Seeking to increase bottom line profits airlines are making changes that are a mixed bag of good and bad news for passengers. One area is around on-flight food accommodations with airlines luring passengers to upgrade with the offer of better food choices. Woe is the passenger who detests airport food and has not brought a meal from outside to carry-on. A short flight may not cause an issue, but a long flight generally comes with the offer of peanuts and a beverage.
Seth Kaplan of trade magazine Airline Weekly says, “Airlines have always tried to de-commoditize.” They do this, he says, by making commodities not appear as such. California-based Virgin America recently unveiled a new menu for passengers in first class. They can look forward to hors d’ouvres including marinated artichoke hearts, and skewers with olives and mozzarella, tomatoes that have been roasted, and warm peanuts instead of miniature bags of cold peanuts. Passengers looking to fly the airline were asked to vote on a signature ice cream flavor. Yum.
United Airlines followed suit with gluten-free food choices, including snack boxes, seasonal fruits, and healthy nut bars. Not to be left out, Delta Air Lines has added multi-seed coconut/chocolate chip cookies, as well as low calorie and nourishing wrap sandwiches for transcontinental fliers.
Passengers flying Delta on US flights may not be as happy. Rewards points will now be calculated by how much money fliers spend, instead of by how much they fly. Airline customers with Sky mile program points earned before Jan. 1 will not lose them. With the new changes, members can accumulate five to 11 miles with each dollar spent. Members’ status level is also considered. There are still other airline changes that bring a mix of good and bad news for passengers. American Airlines has stopped bereavement fares, and will no longer be available to passengers needing quick, lower cost flights to attend funerals of loved ones. Typically, fliers could potentially save between five and 50 percent on tickets bought at the last minute.
Rick Seaney, Chief Executive Officer at Farecompare.com, says the change in policy will not impact fliers too badly. He states, “Saving a few dollars off of a $900 flight can be just as easily compensated, by booking online after doing some comparison shopping.”
The guidelines can be pretty strict at airlines continuing to attempt to assist passengers needing tickets that fall under category of bereavement. Delta Airlines requires documentation including the name of the deceased, the funeral home, and contact information for the funeral home or hospice provider. The deceased must be an immediate family member and the discount varies. United Airlines takes it a step further only offering a five percent discount, requiring a death certificate which may not be available at the time passengers need to fly.
For harried passengers trying to make spur of the moment travel accommodations it appears fliers will fare better in following the recommendation of Seaney and do online comparisons for the best deals. Airlines are making changes that bring a mix of good and bad news for passengers. They include food, to losing frequent flier miles, and added stress of getting home in a pinch to attend the funeral of loved ones.
By C. Imani Williams