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Travel: Inflight service is back — here’s what food and drinks you can expect on your next flight

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  Inflight service is back — here’s what food and drinks you can expect on your next flight © Provided by The Points Guy
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

As travelers are returning to the skies, airlines are resuming services that were temporarily cut due to the pandemic.

In an effort to lower the risk of contamination and save some cash, airlines made drastic changes to their services, both on the ground and in the air. This included closing lounges and cutting all or most in-flight service. However, as the situation is evolving and airlines are introducing new safety measures, they’re also reopening many lounges and expanding their onboard food and beverage offerings.

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Most airlines are offering complimentary snacks and drinks again on many flights, while some are even offering food for purchases in economy and full meals in premium cabins. Most airlines that went dry have also resumed alcohol service — some even in coach.

Here’s what food and drink options you can expect onboard the major U.S. airlines for the foreseeable future. The offerings are constantly changing, so be sure to check back regularly for the latest information.

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In This Post

Alaska Airlines

Alaska has resumed limited food and drink service on flights longer than 350 miles. For flights less than 350 miles, all service is still suspended.

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For flights over 350 miles:

  • A full selection of soft drinks, including mini cans of soda, juices and freshly brewed Starbucks Coffee and Teavana Tea are available in all cabins.
  • Complimentary beer, wine, spirits and mixers are available in Premium Class and First Class
  • Alcohol is available for purchase in the Main Cabin
  • Main Cabin and Premium Class passengers are offered a small packaged snack
  • First-class passengers are offered an assortment of snacks from a snack basket.

For flights over 670 miles (typically more than two hours):

  • On flights departing between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m., first-class passengers are also offered a choice between two cold entrees; signature fruit and cheese platter available via pre-order. Fresh meal box option may include:
    • Asparagus Tillamook Cheddar Frittata with Fresh Fruit
    • Guajillo Lime Entrée Salad
    • Garlic Marinated Sirloin Sandwich
    • Beef Entrée Salad with Ancient Grains
    • Mojo Chicken Sandwich with Jicama & Citrus Slaw
    • Bristol Bay Smoked Salmon Platter

For flights over 1,100 miles:

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  • Main Cabin and Premium Class passengers can purchase either a signature fruit and cheese platter or ham and egg breakfast wrap on flights departing between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.; signature fruit and cheese platter or harvest smoked turkey sandwich on flights departing between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Pre-order via Alaska’s website or mobile app is required.
  • First-class passengers are offered a full meal with an appetizer and choice of two hot entrees or option to pre-order a signature fruit and cheese platter on flights departing between 5 a.m. – 8 p.m.; choice of signature fruit and cheese platter or harvest smoked turkey sandwich on redeyes.

Related: Alaska Airlines lounges reopening

Allegiant Air

This airline is continuing to sell food and beverages, all of which are served in prepackaged and factory-sealed containers.

American Airlines

American is offering some level of service on nearly all flights.

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For flights under 900 miles:

  • Complimentary beverage service, including canned drinks, juice and water in the Main Cabin
  • Full beverage service, including alcohol, is available in first class
  • No snacks, alcohol or food for purchase are available in the Main Cabin
  • First-class passengers are offered a selection of snacks, such as fig bars, kettle chips and green pea snack crisps

For flights between 900 and 2,199 miles (typically up to 4.5 hours):

  • Complimentary beverage service, including canned drinks, juice and water in the Main Cabin
  • Full beverage service, including alcohol, is available in first class
  • Complimentary pretzels in the Main Cabin
  • No snacks, alcohol or food for purchase are available in the Main Cabin
  • First-class passengers are offered complimentary “Fresh Bites” snacks served on trays on flights departing between 5 a.m.and 9 p.m. These including items such as fresh fruit, yogurt and breakfast sandwiches in the morning and fruit and cheese plates, sandwiches, salads and fresh appetizers for lunch and dinner.
  • Over the next several months, American will introduce fresh meals to first class on regional flights over 900 miles.

Related: My experience flying across the country during the coronavirus pandemic

a tray of food on a table: American Airlines first class tray meal service (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy American Airlines first class tray meal service (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

For flights longer than 2,200 miles (typically more than 4.5 hours), including transcontinental and flights to Hawaii:

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  • Alcohol is not available in Main Cabin and Main Cabin Extra except on long-haul international flights
  • Other Main Cabin beverages and complimentary pretzels or Biscoff cookies are available per usual
  • No snacks or food for purchase available, but Main Cabin meals are served on long-haul international flights
  • Main Cabin passengers on premium transcontinental flights (JFK, BOS and MIA to/from LAX, SFO and SNA) are served a complimentary fresh snack, such as a turkey sandwich, fruit and cheese plate or hummus platter
  • First-class passengers are offered complimentary “Fresh Bites” meals. While still cold, these are more substantial than the Fresh Bites snacks served on shorter flights.
  • First and business class passengers on premium transcontinental flights (JFK, BOS and MIA to/from LAX, SFO and SNA) , long haul Hawaii flights (to/from Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago), and long-haul international flights receive a hot meal, served on one tray instead of in courses. Passengers also receive a pre-arrival snack.
  • Starting Nov. 10, American will resume pre-departure beverage service in premium cabins on international and premium transcontinental routes with Flagship service, as well as hot towels, warmed bread and a choice of desserts.

Although the timing is vague, American shared that over the next several months, it will gradually bring back hot meal service, similar to what was served before the pandemic started, on domestic first-class flights over 900 miles.

American was planning on resuming main cabin alcohol sales and its buy-on-board food program in the summer. However, due to a recent uptick in disorderly passenger behavior, the airline won’t resume alcohol sales until at least Jan. 18, 2022 when the federal mask mandate is set to expire.

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Related: American has eliminated most Flagship First service elements

Main Cabin meal on premium transcontinental routes. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Main Cabin meal on premium transcontinental routes. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Delta Air Lines

Delta made some of the most significant cuts to its in-flight service of any U.S. airline, but it has since begun to slowly reintroduce some service elements on flights more than 350 miles. It even resumed alcohol sales in coach.

For flights between 251 and 499 miles:

  • All passengers are offered a complimentary snack selection (includes both savory and sweet options)
  • Coffee, tea, and individual bottles of water are available in all cabins
  • Delta Comfort+ and First Class customers receive complimentary beer and wine service
  • First-class passengers are also offered soft drinks like mini soda cans, juices, and mixers

For flights 500 or more miles:

  • All passengers are offered a complimentary snack selection (includes both savory and sweet options)
  • Delta Comfort+ and First Class customers receive complimentary beer, wine and liquor service
  • Alcohol is available using tap-to-pay in the Main Cabin
  • Coffee, tea, Coca-Cola mini cans and juice are available in all cabins
  • On flights over 900 miles, First-class passengers get a fresh meal box in addition to snacks

For transcontinental flights between Boston (BOS) and New York-JFK and Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA), as well as between LAX and Washington D.C. (DCA):

  • In addition to the above items, hot meals are available in first class and Delta One. According to Delta, flyers can expect “popular breakfast, lunch and dinner items like lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry thyme syrup, a smoked salmon plate with bagel chips, and beef short ribs with whipped potatoes.”

For long-haul international flights and flights from Atlanta (ATL) and Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) to Honolulu (HNL):

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  • A full selection of beverage offerings and hot, prepared food service in all cabins
  • Predeparture beverage for Delta One passengers limited to individual bottled water
  • Fresh pillows, blankets and amenity kits are available
  • As a precaution, all glassware has been replaced with single-use cups

Beginning sometime in July, Delta will begin to offer first-class travelers fresh boxed meals on more key U.S. routes.

a piece of cake on a plate: (Photo courtesy of Delta) © The Points Guy (Photo courtesy of Delta)

Frontier Airlines

Frontier is currently offering limited beverage items available for purchase in-flight. These items are only available upon request.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian has mostly returned to business as usual, including resuming Pau Hana snack cart sales. However, first-class meals are now delivered on one tray instead of multiple courses. Further, pillows and blankets are currently only available in first class.

Related: State-by-state guide to coronavirus reopening

JetBlue

JetBlue continues to offer a selection of complimentary food and beverage service, as well as some for-purchase items, but at a limited capacity.

In economy, a limited selection of snacks, drinks and items for purchase (pre-sealed EatUp snack boxes, pillows, blankets and earbuds) are served from carts in the aisle. Three of JetBlue’s five complimentary snack offerings, including Cheez-It crackers, PopCorners Popcorn Chips, 88Acres Cinnamon & Oats Seed Bar Thins, Goodie Girl Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Terra Sweets & Blues potato chips, are being provided on a rotational basis. For drinks, there’s a limited selection including Pepsi, Bubly Lime, Canada Dry Sierra Mist and Adam & Eve juices, as well as hot Dunkin beverages. Although some for-purchase items are available again, liquor and EatUp Café fresh food sales remain suspended.

Full meals are available in Mint. Predeparture beverage service has been suspended, but bottled water is still available at each seat. Drinks are served in single-use cups instead of glassware.

Complimentary full meals are also available in coach on London flights.

Related: What it’s like flying JetBlue Mint during the pandemic

a bowl of food on a table: JetBlue continues to offer Mint passengers some tasty fresh options. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy JetBlue continues to offer Mint passengers some tasty fresh options. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Southwest Airlines

Southwest initially suspended all onboard beverages and snacks. However, as of mid-March 2021, the airline is serving a limited selection of non-alcoholic beverages and snacks on flights over 250 miles. These include water, Coke, Diet Coke and 7-Up. It now also serves Community Coffee aboard all flights at least 251 miles long.

For all other flights, snack and beverage service is still temporarily suspended.

It was originally going to begin to resume alcohol sales over the summer, but that’s being delayed due to “the recent uptick in industry-wide incidents of passenger disruptions inflight.” It doesn’t expect to resume alcohol sales until the mask mandate is lifted. Once alcohol sales return, Southwest will offer the following options:

  • Beer: Miller Lite ($6), Dos Equis ($6), and Blue Moon ($7)
  • Red Wine: Carmenet Cabernet Sauvignon ($6)
  • Orange Juice
  • Cranberry Cocktail
  • Mossel Bay Chenin Blanc Chardonnay ($6)
  • Deep Eddy Vodka ($7)
  • Jack Daniels Whiskey ($7)

Since Southwest suspended alcohol sales for over a year, it’s extending any expiring drink coupons through at least the end of 2021.

Related: Looking forward to a drink midair? You’ll have to wait a little longer.

Spirit Airlines

This airline is continuing to sell food and beverages as usual. a group of people standing around a plane © The Points Guy

United Airlines

United has restored most onboard service elements. Drinks are available on all flights, but only on request on flights under an hour.

Complimentary single-serve bottles of wine, beer and liquor are available in premium cabins on all flights, while complimentary beer and single-serve bottled wine are available in economy on international flights.

On domestic routes, economy class passengers are offered a choice of pretzels, stroopwafel or Biscoff cookies on flights over 2 hours and 20 minutes. On flights over four hours, economy passengers also have the option to buy snacks. Meanwhile, first-class passengers receive an “all-in-one” snack bag with a small bottle of water and two snacks on flights between 1 hour and 2 hours and 20 minutes. On flights over 2 hours and 20 minutes, first-class passengers are offered a choice between a selection of cold sandwiches and a snack box, while they’re offered a hot meal on flights over four hours.

a tray of food on a table: (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

On premium transcontinental flights, as well as short Hawaii flights (those under six hours), economy and economy plus passengers receive the “all-in-one” snack bag, while premium cabin passengers receive a full meal and pre-arrival snack. Economy class passengers receive a full meal on long-haul Hawaii flights.

On long-haul international flights, economy passengers receive an entree, a snack and packaged dessert, as well as pre-packed midflight and pre-arrival snacks. In Polaris and Premium Plus, the entire meal is served on one tray, either prepackaged or covered for you to unwrap instead of in courses.

Preorder meals and food for purchase are currently not available, except for Kosher meals on flights to Tel Aviv, flights between Newark and London Heathrow and flights between San Francisco and Sydne.

United buy-on-board options

You can head to united.com or check the menu in the United mobile app to see what’s available on your flight. Just remember that you’ll need to save a payment method on your United account for contactless payments onboard. Alternatively, you can now may contactless payments onboard through the PayPal mobile app.

Top-tier Premier 1K and invite-only Global Services members seated in coach receive a complimentary alcoholic beverage on flights 2 hours and 20 minutes or longer. On flights over four hours, they also receive a free snack box.

a bunch of items that are sitting on a table: (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

The inflight service cuts due to the pandemic were significant, but it’s promising to see that airlines are already beginning to phase back in at least some service elements. Still, it may be a while until things really start going back to normal, so for the time being, try not to board a flight hungry and pack some extra snacks. Premium cabins will be the quickest to restore service, but even then, some changes, such as the elimination of create-your-own ice cream sundae carts, could remain post-pandemic.

Related: As travel reopens, here’s what it’s like flying in the US right now

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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