Change Your Altitude

Delta Testing Free Meals in Domestic Coach

Two down, one up.

Off the news of the British Airways catering downgrade we just reported on, Delta are going by their own motto, “Keep Rising”  – excuse the pun but it’s appropriate in this case.

Sleek new upgraded cabins to match a sleek new catering product?

Sleek new upgraded cabins to match a sleek new catering product?

Free food – let alone warm food – is hard to come by on any US domestic carrier if you’re in coach. It’s been that way for a while now, even on 10+ hour flights from the American Mainland to Hawaii.

But that might just change in the near future.

And if you’re on a Delta flight and the cabin crew hands you a warm meal that you didn’t know you ordered, don’t be alarmed! You’re a test patient, the meal is a placebo and Delta’s the doctor.

The Scoop:

Delta (DL) is the first US airline to take the next step in their domestic product offering and trialing free catering on select flights between their New York JFK hub and flights to San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX) with Seattle (SEA) and Portland (PDX) to follow soon early in the next year.

Keep in mind these are just trials and the meals as we seem them today might not be what we see in the end (or if at all!) but regardless this is a massive step in the right direction.

At the moment free catering will be taken from Delta’s buy on board menu, items such as warm wraps and sandwiches but these might be expanded depending on demand and feedback.

It’s important to note that Delta will continue to offer their full buy on board product too just in case the free food offerings are not to your taste. It hasn’t made clear either whether there will be a choice offered or if meals can be pre-ordered for people with dietary restrictions or requirements. This presumably is all part of the testing process that Delta is undertaking at the moment.

The Takeaway:

It makes sense that Delta would be the one of the ‘big three’ US airlines between American and United to undertake this endeavor and to explore the idea.  Remember,  they were the first to re-introduce snacks on short flights below two hours and never went down the dark, cheap road that United did during the dim days of Glenn Tilton when UA didn’t even offer pretzels on trans-cons between the coasts. They were also the first to introduce those nifty ‘night packs’ on red eyes between coasts, even in DL’s version of Premium Economy (Economy Comfort).

You have to give it to Delta, this is a great thing to at least try out and see what passenger reaction is – and to see the feasibility of the operation and just how much wastage there is per flight. If people truly can’t be bothered with inflight catering anymore as they’ve been conditioned to the point of just stuffing their faces pre-flight it might not be worth the logistical cost of challenge. If eats too much into their onboard food sales, that might be another consideration.

But if this sets Delta apart from the other two – who in our humble opinion already lag behind Delta in the domestic market – then kudos to the airline to stay at the forefront of bringing at least some frills back into flying.

It’s not clear yet how this new meal concept might be implemented – will it mirror it’s First Class counterpart and have a two hour cut off regarding flight times? Will it affect the current very popular Biscoff snack offerings on short haul flights? Or will it be restricted to the airline’s premium coast to coast ‘Delta One’ offering that’s been designed to compete with United’s p.s. and American’s Flagship Service? Given the high yielding nature of the market and the intense competition, especially with Virgin and JetBlue in the mix too, this would be a true change maker for Delta to offer free food in coach.

They do say the devil is in the details, but we welcome this potential foray that Delta’s attempting – free food = happy people. It’s not up to Delta to offer some quality in this regard. Given their track record, we’re not that worried in this regard.

And it adds consistency for folks who are connecting from international Delta and SkyTeam flights. It’d be inconceivable not to be served anything on a 5+ hour flight in Asia, Australia, South America, Africa or Europe!

Would this be a game changer for you? Would you go Delta trans-con if they went ahead with this plan?


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