Continental Airlines ends free pretzels for economy-class customers
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Alison Grant, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Don't expect to fill up on those 19 tiny pretzels the next time you fly Continental Airlines.
On March 1, Continental ended all free snacks in economy class.
The airline expects the move will save $2.5 million a year.
"As a cost savings initiative and to better align us with our competitors, beverage snacks (pretzels and Biscoff) will be removed from the main cabin for all non BusinessFirst markets which includes: domestic, Latin and Caribbean leisure, transcon, Hawaii and Canada markets," Continental said in an internal email to employees this week.
- 19 tiny pretzels
There are a few ways to crunch the numbers regarding the small bag of pretzels that's been free in the economy cabin on Continental Airlines flights.
* .42, the weight in ounces.
* 50, the calories you consume.
* 19, the approximate number of pretzels (twist-shaped) per bag.
* But the number Continental is focused on is $2.5 million. That's what the airline expects to save by eliminating free snacks in the coach section of its airplanes.
Continental is matching the no-free-snacks policy at its merger partner, United Airlines. Among other big U.S. carriers, American and US Airways have also dropped complimentary "beverage snacks."
AirTran, Delta and Southwest still have free pretzels, Biscoff cookies and peanuts. Frontier has baked-on-board chocolate chip cookies served after 10 a.m.
All the airlines continue to offer non-alcoholic drinks for free.
Previous Plain Dealer coverage
The pretzels and biscuit cookies were the last vestige of complimentary on-board dining that began in the 1950s with hot meals served with metal cutlery.
"Airlines positively spoiled America with food in economy class," said Jay Sorensen, president of a Wisconsin-based consulting firm, IdeaWorks.
Sorensen recalled a trip he took as a boy in the 1960s, flying with his parents on Northwest Orient from Madison, Wis., to Sarasota, Fla. Besides the hot meal, passengers got a small drawstring bag with suntan lotion and a pair of sunglasses.
"If I had one now I could probably sell it for millions," he said.
Deregulation, bankruptcies and other economic turbulence led airlines to shrink on-board food. Lunches turned into wrapped sandwiches. American experimented briefly with "bistro" carts in the boarding area.
Ultimately, the last of the coach-class freebies trailed off.
Airlines realized that the priority for passengers was ticket price, not amenities. Food was no longer a distinguishing perk, but a mere cost.
"And slowly," Sorensen said, "it became a cost to be minimized, and then eliminated."