“It seems like these airlines do not care about their customers”

By | October 13th, 2010

When Seth Kunis booked a Thanksgiving flight on Continental Airlines, it included a snack. It’s a small thing, he admits. But when Continental changed its onboard food program, he felt the airline had reneged on a deal.

I’m sure that some of you reading this will agree with Kunis about this being a small thing. What’s a little snack in the grand scheme of things?

The problem is that for airlines, this has been a pattern of behavior during the a la carte revolution: They take something that was once included in the price of the ticket, unbundle it from the fare, but leave the price unchanged.

The government took steps to stop airlines from imposing their new luggage fees on old tickets a few years ago. But it doesn’t normally get involved in minor issues, like those involving airline meals.

So Kunis decided to let Continental know he was unhappy.

“I honestly don’t know what else to do,” he told me. “It seems like these airlines do not care about their customers and they may have lost a lifelong customer.”

Here’s his first note to the airline:

I booked a flight in coach in January 2010 for travel over the Thanksgiving weekend. That flight included a snack in the fare.

With Continental switching to paid meals after October 12th how will my flight be handled? Do I lose the snack that I paid for?

Here’s the airline’s response:

Thank you for contacting Continental Airlines.

I understand you had some concerns about our new meal policy. Our traditional free-food model, which served us well for many years, has been updated to reflect today’s market and customer preferences.

Meals are a complimentary amenity that Continental Airlines traditionally supplied to our customers. To ensure profitability in a competitive industry, we could no longer offer complimentary meals when competitors were charging for meals or not serving meals at all. Research indicated that economy travelers do not select their airline based on the meal service.

We will continue offering complimentary meals for most international flights and BusinessFirst and First Class customers. Most other flights will have food for sale onboard. Food choices will vary by flight. Shorter flights may have snacks, such as candy bars, cookies, chips, and trail mix, while longer flights may offer salads, sandwiches, or wraps.

Please remember, we now have cashless cabins, so credit or debit cards are required for purchasing products and services onboard our planes.

Customers with special dietary requirements may be interested in visiting airport vendors or bringing food items from home.

We appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you onboard your next Continental Airlines flight.

Huh? Did they even bother to read his first email?

So he tried again.

Can you please verify if the flight I booked in January 2010 (for flight in November 2010) under confirmation number [redacted] includes a free food service? I booked this flight in January 2010 and at that time there was a meal service included with the flight.