Reuters/Paulo Whitaker, Wikimedia Commons/Evan-Amos

Because angry is better than hangry.

It appears the American flyer is entering something of a modern Golden Age of customer service. The bar is clearly very, very low, because the news here is that airlines are just throwing flyers a bone and gifting them the occasional snack.

Back in the day—like, the early 2000s—this kind of amenity was de rigueur, but many airlines nixed their complimentary snack service while inveighing against the high cost of doing business in a country suddenly less interested in flying.

Now airlines are posting record profits, and bringing back some (very minor) perks. United started dispensing vittles in economy class in February—“either rice crackers and sesame sticks or mini pretzel sticks, Cajun corn sticks, and ranch soy nuts,” according to the L.A. Times. Also in February, American Airlines began giving transcontinental passengers Biscoff cookies and pretzels for the first time since 2003, with promises to expand snack service to other domestic flights by April. Meanwhile, Southwest, Jet Blue, and Delta have been dispensing complimentary carbohydrates for some years now. (Shout out to the Delta fight attendant who kept me coated in a fine layer of mini-pretzel dust throughout a transcontinental flight yesterday evening.)

Now the snackaissance continues. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram* reports that American has been experimenting with providing free snacks for irate passengers waiting on flight delays longer than two hours. In New York’s JFK airport, where the airline is running its trial program, a vendor has been distributing fresh fruit, chips, and cold drinks to waiting flyers since December. At the three-hour mark, the paper reports, increasingly frustrated passengers are mollified with free sandwiches.

Jill Surdek, the vice president of customer planning for American, told the paper that the snack program replaces free meal vouchers, which take valuable time and energy for airport workers to distribute—time that could be better spent, perhaps, rearranging missed connections.

American says it has distributed snacks to about 100 JFK flights so far. The airline will begin testing out the program at LAX and another yet-to-be-determined U.S. airport in March.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported this week that airline customer complaints were up 29.8 percent in 2015, compared with the previous year. Top complaints included “flight problems, baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, consumer service, disability, and discrimination,” DOT says. Free food goes a good, long way—but not that good and not that long.

*CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the name of this paper as the Dallas Star-Telegram.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Bicycle riders on a package-blocked bicycle lane
    Perspective

    Why Do Micromobility Advocates Have Tiny-Demand Syndrome?

    In the 1930s big auto dreamed up freeways and demanded massive car infrastructure. Micromobility needs its own Futurama—one where cars are marginalized.

  2. a photo of Extinction Rebellion climate change protesters in London
    Environment

    When Climate Activists Target Public Transit

    The climate protest movement Extinction Rebellion is facing a backlash after disrupting commuters on the London Underground.

  3. a photo of a WeWork office building
    Life

    What WeWork’s Demise Could Do to NYC Real Estate

    The troubled coworking company is the largest office tenant in New York City. What happens to the city’s commercial real estate market if it goes under?

  4. Environment

    Carbon Emissions Are Already Falling in 30 Cities

    As mayors gather for C40’s summit on climate change, the coalition reports that a third of its members have hit peak emissions.

  5. a photo of cyclists riding beside a streetcar in the Mid Market neighborhood in San Francisco, California.
    Transportation

    San Francisco’s Busiest Street Is Going Car-Free

    A just-approved plan will redesign Market Street to favor bikes, pedestrians, and public transit vehicles. But the vote to ban private cars didn’t happen overnight.

×