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Free meals returning to coach? Delta says 'maybe'

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Could free meals be ready for a comeback in coach class? One of the USA’s biggest carriers is considering it for at least some cross-country flights.

Delta Air Lines has started complimentary meal service on its transcontinental service between its hub at New York JFK and the California cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. It began Nov. 1 as part of a trial that will run through Dec. 15 and could become permanent if it’s well-received by fliers.

Morning passengers can choose between a honey maple breakfast sandwich or a “breakfast medley.” Lunch options include a mesquite-smoked turkey combo with chips or a whole-grain veggie wrap.

Delta says it’s monitoring customer satisfaction scores on the flights “to determine the impact on the in-flight experience.” At the end of the trial period, Delta will evaluate the results as it decides whether to make complimentary meals a standard offering.

“We are constantly actively listening to our customers and employees, gathering their feedback and testing new products on board to continuously improve the overall experience,” Allison Ausband, Delta’s SVP for In-Flight Service, says in a statement. “Testing meals on Transcon flights is part of our commitment to be thoughtful about our offerings and make decisions based on customers’ needs.”

For the trial, the complimentary coach-class meals will be offered only Delta’s “Transcon service” that connects JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco, routes on which Delta says it offers a “higher standard of flying,” according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

When asked if Delta is would consider bringing back complimentary meals on multiple cross-country flights or just on its “Transcon service” routes between New York and California, Delta spokeswoman Catherine Sirna told Today in the Sky: “Right now, we are focusing on those (Transcon) markets for the testing, but we will plan to use the results and feedback from customers to determine next steps.”

If Delta does bring back free meals in coach — even on a limited number of cross-country routes — it would break from a long trend among big U.S. airlines. While free meals remain for first-class fliers, all big carriers have pared them from domestic flights in favor of light snacks or “buy onboard” options.

Stay tuned …

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