Move over stroopwafels, American’s coming improvements to coach via Scott Mayerowitz:
In February, 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.
Or as Henry Harteveldt said, “American and United realized: We don’t let other airlines have an advantage on price, why let them have one on pretzels.”
So this month we get free snacks in economy for premium New York JFK – West Coast flights and also Los Angeles – Miami. And this expands across the domestic route network ‘by April.’ It’s interesting that it takes a couple of months to roll out beyond the public announcement, since presumably they’ve been working on this for awhile.
Customers traveling on flights departing prior to 9:45 a.m. will receive Biscoff® cookies. On flights departing after 9:45 a.m., customers will have a choice between Biscoff® cookies or pretzels, rotated on a seasonal basis.
I’ll be interested to see what the economy meal service on the 8 hour Dallas – Hawaii flights are like.
Airlines cut, cut, cut frills from economy and the sum total of the cuts was to make the experience feel less like ‘economy’ and more like ‘cattle class’. With fuel prices low and airlines making record profits, they’re returning some of the small touches. But don’t expect checked bag fees to go away because of the tax arbitrage play.
A decade ago Continental Airlines advertised that it would still offer pillows, blankets, and meals at meal times on domestic flights.
And Alaska Airlines advertised that the cuts had gone so far other airlines would soon be charging to use the lavatory.
Yet Continental did get rid of free meals. And snacks. While Delta kept modest snacks in economy throughout.
- In general customers don’t really realize which airlines will provide snacks in economy
- They’re making decisions for the most part on price
- And can certainly bring their own snacks
But it is part of the overall branding experience, a customer may rule out an airline price being equal on the basis of their brand experience or the carrier’s reputation.
United added back snacks to economy. So we’re returning to an equilibrium where basic snacks are offered. But why? There’s really two reasons.
- American needs to offer snacks because both Delta and United do. They aren’t going to be the only one of the three largest US airlines not offering snacks. That just looks cheap, and represents the idea that they offer less value to the traveler than their competitors. It’s less the snacks and more the signaling; they don’t want to signal less value for money.
- Competition with low cost carriers. Since they need to be competitive with United and Delta anyway, this expense gives them a leg up on Spirit and Frontier.
Even as American prepares to offer Basic Economy fares, lowest fares that exclude things probably like advance seat assignments and possibly frequent flyer miles, following Delta’s lead and expected to launch in the second half of the year, they further differentiate their product from Spirit that’s driving down price in many of American’s key markets.
If you fly a major US airline you’re going to get 31 inches of room from seat back to seat back in economy. That’s a couple more inches than Spirit. So even leaving aside miles, and advance seat assignments, that’s a plus at the same price. And you don’t pay for carry on bags, either. Now you’ll even get cookies, while Spirit charges for water.
American’s Fern Fernandez makes this point explicitly:
“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
It can be a competitive advantage of some carriers to catch up to the inflight experiences of other carriers.