Airline fees 101: Part 2 In-flight services

Remember the day where you got on the plane, got greeted with a friendly smile, were handed a baby blue stethoscope-lke headphone set, a pillow, blanket and possibly a meal all for the cost of the flight?  Sure, the small screen was in the front, people smoking could make it hard to see and the food was worse than what they serve in a hospital cafeteria but it was included.  Those days are over.  Airlines are getting themselves out of the red and once again seeing record profits all because they are charging for things that are other than the seat reservation.  Travelers can’t complain because airfares used to not be as “cheap” as they can be today and things like cost of living expenses, airline employee wages and price of fuel will always continue to rise.

Here’s a list of the fees broken down by airline straight from their sites.  I have linked the menu pages of each airline for more details on the menu not included.   If these options don’t excite you or you happen to have time to grab something beforehand than least the restaurant choices in most airport terminals have come a long way.  Much better then the old days usually, but there are usually no bargains.  I would also like to note that most airlines no longer except cash, so have your credit card handy if you do decide to purchase a meal, snack, drink, pillow or blanket on board.

American:

Passengers traveling domestically (flights 2-3 hours in length)  in the U.S. can purchase snacks, meals and alcoholic beverages at their seat by credit card only.   Nonalcoholic beverages are still complimentary.   Breakfast items for flights over 2 hours cost $3.99-6 and lunch/dinner items go for $10 and snacks at anytime cost anywhere from $3-4.  If passengers are interesting in an alcoholic beverage then it will set them back $7-8 per cocktail.

Pillow and blanket:  $8 (hopefully this means they clean them now)

Continental:

This airline is the only big player left that is offering complimentary nonalcoholic beverages, snacks and meals (domestic flights over 3 hours).  This may end at some point but for now love them or hate them…they are free.

Pillows/blankets:  complimentary still 🙂

Delta:

For flights over a half an hour there are complimentary peanuts or Biscoff cookies for a snack and a selection of complementary nonalcoholic beverage is available.

In addition to the complimentary snacks and beverages Delta offers a selection of high quality snacks for purchase from the All Day Goodies section of our EATS menu on flights from about 1.5+ hours.

For flights about 3.5+ hours,  the EATS menu and snacks are available for purchase, is available on Domestic (U.S. and Canada), Latin American, and Caribbean flights greater than 1,500 miles, or about 3.5 hours, during meal times. Breakfast is available from 5am-9:45am and lunch/dinner is available from 9:46am-8pm. They advise on their website that you print the entire EATS menu and order your selections from your flight attendant.

Please note that snack and beverage choices may change at any time and not all items are available on all flights.

Breakfast choices:  $3-6
Lunch/Dinner Choices:  $6-8
All day choices:  $3-5

Pillow/Blanket:  FREE

Jet Blue:

This airline is pretty straight forward and has been consistent from the start.  There are no meals but snacks and nonalcoholic beverages are complimentary.  Cocktails go for $6.

Pillow/Blanket:  $7 but it comes not only with a $5 coupon for Bed, Bath and Beyond but it comes in a carrying case so you can take it home with you.

Southwest:

This low-cost airline has offered complimentary snacks and nonalcoholic beverages from the beginning.  Cocktails will set you back $5 and they only take credit cards.

Pillows/Blankets:  not available so you have to bring your own.  They pulled them off after the H1N1 scares.

United:

They followed suite and do offer complimentary nonalcoholic beverages on all flights but charge for snacks and meals.    On flights less than 2 hours you can only purchase cocktails and no food (interesting)  On flights 2-3 hours in length passengers in economy can purchase:

A la carte snacks ($3) offered on all flights over 2 hours

Snackboxes ($6-7) offered on all flights over 2 hours

Fresh Food Offerings ($3-9) offered on flights over 3 hours along with the above snack options.

Pillows/Blankets:  not available on domestic flights

The thought of having to pay for things like food, pillows and blankets doesn’t actually really bother me.  I usually am not to bold over by the quality and/or taste of the free offerings of the past.  The additional charge for the pillows and blankets are acceptable as well.  I mean, who knows where they have been hanging out.  The ones you see tossed on the floor in business and first class most likely will be picked up and neatly folded back into a clean plastic bag.  Ready to be used by the next passenger as a napkin, face wipe or worse.

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