From autumn 2010, Continental Airlines is doing away with free meal service in economy class on most U.S. domestic flights, as well as on...

From autumn 2010, Continental Airlines is doing away with free meal service in economy class on most U.S. domestic flights, as well as on many flights to Canada and certain Latin American routes.

The airline’s free-meals-in-coach service has differentiated it from all other U.S. ‘legacy’ network airlines until now. Continental Airlines notes that all of its significant U.S. competitors either do not offer meals or are already charging economy class travelers for in-flight meal service.


Continental says that, instead of its free-meal service, it will introduce a variety of healthy food choices for purchase in economy class on most of its U.S./Canada and certain Latin American routes.

However, the airline says it will continue to offer complimentary food in the economy cabin on all intercontinental and certain other international routes, and on long-haul domestic routes over six hours.

Continental Airlines' huge Boeing 737 fleet includes 12 737-900s and 28 737-900ERs, the longest-fuselage versions of the high-selling 737 family

Continental will also continue offering complimentary food in its front cabins (first class and BusinessFirst) on routes worldwide. New first-class lunch sandwiches (such as a chicken parmesan Tuscan sandwich) and updated first-class dinner pasta dishes (such as spinach & cheese cannelloni with pomodoro sauce) will debut April 1.

“We are improving our economy meal service with a high-quality, industry-leading food-for-purchase program that is consistent with the strong brand image and high service standards for which our customers recognize us,” says Jim Compton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “Our traditional free-food model has served us well for many years, but we need to change to reflect today’s market and customer preferences.”

The airline says menu choices and pricing are currently in development and will be announced prior to implementation. Continental says it will offer food and snack selections that are appropriate for the length of the flight and the time of day. Traditional non-alcoholic beverages and accompanying snacks like pretzels will continue to be complimentary on every Continental flight.

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