Flying Economy is Actually Getting Better: Delta Introduces New Snacks Next Week

While frequent flyer programs have gotten less competitive over the past three years, and many blame airline consolidation, in many ways airline product has gotten more competitive.

Most of the attention goes to premium cabins. Delta will will introduce suites with doors in business class. United’s new Polaris business class will finally mean direct aisle access and their new meals and bedding have already launched.

United Bedding and Pajamas

United and American are debuting new business class only lounges. And American probably has my current favorite business class seat of any US or European airline, the B/E Super Diamond, on its new Boeing 787-9. The trim (and dividers between middle seats!) are better on Qatar and Virgin Australia, but it’s still a very good seat.

US airlines have been especially profitable in recent years, with low fuel prices. Indeed they’ve been earning a plurality of the world’s airline profits, billions of dollars each quarter. Ticket prices have been falling much to the chagrin of Wall Street and so they’re trying things like Basic Economy to try to get passengers to pay more for what they receive today.

At the same time the major US legacy airlines have even been improving the experience in coach. And that’s important, because even with Basic Economy fares those airlines are better experiences than the ultra low cost carriers like Spirit and Allegiant.

  • More legroom
  • More redundant route network, to get you where you’re going when something goes wrong with your flight
  • Better on time performance

And once you board, regardless of your fare, you still get the standard inflight experience.

At United that means stroopwafels in the morning along with illy coffee that is, unfortunately, still made with airplane water.

American has a decent snack basket in first class though I wish they’d change things up more often than they do. The current popcorn isn’t bad, though I’m not sure popcorn on a plane makes sense for cleaning (United has tried this in economy).

Over time the best economy snack baskets have been on JetBlue, and they’ve become known for their Terra Blue Chips.

Now Delta, which is testing free meals in coach on their premium New York – Los Angeles and San Francisco flights, is improving their free snacks in coach.

December 14 Delta-branded peanuts and pretzels will come to an end, replaced by larger offerings of “Snyder’s of Hanover® pretzels, Squirrel Brand Honey Roasted peanuts and NatureBox Apple Cinnamon Yogurt Bars.” And don’t worry because “Biscoff cookies will remain in service.”

Credit: Delta

The complimentary snacks will be available in the Main Cabin on flights over 250 miles. Customers on shorter flights within North America – from 251 to 599 miles – will now receive a choice of Biscoff cookies or Snyder’s of Hanover® pretzels, whereas customers were only offered one choice previously. Flights over 600 miles will now offer four choices, instead of three, offering Snyder’s of Hanover® pretzels, Squirrel Brand Honey Roasted peanuts, a NatureBox Apple Cinnamon Yogurt Bar or Biscoff cookies.

Additionally, customers on international flights will receive a choice of Snyder’s of Hanover® pretzels or Squirrel Brand Honey Roasted peanuts.

We’re a long way from when United offered celebrity chef meals in economy and when they retrofit galley carts to serve McDonalds in coach keeping the burger warm while the lettuce and bun stayed cool. So this may be something of ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ but it’s still a positive move improving the customer experience.

Meanwhile inflight entertainment — much of it free — is now available to passengers in economy on many aircraft that wasn’t around back in the early 90s when United partnered with McDonalds.

So where’s all the bad stuff about coach? Full flights and more seats in coach (and uncomfortable slimline seats), long waits at security, and fees for seats and checked bags that used to be bundled in fares and so are a sore spot. Those things, sadly, don’t appear to be changing soon.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Why not? That’s what oligopoly profits enables. Give ’em an inch, they’ll take every last thing.

  2. Yay! Minuscule brand-name snack items while seats continue to get more uncomfortable (slimlines), tickets more expensive (Basic Economy), and miles harder to earn and redeem.

    I can hardly contain my excitement.

  3. The links are there to provide additional information if the Reader chooses to learn more. They are not required to read the story. Why would you complain about the availability of additional information? Clicking links is not required to read the article as is. I don’t get the complaint?

  4. Less Information, more Faux News!

    Dumb us down!! We’re not rocks yet!



  5. Southwest has better snacks than any legacy carrier. We just flew from PIT to LAS. They put the basket on the middle seat tray and you could have as many as you liked. They even brought the snack basket around a second time a couple of hours later. Southwest doesn’t feel stingy with the snacks. Southwest employees have different attitude on so many levels compared to legacy airlines.

  6. Whoa. All the hate in these comments! Write your own blogs if you have something better to say. Thanks, Gary. I enjoyed this post. It was helpful to me!

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