Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Free Meals Return in Coach on Some of Delta's Longest U.S. Trips

  • Move extends revival of perk that faded amid industry losses
  • Offering to begin on New York-to-California routes March 1

Delta Air Lines Inc. is resuming free meals in coach on 12 transcontinental U.S. routes, restoring an amenity that vanished amid nonstop cost-cutting last decade.

Complimentary food returns March 1 on flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Los Angeles and San Francisco. On April 24, the offering will expand to another 10 cross-country flights out of New York, Boston, Seattle and Washington, Delta said in a statement Thursday.

The carrier’s move extends the partial revival of a perk that major airlines had abandoned by 2010 as they contended with billions of dollars in losses. Some have recently brought back meals on pricier, long-distance flights, with Delta and American Airlines Group Inc. last year resuming complimentary food in coach on the longest routes to Hawaii. They already offered the amenity on lengthy international routes.

Delta passengers flying in the morning will choose from items including a honey-maple breakfast sandwich and a fruit-and-cheese plate. Day-time options include a turkey combo and a veggie wrap. The Atlanta-based carrier tested complimentary meals on flights from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco in November and December, generating higher customer satisfaction scores.

Coach travelers on short U.S. routes aren’t likely to get free food service, Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group, said in December. The offerings on transcontinental flights helps Delta distinguish itself and justify charging higher fares than rivals, he said. The airline last year collected 9 percent more revenue for each seat flown a mile than competitors.

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