When Continental announced in March that it decided to scrap free onboard meals, it signaled the end of an era. Which is not to say that the loss of airline meals themselves—often flavorless and rubbery—are worth lamenting. But Continental was the last major domestic carrier to serve meals, and ending the program severed that final tie to a bygone era.
OK, enough waxing sentimental. The airline is out with its new for-purchase menu, which will go into effect October 12. It's pretty standard stuff: A trio of small sandwiches (one of which seems comprised mostly of cheese) sold as "sliders"; an Angus beef hamburger; an Asian noodle salad that actually sounds tasty and, at only $4.50, might be the best value; a sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich; and a selection of snack boxes with nuts and cheese and whatnot. The growing trend of using brand names is also evident: Jimmy Dean sausage, Hormel cold cuts, Yoplait yogurt.
It's not clear what will come of this new menu when Continental completes its merger with United. Right now, the two airlines' in-flight menus differ both in what they offer and how much things cost. For example, United's sandwiches and salads are all $9, while Continental's run between $4.50 and $8.25. The food service schedule differs as well: United offers sandwiches on flights three hours or longer, compared to three-and-a-half hours on Continental. None of this would be terribly complicated to align, but it's somewhat surprising that Continental's brand-new program doesn't match up with United's.
It's foolish to expect much more from an airline these days, but it seems equally impossible to not be disappointed as airline after airline churns out yawn-worthy snack boxes and sad little sandwiches. Heck, even JetBlue's for-purchase snacks fail to inspire. So my question is, what's the point? When I look at an airline menu, I ask myself, "Does anything on here look better than a sandwich I could make at home or purchase at the airport?" The answer is usually no. So why do airlines even bother?
Readers, what about you? Do you purchase onboard food? Have you found any airline's offerings to be particularly good (or bad?) Leave a comment below with your thoughts.