Thursday, October 9, 2003

Test is over: Delta to eliminate free food, but will sell it

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

After nearly three months of testing, Delta Air Lines will announce today that its in-flight food-for-sale program is becoming permanent.

The Atlanta-based airline and key hub tenant at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is one of many carriers trying out the idea of selling meals on flights. But it's the first to make a lasting commitment to the program.

The meals, which include snacks and sandwiches, have been test-sold on 44 scheduled domestic Delta flights nationwide, including five out of Cincinnati. Those flights are to Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco. More flights will be able to offer meals in the next few months.

Delta said it will sell meals on all domestic flights that now offer free food by March. Like many airlines, Delta eliminated free meals on many domestic flights to cut costs after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks harmed the industry.

The airline began testing the food program in July. Delta said passengers liked it, evidenced by stronger-than-expected revenue.

The airline said it will continue a separate program under which passengers can buy food at the gate before boarding in Cincinnati, which is the only site for this program.

Under the new in-flight food program, drinks will still be free. However, food will be priced at anywhere from $2 for candy or a large name-brand bag of chips to $10 for a full meal. Caterer GateGourmet will provide sandwiches and salads.

"We are committed to giving our customers convenient options for restaurant-quality food and name-brand snacks," said Delta spokesman John Kennedy.

Cash will be accepted. But Delta said its flight attendants also will be equipped with hand-held computers, which will allow passengers to pay for meals using credit cards.


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