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Airlines restore tiny perks, like pretzels, to pacify fliers

Published:Tuesday | February 2, 2016 | 12:01 AM
An American Airlines flight taxis at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.


After 15 years of near austerity, US airlines are restoring some small perks for passengers crammed into coach.

Don't expect ample legroom or free checked bags. But fliers will find improved snacks, a larger selection of free movies, and, on a few select routes, the return of free meals.

Yesterday, American Airlines became the latest carrier to add something back. It announced the return of free snacks in the economy section and more free entertainment options on some aircraft.

American, which recently merged with US Airways, hasn't offered free snacks since 2003. US Airways stripped passengers of snacks in 2008.

Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent recession, airlines removed almost ever perk imaginable. Hot meals disappeared along with legroom, blankets, and pillows.

"It was really about survival," says Fernand Fernandez, vice-president of global marketing at American.

When Continental Airlines stopped giving out free cookies and mini-bags of pretzels in 2011, after its merger with United Airlines, it said that the move would save US$2.5

million a year.

Since then, mergers have

created four mega-carriers that control more than 80 per cent

of the domestic market. They started charging $25 for each checked suitcase. And more seats have been crammed into planes to maximize profits. Now the industry is making record profits.