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No More Free Lunch on Continental: Pay-for-Food Starts in Fall

March 15, 2010 | Posted in: Airline News,Ask Rick

food continental

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Starting sometime in the fall, Continental will start charging economy passengers for in-flight meals, and they were pretty much the only airline still offering this perk.

The spin is that they are improving meal service with “high quality, healthy food choices for purchase”. They will still offer free food in economy “all intercontinental and certain other international routes, and on long-haul domestic routes over six hours” but for most passengers in the cheap seats, you’ll have to pay.

Continental figures this can net the carrier an extra $35 million a year on cost savings and revenue.

Remember how we used to make jokes about how awful airplane food was? I guess we could laugh, when it was free.

Anyway, you might want pack a lunch. Some suggestions: 

  • Cold sandwiches (store bought or home-made – remember, kids love PB&J)
  • Salads (don’t forget a fork)
  • Fruit (sliced apples, raisins, and orange segment are less messy)
  •  Crackers and cheddar
  • A bag of nuts
  • Cookies


  • Onions and garlic
  • Aromatic cheeses
  • Tuna fish or egg salad
  • Hard-boiled eggs (some people swear by them, but your seatmates may not)

20 Responses to “No More Free Lunch on Continental: Pay-for-Food Starts in Fall”

  1. d j says:

    If they offer decent food and at reasonable cost.I would be in for it.

  2. Cigar Jon says:

    I’m waiting for the “pay-as-you-go” to come full circle. Then see if:

    *Someone thinks of a new way to put back food and luggage services etc. as cost inclusive in the reasonable competitive price of a ticket.

    *An airline looks to a new class of travel, somewhere between coach and business, having enough added value to make the price attractive to the non-business traveller.

    *Someone (maybe an airline) produces a new business model for air and non-air travel.

    Now about those frequent flier miles……….

  3. Rick Seaney says:

    Cigar Jon,

    Boy, you don’t want much, do you? I’m kidding but, you never know – I can see a lot of folks going for your idea – well, once the economy picks up a bit more.


  4. Bill S. says:

    Well, looks like they will be offering the same type of food they offered back in the 60′s and 70′s!

  5. Rick Seaney says:


    Well, I don’t know about that; Continental says it will be offering “high quality healthy food”. We’ll have to wait til fall to find out how good it really is, I guess.


  6. Marjorie says:

    I’d rather pay for food than luggage. Airlines are a TRAVEL industry; “travel” inherently means that people need to bring stuff with them.

    The fees are a disaster, with passengers lugging ever-so-much more into the cabin in an attempt to avoid the fees. This compromises safety—-certainly in an emergency, but as one who was recently hit on the head by falling luggage on a Cathay Pacific flight when the guy behind me opened the overhead bin, I can personally attest that these fees are causing passengers to overstuff bags that properly belong in a place other than the cabin.

  7. Rick Seaney says:


    I think a lot of people prefer their own food, too – plus, it’s cheaper. Also, sorry to hear about that luggage falling on your head…


  8. Dianne says:

    I haven’t traveled for awhile, but I thought that you couldn’t bring your own food on the plane (I’ve seen security make people trash their food), except items purchased after passing security and I don’t consider food purchased after passing security as bringing my own food. Bringing food from home would save a lot of money when traveling with my 5 grandkids. Please clarify. TY

  9. Rick Seaney says:


    Liquids are the big no-no – so get your free drinks (non-alcoholic are free) on the plane; and here’s the TSA’s list of food items and the like, that cannot be brought through security: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/holiday.shtm and also see this link: http://www.tsa.gov/311/index.shtm

    Hope this helps.

  10. jake kellirs says:

    I’d like to know the why of some of your suggestions.

    What is the issue with hard boiled eggs. Seems like a perfect food that will last at least awhile without refrigeration.

    Do I presume that tuna salad is bad solely because of potential spoilage?

    And I presume that rest of your avoid list is mainly to not antagonize other passengers.

    Also, do we need to worry about any foods that contain nitrates etc triggering searches and inconvenience? Examples, lunch meats, hot dogs, salami?

    Are there any fruits etc that are considered liquids, i.e. whole oranges, plums etc. they certainly can be more than 3 oz too.

    thank you so much!

  11. jake kellirs says:

    also, is a plastic fork or knife a problem in security? not obvious. if it is a risk, why can you get one after passing security.

    this whole security system is a puzzle.

  12. K says:

    Forget the nuts! There are too many people out there with severe allergies, and an anaphylactic reaction at 35,000 feet is not something you want to be responsible for. It is unfortunate that many airlines still offer nuts, let’s not exacerbate the problem. There are plenty of other healthy snack options.

  13. flyer says:

    All these different fees are just insane. I actually travelled from Brussels to Charlotte and was allowed 3 free bags by “mistake,” and was charged $200 to bring the bag back with me. I was thankfully allowed 2 free bags because of frequent flyer status, if not, I would have had to pay for my second bag also! The day that airlines scratch free food on intercontinental flights, I’m going to start the biggest protest possible. These poor airlines are losing money and making passengers pay for everything, and governments just keep adding and/or increasing taxes.

  14. Rick Seaney says:


    Check out the TSA site at http://www.TSA.gov for specifics, but I have to say, I’ve yet to hear of salami triggering any security alarms. As far as tuna, and the eggs go, we love this stuff, but it can be an issue of “aroma” – at least that’s what I hear from people who have to sit next to folks eating these things.


  15. Rick Seaney says:


    Regarding your fork question – let’s check with the TSA again – they may allow them.


  16. Rick Seaney says:


    A lot of airlines continue to serve nuts.


  17. infrequent flyer says:

    re the plastic forks, etc:

    I’ve been going coast-to-coast domestically for two years now with a plastic fork and spoon in my laptop bag, ever since the time I thought the vendor would put a fork in with my salad. I ate that salad with my fingers.

    No one has ever raised an eyebrow at security over it. I don’t know about knives, but the fork/spoon fly through, no problems.

  18. Rick Seaney says:


    Thanks for the input – it makes sense to me, too.


  19. Mary says:

    When I flew home from Hawaii in Feb, I was told I could not bring my apple onto the airplane. (I promptly ate it.) My guess is that a lot of the people who work for security don’t really know all the rules, so when in doubt, they say NO.

  20. Rick Seaney says:


    I think you’re right, I think sometimes they don’t know all the intracies of all the rules. You could always ask for a supervisor, but that could take time – and I think by eating it on the spot, you made a good decision.


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