TSA agents, who should all be fired. Outside of the above, it is an absolute delight to fly by commercial airlines!

6

 Feb 02, 2016 at 03:02 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
mewhoze Says:

yes, because pretzels will make everyone happy. paying for your bag to get to your destination should not be allowed. what should you do? send it ups a few days earlier? next step will be ''pay to use the bathroom''

Actually, it does. If the average person were charged $201 for a ticket on a flight that included free drinks and snacks, he would pay it. If he were charged $200 for the same flight and they asked for $1 on board to pay for drinks and snacks, he'd be angry. Human psychology is a weird thing.

7

 Feb 02, 2016 at 03:49 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
Former Flyer Says:

I stopped flying on commercial airlines. As I told a representative of US Airlines, when she called me to straighten out a matter, "flying is no different than riding on the subways". First of all, since flying was opened to the masses, the kind of passenger who fly today consists of a lower socio-economic element, consisting of bare midriff female passengers with tattoos and rings, foul mouthed male passengers (who are grossly overweight), who shove and push, passengers who refuse to stop using their cell phones, passengers who love to kick the seat in front of them, sexual perverts, flight attendants who have an attitude problem from the minute they wake up in the morning, gate and ticket agents who are the same, and incompetent, nasty, and thieving TSA agents, who should all be fired. Outside of the above, it is an absolute delight to fly by commercial airlines!

Well said!

8

 Feb 02, 2016 at 03:52 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
Former Flyer Says:

I stopped flying on commercial airlines. As I told a representative of US Airlines, when she called me to straighten out a matter, "flying is no different than riding on the subways". First of all, since flying was opened to the masses, the kind of passenger who fly today consists of a lower socio-economic element, consisting of bare midriff female passengers with tattoos and rings, foul mouthed male passengers (who are grossly overweight), who shove and push, passengers who refuse to stop using their cell phones, passengers who love to kick the seat in front of them, sexual perverts, flight attendants who have an attitude problem from the minute they wake up in the morning, gate and ticket agents who are the same, and incompetent, nasty, and thieving TSA agents, who should all be fired. Outside of the above, it is an absolute delight to fly by commercial airlines!

This just shows that when the big corporations make record profits, the public gets the crumbs.
Trickle down is real!

9

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