Delta tests complimentary food on transcontinental flights

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Delta Air Lines meal service, circa 1950-1956. Not representative of the complimentary snacks on Delta today.

Delta Air Lines is testing complimentary food in coach class on some of its transcontinental flights — signaling the possibility of a return of some free food for those passengers after years of pretzels, peanuts or Biscoff.

It’s not unusual for first class passengers to get free meals on flights, along with passengers on longer international flights. Delta also serves premium snacks to passengers in Comfort+ class on longer flights, and earlier this year it said it would offer complimentary meals and alcoholic beverages for all customers on long flights to and from Honolulu.

But U.S. airlines began phasing out free meals in domestic coach class shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Delta in 2003 said it was eliminating the complimentary meals for coach passengers even on long domestic flights.

Buy-on-board sandwiches and other food items for sale have since become common on longer domestic flights.

But now, Delta said it is testing complimentary meals in the main cabin on transcontinental flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy International and San Francisco and JFK-Los Angeles “as part of the airline’s focus on continuously looking at ways to enhance and elevate the on-board experience for customers.”

Delta has recently focused on boosting service on flights on JFK-SFO and JFK-LAX in particular, where it says it offers a “higher standard of flying.”

It’s unclear if or when any permanent changes in food choices may come for Delta passengers.

The airline said it will closely monitor customer satisfaction scores during the test “to determine the impact on the in-flight experience.” Delta said it would share additional details once it has reviewed results of the testing and decided on “a go-forward plan.”

It’s not the first test of enhanced noshes that Delta has undertaken. Earlier this year, the airline tested premium snacks including cashews and yogurt bars.

But for now, most passengers in coach class on domestic flights are likely to get the standard peanuts, pretzels or Biscoff as complimentary snacks.

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