I have been flying for a really long time. Used to be that all airlines served meals in economy class, while first class got their upgraded meal served on china. Those were the days when getting a meal meant you would get ‘real’ food and enjoy what was served. Eating while flying was an experience, good or bad. Yet, it was something to look forward to while passing the time en-route. Airlines used to appeal to consumers of flight by their service with a smile motto. Along with deregulation and mergers, came a new way of flying that appeals to some palates and not to others.
Today, eating while flying has taken on a different dimension. One can no longer fly and expect something to be served. There are choices. Many, many choices and options to consider before boarding a flight.
What happened? If we look back to 1978 when the Airline Deregulation Act took place, the government imposed price restrictions were removed. Airlines were freed of their boundaries and given the opportunity to change the way consumers purchase flights. With this important change, airlines discovered they could set the prices, and have complete control over their own profits and losses. And losses there were. One of the first to go bankrupt if I recall, was Eastern Airlines. Following 9-11 airlines took a big hit and profits declined rapidly. The government had to bail out some of the airlines to help them stay alive. Airline merger after merger helped the airline stay afloat.
Profits began to soar! Most in part thanks to baggage fees! Yep, by charging fees for things such as checked luggage, carry-on,sitting near the front of the plane vs the back, and fuel surcharges the airlines are finally turning a huge profit. At this point the air carriers became less service oriented and more profit oriented. As a consumer, we lost all perks of flying and soon fell to the mercy of the carriers new rules. Food, was no longer a perk, overhead bins were filled to capacity, and service with a smile is now just, well, service with a lack of effort. We now fly according to what the airlines dictate.
Food on-board the airplane has suffered the most. Snacks are gone for the most part, and so are economy meals. I will be flying economy on Icelandair next month. I soon discovered Icelandair has a 3-tier flying class. Economy, free non-alcoholic beverages only, no snack, no meals. One has to pay significantly more to fly ‘economy comfort’ in order to receive a free meal. While Saga Class has more perks such as bigger seats, meal and lounge access.
I chose economy because it was such a good round-trip fare that it allowed me to travel twice overseas rather than once. I don’t really care whether I eat on-board or not because I will eat at the airport prior to the 9 PM overnight flight. I do however, have the option to purchase snacks, food and alcoholic beverages on-board should I choose to. Because I have flown Icelandair in the past, I am a Saga club member. I have points which I can use to purchase these items en-route if I choose. I cant say I have had a bad ‘meal’ onboard Icelandair, however it was nothing I care to brag about. I much rather prefer to grab my favorite open-faced salmon sandwich at the Keflavik airport before my next flight than to eat what the airline serves anyway.
As a travel agent, I would prefer to see the airlines return to the days when the consumer mattered, and service on-board was a flying perk that everyone received and not just the select few. Airlines should be happy that we chose their company to get to our destination and thank us by providing more consumer oriented service. I want to get back to the days of flying when I was not stressed out over whether I had to pay for a ‘comfort’ seat or not; whether my overhead bin would be filled, or even whether I needed to bring my own meal or not. Flying should be flying, and consumers of flight should be rewarded for being loyal to continuing to do so!
Safe journeys, Debbie