THE announcement from US Airways in June that it was going to start charging coach passengers $2 for soft drinks and bottled water — water! — on all its domestic flights, as well as $1 for coffee or tea, is only the latest sign that when it comes to flying these days, there increasingly is no such thing as a free lunch.
The other major carriers have yet to follow US Airways’ lead — though it may just be a matter of time. But some airlines are finding creative ways to up the ante, by adding new nonalcoholic beverages to their offerings, like Monster Energy drinks and Vitaminwater, and charging for them. Meanwhile, all domestic airlines but Continental have replaced free meals in coach on flights in the United States with at least some food sales.
Buying your own food or drinks at the airport is one alternative to being held economic hostage by the airlines, but who has time to wait in line for water when you’re late for your connecting flight? You can also pack a lunch at home — but just make sure your salad dressing is in a three-ounce container, inside a one-quart, zip-top plastic bag to get through security.
So what exactly do you get these days? What follows is a sampling of the current food and drink policies for flights within the United States, and what you can expect to shell out for a little sustenance. (The offerings are slightly better on international flights, on which most foreign carriers continue to offer free alcoholic drinks, meals and snacks. But most United States carriers do not give out alcoholic drinks on trans-Atlantic routes.)
Drinks: Free soda, juice, water, coffee and tea; beer, wine and cocktails are $6.
Snacks: Nuts, cookies or cheese and crackers on flights of two hours or more are $3 or $4; chips are offered after 10 a.m. for $3.
Meals: Light meals — like a turkey bagel sandwich, Italian wrap or turkey-and-cheese ciabatta sandwich — are available for $6 on flights of three hours or longer. Boar’s Head sandwiches with chips are $10 on flights to and from Hawaii and on transcontinental flights.
Mealtimes: No specific times.
Drinks: Free soda, juice, water, coffee and tea; for beer, wine and cocktails, $5.
Snacks: Free peanuts or pretzels, after 10 a.m., on one-to-two-hour flights.
Meals: Free on flights of two hours or more, including a muffin for breakfast, turkey sandwich with carrot sticks or chips and candy for lunch, or a meatloaf sandwich, a salad and sweets for dinner.
Mealtimes: Breakfast, 7 to 9 a.m.; lunch, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; dinner, 5 to 7 p.m.
Drinks: Free soda, juice, water, coffee and tea; $3 for Vitaminwater; $7 for alcoholic beverages, including margaritas and pomegranate martinis.
Snacks: Free peanuts, cookies or peanut butter crackers. Chocolate bars, potato chips and other snacks are available for $2 or $3 on flights of an hour and a half to two hours.
Meals: From $4 on flights of more than two hours, including a strawberry cream cheese crepe ($4), mushroom pea orzo ($8), and grilled shrimp Caesar salad ($10).
Mealtimes: 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Drinks: Free soda, juice, water and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and tea; $3 for Vitaminwater; $5 for beer, wine and cocktails.
Snacks: Free Terra Blues chips, Frito-Lay Munchies, cookies, cashews, biscotti or animal crackers.
Drinks: Free soda, juice, water, coffee and tea; $5 for alcoholic beverages.
Snacks: Pringles, M & M’s, Twizzlers or trail mix are $3; snack boxes with crackers, cheese, cookies, trail mix and either beef sausage, chicken salad or tuna are $5. Fruit and cheese or vegetables with ranch dip, $7.
Meals: $10 for a breakfast sandwich and fruit salad with a breakfast cookie, or for a deli meat sandwich and salad with a chocolate bar.
Mealtimes: Meals are available only on “select flights” like those from its hubs to Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico. Fresh snacks are offered only on such flights as well.
Drinks: Free soda, juice, water, coffee and tea; $3 for Lo-Carb Monster Energy; $4 for beer, wine and cocktails.
Snacks: Free peanuts or pretzels on flights about two hours long. Honey Maid Snack Bars and Cheese Nips on flights three hours or longer; Oreos, Wheat Thins or Ritz Real Cheese crackers on the longest flights.
Drinks: $2 for water, coffee or tea; $3 for soda or juice; $5 for alcohol.
Snacks: $2 to $4 for Pringles, animal crackers, M & M’s, and other snacks.
Drinks: Free soda, juice, water, coffee and tea; $6 for beer, wine and cocktails.
Snacks: $5 for snack boxes with bagel chips, vegetable cheese spread, granola, diced pears, cinnamon twist pastry, toffee and mints, or other assortments.
Meals: $7 for salads and sandwiches like a smoked turkey chipotle wrap or a Santa Fe chicken salad.
Mealtimes: Breakfast is available on flights departing before 10 a.m. Lunch and dinner, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Drinks: Coffee and tea, $1; bottled water, juices, and soda, $2; beer, wine and cocktails, $7.
Snacks: $5 for boxes of chicken salad, crackers, trail mix, a fruit bar and cookies on flights over two and a half hours.
Meals: From $7 on select flights over three and a half hours, including a turkey croissant and yogurt, chef salad or chicken Caesar sandwich.