Monday, August 25, 2008

Flying United to Europe? Bring cash for food.

United Airlines has decided to stop serving complimentary meals to Coach passengers flying between America and Europe. Having seen U.S. Airways successfully start charging for sodas and snacks, perhaps I should not be surprised.

But I am! It's unbelievable.

Despite rampant cost-cutting, overseas flights have remained sacrosanct from this sort of service erosion for more than a decade, and with good reason: overseas routes are more profitable, and the sorts of people who fly internationally are typically among the best customers airlines have, the ones who will use their preferred carrier for domestic trips as well.

Now United wants customers to pay for food. Haven't they noticed that foreign airlines already provide infinitely better service and accommodations than America's legacy carriers?

Since Government employees and contractors are obligated to travel on U.S. carriers whenever possible, maybe United is counting on their customers to stay loyal by law. If so, they're off-base: a United-numbered codeshare flight with Lufthansa meets the requirement, and you can bet that I'd be opting to that over a United flight where I'd be expected to buy my dinner.

Actually, I'm a United 1K frequent flyer--their top tier--and I will be opting for other arrangements. I don't think that this is a smart move at all.

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