Over the past two months, both United and American Airlines have announced they will resume offering complimentary snacks on flights within the US and Latin America. During the recession after 9/11, the legacy carriers went into survival mode by cutting snacks and adding ancillary fees (I’m looking at you, $25 checked bag) in order to stay afloat. For the first time since then, United and American are offering them once again. Now, I know what you’re thinking – why is the revival of mini packets of peanuts or pretzels so important? I don’t eat the odd-looking snack mixes anyway, how could this be a good thing for me as a passenger?
My answer is simple – the reintroduction of snacks indicates a new attention to the passenger experience by these two airlines. They appear to be trying to improve their overall service and product in order to compete with other airlines (jetBlue, Delta) to gain more business instead of finding ways to squeeze more revenue out of existing ones. This step is only peanuts (pun intended), but it tells me that airline executives are paying more attention to what they can offer their customers instead of how much they can make off their customers. Airlines compete with fares and are now realizing they can with pretzels. I’ve been impressed with new United Chief Executive Oscar Munoz, and would not be surprised if this is a direct reflection of his vision for the airline.
Will the next step be the reduction of checked baggage fees? Not in the least, because it’s a major revenue generator and waiving them is an easy perk to offer as benefits to elite frequent flyers and co-branded credit card holders. However, I do think we can expect to see more of these small improvements that slowly improve the passenger experience on domestic carriers here in the US.