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

May 31, 2021

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As travelers are returning to the skies, airlines are beginning to resume some 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 some lounges and expanding their onboard food and beverage offerings.

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

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.

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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 8 p.m., first-class passengers are also offered a Croissant Breakfast Sandwich or Breakfast Protein Platter in the morning and Banh Mi Sandwich, Mojo Chicken Sandwich or afternoon Protein Platter later in the day.
  • Snacks such as Mediterranean Tapas and Kids Picnic Packs are available for purchase in the Main Cabin
Alaska Airlines Cheese Platter
Alaska’s signature fruit and cheese platter. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

For flights over 1,100 miles (not including transcontinental):

  • Main Cabin and Premium Class passengers can purchase either a signature fruit and cheese platter or ham and egg breakfast wrap on flights departing between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.; signature fruit and cheese platter or harvest smoked turkey sandwich on flights departing between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Pre-order via Alaska’s website or mobile app is required.
  • First class passengers are offered fresh meal boxes, such as:
    • 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 transcontinental flights and those to and from Hawaii:

  • First-class passengers are offered a full meal with an appetizer and choice of two hot entrees or option to pre-order a signature fruit and cheese platter on flights departing between 5 a.m. – 8 p.m.; choice of signature fruit and cheese platter or harvest smoked turkey sandwich on redeyes.

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 fig bar on morning flights or savory snack mix on all other flights

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 in the Main Cabin
  • No snacks, alcohol or food for purchase are available in the Main Cabin
  • First-class passengers are offered fresh snacks like a yogurt parfait or turkey croissant sandwich in the mornings (5:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.); boxed fruit and cheese plate or turkey sandwich the rest of the day (9:46 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.)

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

First class fresh snack on American Airlines. (Photo by Andrew Kunesh/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
  • First-class passengers are offered complimentary “Fresh Bites” snacks on flights departing between 5 a.m.and 9 p.m. These including 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.
  • First and business class passengers on premium transcontinental flights (New York-JFK to/from Los Angeles and San Francisco), 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.

American was planning on resuming main cabin alcohol sales and its buy-on-board food program in the summer. However, due to a recent uptick in disorderly passenger behavior, the airline won’t resume alcohol sales until at least Sept. 13.

Related: American has eliminated most Flagship First service elements

AA Snack Box
American Airlines snack box. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Delta Air Lines

Delta made some of the most significant cuts to its in-flight service but has since begun to slowly reintroduce some service elements on flights more than 350 miles. It will also resume alcohol sales in coach soon.

For flights between 251 and 499 miles:

  • All passengers receive a complimentary snack (one savory and one sweet)
  • 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 receive a complimentary snack (one savory and one sweet)
  • Delta Comfort+ and First Class customers receive complimentary beer and wine 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 an individually packaged Flight Fuel box in addition to snacks

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 early June, Delta One and first-class flyers on select domestic transcontinental routes will see hot food options return, while first-class travelers on other key U.S. routes will enjoy fresh boxed meals beginning in early July.

Delta first-class snack box options. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Frontier Airlines

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

Hawaiian Airlines

Complimentary bottled water is provided to each guest. Other beverages are limited to those that are canned or bottled on all flights other than the long-haul departures, such as to/from Boston and New York-JFK. First-class predeparture beverage service has been moved to shortly after takeoff to minimize mask removal during boarding.

Hawaiian has temporarily suspended Pau Hana snack cart sales. However, travelers are offered a complimentary pre-packed sandwich. Full meals are still available in first-class, but they are delivered on one tray instead of multiple courses. Pillows and blankets are currently only available in first class.

Related: State-by-state guide to coronavirus reopening

JetBlue

JetBlue continues to offer a selection of complimentary food and beverage service, as well as some for-purchase items, but at a limited capacity.

In economy, a limited selection of snacks, drinks and items for purchase (pre-sealed EatUp snack boxes, pillows, blankets and earbuds) are served from carts in the aisle. Three of JetBlue’s five complimentary snack offerings, including Cheez-It crackers, PopCorners Popcorn Chips, 88Acres Cinnamon & Oats Seed Bar Thins, Goodie Girl Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Terra Sweets & Blues potato chips, are being provided on a rotational basis. For drinks, there’s a limited selection from Pepsi, Canada Dry and Adam & Eve. Although some for-purchase items are available again, liquor and EatUp Café fresh food sales remain suspended. Additionally, the self-serve pantry is not available on flights that usually have it.

Full meals are available in Mint but are served on one tray and sealed. Predeparture beverage service, espresso-based drinks, bread, breakfast sides and fruit options have been suspended. Drinks are served in single-use cups instead of glassware. Bottled water is still available at each seat. 

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

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

In the summer, it will slowly start to expand its beverage offerings. Beginning June 24, Community Coffee will be offered aboard all flights at least 251 miles long.

It was originally also going to begin to resume alcohol sales on that date, but that’s being delayed due to “the recent uptick in industry-wide incidents of passenger disruptions inflight.” 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 over a year, it’s extending any expiring drink coupons through at least the end of 2021.

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. For a limited time, it is also selling face masks for $3 and donating the proceeds.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

United Airlines

United is currently serving primarily prepackaged foods and sealed beverages on most flights. Drinks are available on all flights, but only on request on flights under an hour. Coffee and tea are available on all flights with beverage service, as are cups of water (in addition to the small bottles that may be provided).

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

On domestic flights, First Class passengers receive an “all-in-one” snack bag with a wrapped sanitizer wipe, 8.5-ounce bottle of water and two snacks on all flights over an hour long. Economy passengers receive that same snack bag on flights over 2 hours and 20 minutes, while First Class passengers receive a more substantial snack on these longer flights. This consists of either a snack box, or if departing from United’s “catering hubs” — Atlanta (ATL), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Cleveland (CLE), Denver (DEN), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Fort Myers (RSW), Houston (IAH),  Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), Orlando (MCO), San Francisco (SFO), Tampa (TPA), Washington, D.C. (IAD) and West Palm Beach (PBI), plus Honolulu (HNL) to LAX and SFO and  Kahului (OGG) to LAX and SFO — a choice of the following:

  • Morning flights: Everything bagel baguette with veggie cream cheese or protein French twist croissant sandwich
  • Afternoon/evening flights: Tomato basil and mozzarella focaccia or carved roasted chicken on Italian flatbread
  • All flights: Snack box, if preferred

That said, come June 15,  United will once again offer plated meal service for domestic first-class flyers on routes over 1,500 miles and on hub-to-hub flights over 800 miles or two hours or longer. United’s seven domestic hubs are Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington Dulles (IAD).  All meals will be served individually wrapped on one tray.

Related: United’s bringing back plated meal service in domestic first class

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

On premium transcontinental flights, such as between Los Angeles (LAX) and Newark (EWR), as well as long Hawaii flights (those over six hours), economy and economy plus passengers receive the “all-in-one” snack bag. Premium cabin passengers receive a prepackaged hot meal, ice cream and a packaged snack for pre-arrival.

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.

Preorder meals and food for purchase are currently not available, except for Kosher meals on the Newark to Tel Aviv route.

United buy-on-board options

United has resumed onboard snack, beer and wine sales on select flights. These include flights departing from Denver (DEN) to one of the following nine cities: Boston (BOS), Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Honolulu (HNL), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Washington-Dulles (IAD) and Washington-National (DCA).

The airline also recently launched buy-on-board options for economy-class passengers on all Hawaii flights over six hours, as well as premium transcontinental routes.

Buy-on-board options include $10 snack boxes, an assortment of $4 to $5 individually wrapped snacks, $8 beers and $9 half-bottles of wines. Top-tier Premier 1K and invite-only Global Services members seated in coach receive a complimentary snack box and alcoholic drink, subject to availability.

Related: United’s inflight food and beverage offerings are getting a makeover

You can head to united.com or check the menu in the United mobile app to see what’s available on your flight. You’ll need to save a payment method on your United account for contactless payments onboard.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Bonus: Air Canada

Air Canada initially made some drastic in-flight service cuts but has since relaunched many service elements.

For long-haul international flights:

  • Passengers will get prepackaged meal boxes, including an entree crafted by one of the airline’s celebrity chef partners, salad, dessert and packaged bread. In Signature Class (long-haul business class), the entree will be hot, whereas the entree will be cold in economy and premium economy.
  • There will be a packaged cold, light refreshment served prior to landing in all cabins, as well as a mid-flight cold sandwich and snack on longer flights.
  • Menus will be available in advance via the airline’s app and website.
  • Bar service will include bottled water, Perrier, Lavazza coffee, black tea, a limited range of soft drinks, beer and individual-sized bottles of red, white, and Bottega sparkling wine.
  • Bedding and amenity kits will be available

For North America flights:

  • Business-class passengers on flights over 2 hours will get prepackaged cold meal boxes crafted by Chef Antonio Park, as well as a snack prior to landing
  • Premium economy passengers on flights over 2 hours will get a complimentary meal box, including a preselected meal and snack item from the Air Canada Bistro
  • For flights over 2 hours, bar service will include bottled water, Perrier, Lavazza coffee and black tea and a limited range of soft drinks. Alcoholic beverages will only be available in premium cabins.
  • For flights under 2 hours, a complimentary water bottle service will be available in all cabins
  • Meals will only be available to economy class passengers on flights over 2 hours and must be pre-purchased online
  • All passengers will get a customer care kit containing a mask, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, water bottle, a headset and a snack after boarding on all flights
  • Bedding will be available for those in Signature Class

Bottom line

The inflight service cuts due to the pandemic were significant, but it’s promising to see that airlines are already beginning to phase back in at least some 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 courtesy of Alaska Airlines.

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