Should Delta always serve a meal in first class? Are “snacks” (a.k.a. snack basket) enough hub-2-hub?

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BYOF – 1st class dinner ATL>DTW

Delta has some rather strange rules about just when food is served. In simplest terms and for a way for you to remember think flights over 900 miles but know beyond that there are also time restrictions that can trump that (see this post for more).

But this post is not a rehash of those Delta rules but a question to you specifically about why the restriction and if it should be changed. Look at some of the approximate distances and flight times per Delta.com estimates:

  • ATL>DTW = 595 miles (flight time ~2 hours)
  • ATL>MSP = 906 miles (flight time ~2.5 hours)
  • ATL>NYC = 760 miles (flight time ~2+ hours)
  • NYC>DTW = 509 miles (flight time ~2+ hours)
  • NYC>MSP = 1028 miles (flight time ~3+ hours)
  • SLC>SEA = 689 miles (flight time ~2 hours)
  • SLC>LAX = 590 miles (flight time ~2 hours)
  • SEA>LAX = 954 miles (flight time ~3 hours)
  • LAX>ATL = 1946 miles (flight time ~4 hours)

Now this is by no means an every single possible hub-2-hub scenario list, just a few for comparison and I know these estimated flight times by Delta are padded, but I still think they make my point. Clearly over 900 miles is too long to not have a first class meal service. However, I think the distance cut off where no meal should be served should be 500 miles (CRJ200’s could be excluded).

Is a snack basket ever a “meal”?

Granted this change would cost Delta, and $DAL shareholders, but Delta is charging and promoting a “premium” experience and flights ~2 hours long should be providing a meal (at least during meal times that is the way they do now). And don’t say flight time is an issue as on most European Skyteam flights you are presented with a meal on flights just over an hour long in business class (in a crummy seat but that is for another post).

Clearly, if you have time, it is not a big deal to pickup up a meal but then we can get into the whole what is a proper “smelling” meal to bring on-board argument. But why should we have to do this when we are already in “first class”?

How about we do a poll to help Delta out. You tell me if Delta should change the meal cutoff time to something other than 900 miles! – René

Should Delta change the 1st class meal cutoff time to something other than 900 miles?

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29 comments

  1. ATL-AUS leaving around (lunchtime) 12:30 and no meal? Not even a sandwich or cold salad.

  2. @Harry – Yeah, and that is 800+ miles. Another example is MSP>DFW is 850+ miles and no meal. And Delta is trying to re-created Dallas as a hub again with the CS100s so…

  3. day after mardi gras (ash wednesday) 530pm delta MSY to NYC was told… “sorry sir, its to early to serve a dinner meal”

    day after jazz fest 745pm MSY to NYC was told “sorry sir, we dont serve dinner on flights this late”

    there is no delta flight that departs between the above two times ….

  4. I flew with Aegean, a small Greek airline from Athens to Tel Aviv a few months ago, a two hour flight. I was very surprised and gratified to be served a hot meal in Business. Is the US airlines refusal to treat premium fare passengers properly part of the airlines obession with savinga money or just pandering to the air crew’s laziness. I have even been served a meal on an internal UIA flight in Ukraine that was just 75 minutes. Although the meal itself was not something I would have missed, the excellent crew and the gesture of serving it, made the flight.

  5. @TC – That is NOT ok. I would complain to Delta as a meal should be been provided on that route of 1100+ miles.

  6. i suspect it was because those were “extra” flights to handle the mardi gras and jazz fest rush.

    typical delta MST to NYC schedule is 2 morning flights, a flighisaround 3pm or 4pm, and an 830pm flight

  7. I’d love more meals, but I think free upgrades should completely go away to pay for that. This is how most airlines operate.

  8. The service is very inconsistent. I frequently made the morning trip on a SkyWest plane / DL flight from HLN to MSP (913 miles). It seemed like meal service came down to a toss of a hat. We never knew when it would be meal or snack service on the same trip.

  9. I don’t see DFW getting fully re-hubbed. Perhaps more of a focus city, with mainline service and added capacity to actual Delta hubs using the new CS100s, instead of 70-seat RJs. Mainline service should mean more meals in first on those routes where it replaces an RJ operated by a partner.

  10. I commonly fly 564 miles which is scheduled as 2 hours but takes much less than hours on a CRJ200. It’s barely enough time to get the beverage/snack service done with a single FA. It doesn’t go much faster on the 900 with 2 FAs. Maybe there is a distance between 500 and 900 miles that makes more sense like 750.
    I’m still waiting for that “up to 9″ entertainment screen” that I haven’t seen on any flight in several months. Why promise that when I buy a ticket??? Duh.

  11. I had a weird situation several months back…….flying DFW-ATL in F they actually served a meal at lunch…….every other time I have ever flown that route no food…..it doesn’t meet the requirement for lunch but shows the inconsistency.

  12. On my flight last night from Billings to Minneapolis, that left at 4:40pm, the snack offering was poor to say the least. I did not appreciate the flight attendants eating their dinner though, as it sure smelled up the first class section! Maybe it was from the previous flight, not sure, but it was airplane food!

  13. Doesn’t have to be a full meal service but I think on a flight over 2 hours there should be a least something like a fruit plate or sandwich.

    Delta should provide a meal service on all long haul redeyes. I frequently fly from SFO, SEA, LAX or SFO to DTW on redeyes and they never have a meal service. I know a lot of people like to sleep on those flights but at least have a pre arrival breakfast. Or at least offer food on the BOB cart comped.

    Something else Delta should do is offer snack boxes or sandwiches on flights that have BOB to diamonds that aren’t upgraded comped like American does EP’s.

    On Delta one they should offer a full meal service on red eyes. I recently did LIM to DTW on a paid Delta One ticket and the dinner service was a joke. Everything came out at once on a tray and there were only two food selections and one of them was a sandwich. No dessert cart and no dessert wines were available. Offer the service where the food comes out all at once like they do on daytime D1 flights for the passengers that want it but have the full service available for D1 that want it.

  14. @Gary – I like your thinking. So maybe 500-900 how about something free off the Flight Fuel menu maybe? Something they already stock, they would just have to stock more?

  15. Delta could easily allow any paid first-class passenger to order a meal on a flight over 500 miles at the time of booking. It could also give a voucher good for an airport meal for flights between 750 and 900 miles.

    I do Flint-Atlanta, which is normally about 1 hour 40 minutes in the air. Sometimes longer. Sometimes less.

    My biggest complaint, however, are the meals on the flights of 3-4 hours. They rush to serve the meal, often finishing within 1 hour of departure. I’ve never understood why they can’t serve the flight about 90 minutes into the flight.

  16. The other problem is what is in that snack basket–JUNK, mostly carbs. At least add Cheese, crackers, even dried fruit–like off the Flight Fuel Menu.

  17. Great topic. I’ve thought about this often. My usual commute ever 2 weeks is 1.5 hrs always in FC on a crj700 or 900. I’m diamond but think that any flight, no matter how long, should at least have a meal for FC even if it is just a sandwich or similar. This would not cost Delta’s investors much but surely greatly improve top tier customer satisfaction.

  18. I love the food service on CVG-LAS morning flight with breakfast. Am I crazy? The food tastes better 20,000 feet in the air. This is a prime reason for purchasing upgrades with cash or miles or earning MQM for Medalion status.

  19. @Pam, last time I considered (and declined) a Flight Fuel purchase, the included “cheese” was labelled as “a processed cheese like product” — been leery of trying them again; has the FF health factor improved in past couple years?

    Agree with @Jeff, DL could easily shoot for top-tier satisfaction by offering something more than a snack basket. A rotating choice of premade deli sandwiches in biz/first on flights less than the existing ~900 mile full-service point seems like a no brainer. An inexpensive way to show DL treats pax better up front on short-haul flights too, not just offering a bigger seat with minimal service and a couple drinks. …Or not, and simply start marketing the short-haul front seats as C++, a monetized sidegrade from C+ but without unwanted middle seat assignments 😉

  20. A lot of us have to connect thru Atlanta. Often I do not get a dinner on these short flights and I’m very hungry by the time I arrive at my destination. I’ll leave my house at 3pm for a 5 pm flight. I arrive in Atlanta at 6:15 to 6:30 with a short layover then board another 2 hour flight. I make it to my destination Around 9:30 pm without dinner.

  21. How about ATL-SFO leaving after 8 PM and no meal just a snack basket with the usual garbage!!! This has happened to me 2x this year. To add insult to injury if I want a snack box from coach I have to pay for it. Keep in mind this was a paid ticket not a free upgrade.

  22. @rkaradi on the the flights that leave between 8 to 10 pm to SFO from MSP and DTW they have been doing a light meal service for the past year or two, surprised they aren’t from ATL. It’s usually just a sandwich, chips and the running deer but I think they should provide a full meal service on any cross country flight. The red eyes really iritate me since as soon as I land I want to shower and then get on the remote parking lot shuttle so I can go to the office and not waste time eating breakfast. It wouldn’t be that hard for them to do a pre-arrival breakfast, just serve the passengers that are awake or tell passengers if they are going to sleep and want the breakfast to have their meal tray down.

    They should provide the snack box or items on the BOB menu gratis for people in first class and diamonds regardless of class of service like American and United does. United and American also provide free adult drinks to their top tiers even if they are in regular coach (a lot of times I prefer and exit row over C+).

    They also need to allow paid F seats and people that are upgraded at t-48 or sooner to select a meal. There’s been a couple times as a diamond on a paid F ticket where I have been seated towards the back (chose the seat since it was odd numbered flight) and they didn’t honor FEBO and did meal selections from the front and I didn’t like the only choice left and was told I’d have to pay for a snack box.

  23. While no exactly on point, I offer 2 recent experiences which add context (I voted “yes” on the poll, by the way):

    1) AA serves a high-quality snack MCO-DCA. Is it a meal? No but it’s MUCH better than a snack basket.

    2) I flew DL SkyWest E175 SFO-LAX yesterday, wheels-up-to-wheels-down, 50 minutes. First AND Comfort+ received a snack box. Was it as good as AA serves? No but I STILL nearly fainted. It consisted of 10 multigrain crackers with a rich, flavored hummus, 3 cherry tomatoes, 2 quarter wedges of mild white cheddar and 3 cucumbers.

    I realize that Delta does this or something similar on routes where it wishes to steal market share from United, such as a full, hot dinner in first on EWR-ATL, but even so, if Delta could manage this and American could allow a meal choice at the 30-day mark, come on, people, let’s treat elite passengers like human beings with dietary needs rather than cattle!

  24. I thought Delta was going to allow first class/J passengers to be able to make meal choices before the flight. Whatever happened with that?

    I admit I’m a picky eater but I flew MSP/LHR recently in Delta One as a diamond in Seat 2A and there was only one thing on the menu that looked appetizing and the came back five minutes after ordering apologizing that they already ran out of that meal choice. I boarded with the Prem Zone just because I wanted to get settled in get a mimosas so it wasn’t like he was able to take a bunch of meal orders from people that boarded before me.

    I was using a GU but I would have paid over $8K RT if I had booked that flight last minute. That’s absurd

  25. I’ve flown Delta fairly regularly for the past 20 years. I remember when I always had lunch on the short-ish flights to and from SLC to any west coast destination in First Class during lunch times. Something like a chicken breast on bed of lettuce, roll, maybe a small dessert. All of that ended with 911 it seems. So I would like to see meals come back on flights over 500 or 550 miles in First. It can be done!

  26. Flew ATL to JFK (760mi) and meal was available in First. I rarely eat airplane food so kindly said no, but it was available. Kind of shocked that it was being served on a 2 hour flight.

  27. I guess I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the downright ugly after flying over 700K with Delta since the late 80’s. I remember lobster salad and beef tenderloin (lunches!!) on longer flights like SEA-ATL or especially their ATL to the Caribbean flights and total disgust at their bagel, banana, yogurt breakfast on three hour breakfast flights like MSP-SEA. What I don’t miss is FA’s on shorter routes trying to do a full drink and dinner service on short flights like SLC-SEA on a packed 757 or 767. I would have rather had a cold sandwich and had a couple of beverage services, lol. Coolest lunch service ever?? Business Class on Thai from BKK to HKT, a 75 minute flight on a 747-400. Two full beverage services and an AWESOME Thai curry lunch with soup and small appetizer. I would take that anytime over what is often offered donestically any longer.

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