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There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (Anymore)

With Continental pulling the plug on free meals, you may be wondering what, if anything, you can still get for free in coach on a domestic flight. Well, here’s a list, and you can see, it’s not a long one:

  • AirTran: Soft drinks, blankets/pillows, XM satellite radio
  • Alaska: Soft drinks, blankets/pillows
  • American: Soft drinks, in-flight programming/radio
  • Continental: Meals (ending this fall), soft drinks, blankets (select flights), pillows; in-flight movie/radio, some Delta on Demand options (including live satellite TV, games, and music).
  • Delta: Soft drinks, small snack, blankets/pillows, in-flight movie/radio
  • Frontier: Soft drinks
  • JetBlue: First checked bag, unlimited snacks, soft drinks, DirecTV, XM satellite radio
  • Hawaiian: Meals (most long-haul routes), blankets/pillows
  • Midwest: Soft drinks, cookies (select flights after 10 a.m.)
  • Southwest: First and second checked bag, small snack, soft drinks
  • Spirit: Nothing
  • United: Soft drinks, blankets/pillows (international), in-flight movie/programming/radio
  • US Airways: Soft drinks, in-flight movie/programming/radio
  • Virgin America: Soft drinks, satellite TV, video games, 3,000-song music library, seat-to-seat chat, music video library

(“Soft drinks” includes soda, water, juice, coffee, tea, etc., but may not include energy drinks and other specialty non-alcoholic beverages.)

On the positive side, there’s not a whole lot left to charge for. We’ve already seen that charging for all beverages is a tough sell, and many amenities, such as JetBlue’s free DirecTV and Southwest’s free checked bags, are so directly tied to a carrier’s image that it would be PR suicide to add a fee. Charge for in-flight movies on the overhead monitor? Maybe. Pillows and blankets? Been there done that.

Still, it’s a sad state of affairs when these amenities are considered free (instead of, you know, included in the ticket price) and, in some cases, referred to as perks. Are complimentary soft drinks a perk, or an intrinsic component of airline service? The answer to that should be obvious. These days it’s anything but.

Readers, which of these free amenities is your favorite, or the one you think is most valuable? Leave a comment below with your picks. Thanks!

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