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Airlines are starting to bring back in-flight food and beverage service

Some things are free, but travelers will need to pay for others

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Photo (c) Alexander Spatari - Getty Images
Restrictions are starting to be eased as the number of COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.S. continues to rise. One example of that can be seen in the return of certain services aboard aircraft. 

Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines have announced that they’re all bringing back some form of in-flight food and beverage service. Below you can find what those three major carriers now have to offer.

Southwest options

For Southwest travelers, it’s only water and soft drinks for the time being. Passengers on flights of 250 miles or longer can choose from Coke, Diet Coke, 7Up, or bottled water.

However, passengers flying Southwest should bone up on their non-verbal skills before taking off. Instead of the flight attendant asking for the passenger’s preference, the airline wants travelers to place their order using their phone.

Southwest told ConsumerAffairs that passengers can choose their drink by zooming in on a graphic of their choice on their phone while accessing the carrier’s online portal. An attendant will then verify the choice and bring the beverage. But what if a traveler doesn’t have a phone? No problem -- flight attendants will hold up a menu with numbered options and travelers can respond by holding up the number of fingers reflecting their choice.

Southwest is going the point-to-your-choice route because it wants to steer clear of any trouble. For now, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) still requires passengers to wear a mask while onboard an airplane.

Delta Air Lines’s updated food and beverage service

Starting April 14 on domestic flights, Delta will offer a revamped snack and beverage service that includes coffee, water, tea, soft drinks (in new 7.5 ounce cans, no less), and ready-to-drink old fashioned cocktails and margaritas. Travelers will need to pay a dollar more than before for these alcoholic drinks, though.

For snacks, Delta’s new selection has its traditional Biscoff cookies, plus Goldfish, almonds, and Clif Bars. Customers can have one sweet and one savory snack. 

Taking a hands-off approach like Southwest, Delta flight attendants will use the company’s new contactless payment technology for onboard purchases of food, beverages, and earbuds. The new system also allows for emailed receipts. 

United’s in-flight changes

United’s dining menu has also been retooled. Effective April 1 on select routes, the airline will offer fliers their choice of snack boxes, a la carte snacks, and a variety of alcoholic beverages.

Just about everyone on a United flight will have to pay for their food and drink. The exception is the “premium-cabin” passenger, who can enjoy alcoholic beverages for free. Among those options is White Claw, a new addition to United’s offerings. 

Everything will be exclusively contactless when United debuts its new food and beverage line-up, which means customers seated in Coach class will have to use the United app. 

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