Delta drops food-for-sale program

/ Source: The Associated Press

Delta Air Lines Inc. is dropping its food-for-sale program, boosting prices on alcoholic beverages and eliminating pillows on many flights as the struggling carrier seeks to improve customer service even as it tries to become more efficient and cut costs.

The third largest U.S. airline announced Wednesday that starting April 3 it will replace its food-for-sale program, which was launched on selected flights in July 2003, with a wider assortment of free snacks in coach class on most domestic and some Latin American and Caribbean flights of more than 90 minutes.

Delta's discount subsidiary Song will still offer food for sale, spokesman John Kennedy said.

In 2001, Delta, along with many of its rivals, curtailed food service to reduce costs as air travel plummeted. Two years later, Delta announced it would offer a new menu — from Mediterranean chicken to New York cheesecake — in hopes that customers would pay for it.

The meals cost up to $10 and were initially sold on 400 flights.

The Atlanta-based airline also said Wednesday it is hiking the price of alcoholic beverages from $4 to $5 on all domestic and international flights. The booze price increase does not apply to Song.

The airline said that pillows will no longer be provided on Delta flights within the 48 contiguous states, Bermuda, Canada and Central American and Caribbean destinations beginning in mid-March. Blankets will continue to be available on those flights.

Delta said in a statement that shedding pillows will provide more room for carry-on luggage in overhead bins and reduce costs, though Kennedy said cutting costs is not the main reason for the changes announced Wednesday.

In its announcement Wednesday, Delta said that instead of food for sale it will now offer a wider assortment of name-brand snacks, including multigrain chips, honey roasted peanuts and wheat crackers. A prearranged snack pack of crackers, cheese, Oreo cookies and Sun-Maid raisins will be offered in coach class on flights longer than 3 1/2 hours.

As losses have mounted at the carriers over the last year and fuel prices have continued to increase, some major carriers have cut back on some services. Delta lost more than $5 billion last year.