Monday, March 15, 2010

End of an Era: No more free meals in Coach on Continental flights

For several years now, Continental has been the only airline to still serve complimentary meals to Coach-class passengers on domestic flights.

Today, Continental announced an end to free domestic Coach-class meal service. I applaud their decision.

I've loved the generosity, but over the course of more than 300,000 miles travelled, I've also become frustrated by how little other passengers cared about those meals. Free meals aren't really free; they come out of profit margins. When other airlines got rid of free meals, they eliminated those costs. When those airlines then added buy-onboard meal options, they created new streams of income.

Continental held the line in memory of a golden age, expecting that people looking to travel would opt for Continental tickets over those on competing airlines in order to get things like the free meals.

They didn't.

Americans love to complain about cuts in service when they write blog posts or letters to the editor. But the numbers don't lie: Continental is ranked #1 among U.S. carriers in its class year after year, yet when it comes to ticket sales, it doesn't do appreciably better than any other airline.

That's the fact: we don't value free meals. So they're going away, allowing Continental--always the best-run of the airlines, with a dedication to its employees unmatched among its peers--to recover profitability during difficult times.

It's the right thing to do.

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