Delta Rolling Out Free Meals in Coach to 12 Markets

A couple of months ago I provided the first blog report of Delta’s testing of complimentary inflight meals in economy on some premium New York – West Coast flights.

Then last week I wrote that effectiveg March 1 Delta will offer a choice of 3 meals in economy on these flights, and even accommodate special meal requests, replacing ‘buy on board’.

Now it turns out they’re expanding free meals in coach beyond just premium New York – West Coast flights.

Starting April 24, Delta is adding 10 more markets which will offer free meals in economy:

  • Boston – San Francisco and Seattle
  • Washington National – Los Angeles
  • New York JFK – Portland, San Diego, and Seattle
  • Seattle – Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Raleigh (in addition to previously mentioned New York JFK and Boston).

Here’s what the meal service is expected to be:

In the morning, customers will have the option to choose between a Honey Maple Breakfast Sandwich, Luvo Breakfast Medley or fruit and cheese plate. During the day, customers will be able to select from a Mesquite-Smoked Turkey Combo, Luvo Mediterranean Whole Grain Veggie Wrap, or fruit and cheese plate. For overnight flights, customers will be offered a breakfast bar during the pre-arrival beverage service.

Delta introduced new snack choices in coach last month, inflight experience alongside reliability are key strategies for the airline. (Sadly Delta SkyMiles is not a contributor to the revenue premium that they earn over their competitors.)

Offering meals while others don’t doesn’t seem to drive purchasing behavior on its own. It didn’t work for Continental, which was the last airline to cut meals in coach to begin with.

Investment in product has to be a part of an integrated strategy at developing a more premium brand, and each offering needs to be carefully tested with customers to understand what they value and what effect it has. But inflight product and customer experience does matter for running a profitable enterprise.

Right now they’ve been making more and better investments in their base clubs, and experimenting with surprise and delight. So while I take issue with their mileage program and with Delta’s government relations department, the core product they’re offering has been improving.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. No airline executive will ever admit it but I firmly believe that keeping a stomach full can go a long way to reducing air rage and the general on board behavior we so frequently read of in the last decade that years ago you never heard of (when meals were served). No Delta fan, but it is a wise investment on their part!

  2. Actually the difference in service will effect the purchasing power and our decision making process in which airline to choose for the same route. I do not care for Delta’s mileage/skypesos program, very difficult to redeem and I do not care for their 72 hour policy that the mileage ticket will have no value if cancelled after. We almost had an accident driving to LAX just to make our flight to FCO last year on AZ because there was an accident on the freeway and I had called Delta and told that I was going to loose 120k miles if I did not make the flight and there was no alternative way to get to Rome unless I spent 300k last minute for an Economy ticket. So, there are millions of problems with their program.
    However I am looking to book San Diego to JFK for friends, myself and his mom for an upcoming ticket, if DL serves meals I will choose them over AA because it is much nicer to actually have a complimentary meals. Since my friend’s mom only flies Royal Air Maroc and Air France all the time, she will be shocked to see the service on US carriers, no meals and rude Flight Attendants. So, I want to make the experience as painless as possible for her.

  3. As an RDU-based flyer, it’s interesting to see SEA-RDU instead of LAX-RDU. I suppose either because it’s longer or because it’s a shiny new route in June. I just would’ve guessed that if RDU was on this list it would have been to LAX.

  4. Delta hasn’t said these are the only routes that will get complimentary meals. And it does take time to set up the catering contracts. But Delta also isn’t adding meals based strictly on stage length. There are competitive considerations, and a determination about where this will add the most value for them.

  5. I am surprised that BOS-LAX didn’t make the cut considering it has MORE competition than BOS-SEA. I know they are going after Alaska, but Virgin America fly BOS-LAX. Last time I checked Alaska owns Virgin.

  6. A number of Asian airlines including Bangkok Airways and Vietnam Airlines serve hot meals in coach on one-hour flights. It can be done and done well.

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