Aviation

US airlines restore tiny perks

Scott Mayerowitz - AP

After 15 years of near austerity, US airlines are restoring some small perks for passengers crammed into economy.

Don’t expect ample legroom or free checked bags. But flyers will find improved snacks, a larger selection of free movies and – on a few select routes – the return of free meals.

This month, American Airlines became the latest carrier to add something back. It announced the return of free snacks in the economy section and more free entertainment options on some aircraft.

American, which recently merged with US Airways, hasn’t offered free snacks since 2003. US Airways stripped passengers of snacks in 2008.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the subsequent recession, US airlines removed almost every perk imaginable on domestic flights. Hot meals disappeared along with legroom, blankets and pillows.

“It was really about survival,” says Fernand Fernandez, vice president of global marketing at American.

When Continental Airlines stopped giving out free cookies and mini bags of pretzels in 2011 – after its merger with United Airlines – it said the move would save $US2.5 million a year.

Since then, mergers have created four mega-carriers that control more than 80 per cent of the domestic market. They started charging $US25 ($A35) for each checked suitcase. And more seats have been crammed into planes to maximise profits. Now the industry is making record profits.

“What has changed,” Fernandez says, “is that the airlines have been able to fix our core business and be able to reinvest in our customers.”

That means new planes, larger overhead bins and, for a long time, nicer first class cabins.

Now a bit of that wealth is trickling back to coach.

This month, American will start offering Biscoff cookies or pretzels to passengers flying between New York and San Francisco or Los Angeles. By April, those snacks will expand to all other domestic routes. In May, American will bring back full meal service for coach passengers between Dallas and Hawaii.

“We know that we have customers who select our airline based on price and we’re really excited to offer them a product that is superior to choosing an ultra-low cost carrier,” Fernandez says.

United recently announced the return of free snacks on its flights starting in February. Delta Air Lines – the other big legacy carrier – never removed snacks, even during bankruptcy.

American is also expanding its complimentary entertainment on domestic flights with in-seat TVs. Passengers will be able to choose from up to 40 movies, 60 TV shows and 300 music albums. Delta has taken a different path, focusing more on entertainment that passengers can stream to their own devices. It now offers about 67 movies and 138 TV shows for free.

“These are token investments in the passenger experience that will not cost airlines a lot of money but are small ways to make passengers a little bit happier,” says Henry Harteveldt, the founder of travel consultancy Atmosphere Research Group. “American and United realised: We don’t let other airlines have an advantage on price, why let them have one on pretzels.”

Image credit: iStock

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Travel Agents

New air buying role takes off for Flight Centre

by Kate Webster

Stacey Seeto has today been appointed to the position of Business Leader of Air Buying, Global Fares and GDS for the Flight Centre Travel Group.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Strikes may cause delays at Sydney Airport

by Kate Webster

Travellers departing and arriving through Sydney International Airport this week are warned to expect delays due to strike action.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

3 South Pacific Islands Perfect for Family Holiday

by Talia Milavetz

For families looking to plan their next school holiday or Christmas break, the South Pacific offers islands with countless activities that will keep the entire family entertained. These three islands are just a short distance away from Australia.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Hong Kong Airlines to Seoul plus added frequency from Gold Coast

by Kate Webster

Hong Kong Airlines launches daily Seoul flights and increase frequency from the Gold Coast/Cairns and Auckland route.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

Big Fat Hotel Wrap

by Kate Webster

From glamping in Port Stephens and multi-million dollar hotel makeovers to rooms that help you sleep better, this week’s Big Fat Hotel Wrap has it all.

Share

CommentComments

Industry Insider

Industry Insider: Pamela Baas, TravelManager, on increasing client base through niche market

Personal Travel Manager Pamela Baas is thinking outside of the box, increasing client base through niche market.

Share

CommentComments

Wholesalers

There is a new Global in the game, the TTC Great Escape

by Kate Webster

TTC has announced its biggest-ever famil incentive for 2017, the TTC Great Escape.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Blogs

A family getaway at Tangalooma Island Resort

by Caroline Minords

Find out why Tangalooma Island Resort is the perfect getway for families.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

TW chats with Women in Travel Sponsor, Accor Hotels

by Travel Weekly

The inaugural Women in Travel Awards are steamrolling along and set to be the biggest celebration of female talent in the country. One major sponsor of the event is none other than Accor Hotels.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

Hotel Review: Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort

by Kate Webster

Skip the hordes of tourists up north at the Great barrier Reef and have a more exclusive experience, where the reef starts at Lady Elliot Island.

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

Women in Travel: Sarina Bratton

by Tara Harisson

We chat to Sarina Bratton, Chairman Asia Pacific at Ponant about being a female leader, an elite sportsperson and making waves in the cruise industry.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Blogs

Couple’s lost GoPro turns into the adventure of a lifetime

by Kate Webster

Yu can follow the couple’s journey here – #GettingBackOurGoPro.

Share

CommentComments