You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Inflight service is back — here’s what food and drinks you can expect on your next flight

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 1/26/2022 Benji Stawski
MSN has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. MSN and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

As travelers are returning to the skies, airlines are resuming services that were temporarily cut due to the pandemic.

In an effort to lower the risk of contamination and save some cash, airlines made drastic changes to their services, both on the ground and in the air. This included closing lounges and cutting all or most in-flight service. However, as the situation is evolving and airlines are introducing new safety measures, they’re also reopening most lounges and expanding their onboard food and beverage offerings.

Most airlines are offering complimentary snacks and drinks again on many flights, while many are even offering food for purchases in economy and full meals in premium cabins. Most airlines that went dry have also resumed alcohol service — some even in coach.

Here’s what food and drink options you can expect onboard the major U.S. airlines for the foreseeable future. The offerings are constantly changing, so be sure to check back regularly for the latest information.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

In This Post

Alaska Airlines

Alaska has resumed limited food and drink service on flights longer than 350 miles. For flights less than 350 miles, all service is still suspended.

For flights over 350 miles:

  • A full selection of soft drinks, including mini cans of soda, juices and freshly brewed Starbucks Coffee and Teavana Tea are available in all cabins.
  • Complimentary beer, wine, spirits and mixers are available in Premium Class and First Class
  • Alcohol is available for purchase in the Main Cabin
  • Main Cabin and Premium Class passengers are offered a small packaged snack
  • First-class passengers are offered an assortment of snacks from a snack basket.

For flights over 670 miles (typically more than two hours):

  • On flights departing between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., first-class passengers are also offered a choice between a cold entree or the signature fruit and cheese platter. Fresh meal box options may include:
    • Asparagus Tillamook Cheddar Frittata with Fresh Fruit
    • Guajillo Lime Entrée Salad
    • Garlic Marinated Sirloin Sandwich
    • Beef Entrée Salad with Ancient Grains
    • Mojo Chicken Sandwich with Jicama & Citrus Slaw
    • Bristol Bay Smoked Salmon Platter

For flights over 783 miles:

  • Main Cabin and Premium Class passengers can purchase “Picnic Pack” snack boxes and premium snacks like LesserEvil Himalayan Gold Popcorn, SpudLove, Sea Salt Potato Chips and Skinny Dipped Dark Chocolate Almonds.

For flights over 1,100 miles:

  • Main Cabin and Premium Class passengers can purchase a selection of meal boxes, such as a signature fruit and cheese platter, chipotle turkey wrap and “Beets So Fly Salad” by Evergreens. Pre-order via Alaska’s website or mobile app is required.
  • First-class passengers are offered a meal with an appetizer and choice of hot entree or signature fruit and cheese platter on flights departing between 5 a.m. – 10 p.m.

For flights over 2,140 miles (Hawaii and coast-to-coast):

  • All first-class meals include an appetizer, bread and butter, choice of hot entree or the fruit and cheese platter and dessert. On Hawaii flights, you can expect regional touches like such as the Kalbi Short Ribs.

Note, Alaska is temporarily cutting back beverage service to one per flight, no matter the duration through at least the end of January 2022. However, additional beverages are still available by request.

Related: Alaska Airlines lounges reopening

Allegiant Air

This airline is continuing to sell food and beverages, all of which are served in prepackaged and factory-sealed containers.

American Airlines

American is offering some level of service on nearly all flights.

For flights under 900 miles:

  • Complimentary beverage service, including canned drinks, juice and water in the Main Cabin
  • Full beverage service, including alcohol, is available in first class
  • No snacks, alcohol or food for purchase are available in the Main Cabin
  • First-class passengers are offered a selection of snacks, such as fig bars, kettle chips and green pea snack crisps

For flights between 900 and 2,199 miles (typically up to 4.5 hours):

  • Complimentary beverage service, including canned drinks, juice and water in the Main Cabin
  • Full beverage service, including alcohol, is available in first class
  • Complimentary pretzels or Biscoff cookies in the Main Cabin
  • No snacks, alcohol or food for purchase are available in the Main Cabin
  • First-class passengers are offered cold meals on flights departing between 5 a.m.and 9 p.m. These include items such as fresh fruit, yogurt and breakfast sandwiches in the morning and fruit and cheese plates, sandwiches, salads and fresh appetizers for lunch and dinner.

Note, American is no longer serving a second drink service on domestic flights longer than 1,500 miles. However, additional beverages are still available by request.

Related: My experience flying across the country during the coronavirus pandemic

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

For flights longer than 2,200 miles (typically more than 4.5 hours), including transcontinental and flights to Hawaii:

  • Alcohol is not available in Main Cabin and Main Cabin Extra except on long-haul international flights
  • Other Main Cabin beverages and complimentary pretzels or Biscoff cookies are available per usual
  • No snacks or food for purchase available, but Main Cabin meals are served on long-haul international flights
  • Main Cabin passengers on premium transcontinental flights (JFK, BOS and MIA to/from LAX, SFO and SNA) are served a complimentary fresh snack, such as a turkey sandwich, fruit and cheese plate or hummus platter
  • First-class passengers are offered cold meals, though they’re slightly more substantial than those served on shorter flights.
  • First and business class passengers on premium transcontinental flights (JFK, BOS and MIA to/from LAX, SFO and SNA), long haul Hawaii flights (to/from Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago) and long-haul international flights receive a hot meal, served on one tray instead of in courses. Passengers also receive a pre-arrival snack.
  • Premium cabin passengers are also offered a pre-departure beverage on international and premium transcontinental routes with Flagship service, as well as hot towels, warmed bread and a choice of desserts.

Although the timing is vague, American shared that over the next several months, it will gradually bring back hot meal service, similar to what was served before the pandemic started, on domestic first-class flights over 900 miles.

American was planning on resuming main cabin alcohol sales and its buy-on-board food program last summer. However, due to an uptick in disorderly passenger behavior, the airline said that it won’t resume alcohol sales until the federal mask mandate is set to expire.


Gallery: Breeze Airways: A look at new budget airline (USA TODAY)

Related: American Airlines confirms some onboard service cuts

Main Cabin meal on premium transcontinental routes. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Main Cabin meal on premium transcontinental routes. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Delta Air Lines

Delta made some of the most significant cuts to its in-flight service of any U.S. airline, but it has since begun to slowly reintroduce some service elements on flights more than 350 miles. It even resumed alcohol sales in coach.

For flights between 251 and 499 miles:

  • All passengers are offered a complimentary snack selection (includes both savory and sweet options)
  • Coffee, tea, and individual bottles of water are available in all cabins
  • Delta Comfort+ and First Class customers receive complimentary beer and wine service
  • First-class passengers are also offered soft drinks like mini soda cans, juices, and mixers

For flights 500 or more miles:

  • All passengers are offered a complimentary snack selection (includes both savory and sweet options)
  • Delta Comfort+ and First Class customers receive complimentary beer, wine and liquor service
  • Alcohol is available using tap-to-pay in the Main Cabin
  • Coffee, tea, Coca-Cola mini cans and juice are available in all cabins
  • On flights over 900 miles, First-class passengers get a fresh meal box in addition to snacks

For transcontinental flights between Boston (BOS) and New York-JFK and Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA), as well as between LAX and Washington D.C. (DCA):

  • In addition to the above items, hot meals are available in first class and Delta One. According to Delta, flyers can expect “popular breakfast, lunch and dinner items like lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry thyme syrup, a smoked salmon plate with bagel chips, and beef short ribs with whipped potatoes.”

For long-haul international flights and flights from Atlanta (ATL) and Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) to Honolulu (HNL):

  • A full selection of beverage offerings and hot, prepared food service in all cabins
  • Predeparture beverage for Delta One passengers limited to individual bottled water
  • Fresh pillows, blankets and amenity kits are available
  • As a precaution, all glassware has been replaced with single-use cups

In March, Delta will bring back hot meals to domestic and short-haul international flights. Specifically, all first-class passengers ticketed on domestic flights over 900 miles, as well as those to and from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean will receive hot, plated meals by March 8, 2022. Flights under 900 miles will retain the current experience.

Related: Hot, plated meals are officially making a comeback on Delta flights

a piece of cake on a plate: (Photo courtesy of Delta) © The Points Guy (Photo courtesy of Delta)

Frontier Airlines

Frontier is currently offering limited beverage items available for purchase in-flight. These items are only available upon request.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian has mostly returned to business as usual, including resuming Pau Hana snack cart sales. However, first-class meals are now delivered on one tray instead of multiple courses. Further, pillows and blankets are currently only available in first class.

Related: State-by-state guide to coronavirus reopening

JetBlue

JetBlue’s inflight service is mostly back to business as usual.

In economy, a limited selection of snacks, drinks and items for purchase (beer, wine, EatUp boxes, pillows, blankets and earbuds) are served from carts in the aisle.

Complimentary snacks include Cheez-It crackers, PopCorners Popcorn Chips, 88Acres Seed Bar Thins and Goodie Girl Mini Cookies. For drinks, the selection includes Pepsi, Bubly Lime, Canada Dry Sierra Mist and Adam & Eve juices, as well as hot Dunkin beverages.

Full meals are available in Mint. Predeparture beverage service has been suspended, but bottled water is still available at each seat. Drinks are served in single-use cups instead of glassware.

Complimentary full meals are also available in coach on London flights.

Related: What it’s like flying JetBlue Mint during the pandemic

a bowl of food on a table: JetBlue continues to offer Mint passengers some tasty fresh options. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy JetBlue continues to offer Mint passengers some tasty fresh options. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Southwest Airlines

Southwest initially suspended all onboard beverages and snacks. However, as of mid-March 2021, the airline is serving a limited selection of non-alcoholic beverages and snacks on flights over 250 miles. These include water, Coke, Diet Coke and 7-Up. It now also serves Community Coffee aboard all flights at least 251 miles long.

For all other flights, snack and beverage service is still temporarily suspended.

It was originally going to begin to resume alcohol sales over the summer, but that’s being delayed due to “the recent uptick in industry-wide incidents of passenger disruptions inflight.” It doesn’t expect to resume alcohol sales until the mask mandate is lifted. Once alcohol sales return, Southwest will offer the following options:

  • Beer: Miller Lite ($6), Dos Equis ($6), and Blue Moon ($7)
  • Red Wine: Carmenet Cabernet Sauvignon ($6)
  • Orange Juice
  • Cranberry Cocktail
  • Mossel Bay Chenin Blanc Chardonnay ($6)
  • Deep Eddy Vodka ($7)
  • Jack Daniels Whiskey ($7)

Since Southwest suspended alcohol sales for well over a year, it’s extending any expiring drink coupons.

Related: Looking forward to a drink midair? You’ll have to wait a little longer.

Spirit Airlines

This airline is continuing to sell food and beverages as usual.

a group of people standing around a plane: (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

United Airlines

United has restored most onboard service elements. Drinks are available on all flights, but only on request on flights under an hour.

Complimentary single-serve bottles of wine, beer and liquor are available in premium cabins on all flights, while complimentary beer and single-serve bottled wine are available in economy on international flights.

On domestic routes, economy class passengers are offered a choice of pretzels, stroopwafel or Biscoff cookies on flights over 2 hours and 20 minutes. On flights over four hours, economy passengers also have the option to buy snacks. Meanwhile, first-class passengers receive an “all-in-one” snack bag with a small bottle of water and two snacks on flights between 1 hour and 2 hours and 20 minutes. On flights over 2 hours and 20 minutes, first-class passengers are offered a choice between a selection of cold sandwiches and a snack box, while they’re offered a hot meal on flights over four hours.

a tray of food on a table: (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

On premium transcontinental flights, as well as short Hawaii flights (those under six hours), economy and economy plus passengers receive the “all-in-one” snack bag, while premium cabin passengers receive a full meal and pre-arrival snack. Economy class passengers receive a full meal on long-haul Hawaii flights.

On long-haul international flights, economy passengers receive an entree, a snack and packaged dessert, as well as pre-packed midflight and pre-arrival snacks. In Polaris and Premium Plus, the entire meal is served on one tray, either prepackaged or covered for you to unwrap instead of in courses.

Special meals are currently not available, except for Kosher meals on domestic and international flights over 2,000 miles.

Related: United bringing back Kosher options and other specialized meals

United buy-on-board options

You can head to united.com or check the menu in the United mobile app to see what’s available on your flight. Just remember that you’ll need to save a payment method on your United account for contactless payments onboard. Alternatively, you can now may contactless payments onboard through the PayPal mobile app.

Top-tier Premier 1K and invite-only Global Services members seated in coach receive a complimentary alcoholic beverage on flights 2 hours and 20 minutes or longer. On flights over four hours, they also receive a free snack box.

a bunch of items that are sitting on a table: (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

The inflight service cuts due to the pandemic were significant, but it’s promising to see that airlines are beginning to phase back in many service elements. Still, it may be a while until things really start going back to normal, so for the time being, try not to board a flight hungry and pack some extra snacks. Premium cabins will be the quickest to restore service, but even then, some changes, such as the elimination of create-your-own ice cream sundae carts, could remain post-pandemic.

Related: As travel reopens, here’s what it’s like flying in the US right now

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

SPONSORED: With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.

And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free. 

These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

--

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From The Points Guy

The Points Guy
The Points Guy
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon