Continental to charge for meals in coach

The other shoe has finally dropped. Continental Airlines, the one domestic airline still proudly boasting free meals in coach just announced that they’ll be eliminating the perk come fall 2010. They’ll be joining the ranks of all other domestic carriers that currently charge for food, a move that they estimate will earn them $35M per year.

Eventually, we all knew that this had to happen. With each carrier gradually moving towards an a la carte model of pricing, extra services from baggage to leg room to food now comes with a price — that’s partially what has kept airline prices so low for the last decade. So in order to remain competitive, Continental had to adapt.

More than anything, Continental’s changes are symbolic of an industry changing. Like our parents bemoan the days of black tie air travel, I see myself one day telling my grandkids about how they “used to serve food for free on airplanes!” Perhaps we should just all be happy that we’re still getting from point A to point B.

AirTran will Sell Upgrades after Take-Off

Low-cost carrier AirTran has found a novel approach to the whole a la carte pricing scheme that some airlines seem to be intent on imposing on passengers. No, they won’t be charging you extra for using the lavatory or being fat. The airline recently announced plans to sell upgrades after boarding. Passengers who are seduced by business class during the boarding march to economy can purchase an upgrade from a flight attendant with a credit card. It will not be that expensive, either: $49 to $99 for a one-way upgrade to business class from the economy trenches.

All this depends on if there are any upgrades remaining after boarding. Passengers who like the idea of seats that are 4 inches wider and a half-foot of extra leg room should upgrade early to ensure that there are still seats available. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution summarizes the new strategy: “AirTran will continue to sell upgrades at the time of booking, at check-in, at the ticket counter or at the gate, and continue to give complimentary upgrades to elite travelers. Flight attendants will make announcements on board if any upgrades remain and are for sale.”

[Via Today in the Sky]