Continental Airlines Puts an End to the Free Meal...in Coach

Admit it. You knew this day would come. People have been ragging on airline food for almost as long as people have been flying in planes.

And now they want you to pay for it.

Yes, Continental Airlines is introducing menu-based cuisine to the skies. Beginning October 12, if you're flying coach on a domestic flight for less than six-and-a-half hours and you'd like a little snack - guess what? You're buying.

The company, which officially merged with Chicago-based United Airlines last Friday, will launch a new menu featuring "a variety of high-quality, healthy food choices available for purchase in economy class on select flights." Apparently "select flights" is a blanket term for the paragraph of press release jargon below. To paraphrase in layman's terms: "Everyone but the cattle in coach will still be served the free meal. Relax, you people will still get your free mini Coca Colas. And yes, we will continue to charge outrageous prices for booze in tiny, innocuous bottles poured into shot glasses overflowing with ice."

From the press release:

"The new food-for-purchase menu will replace the complimentary meals and snacks currently served in the economy cabin on the select routes. Continental will continue to offer complimentary food in the economy cabin on all intercontinental and certain other international routes, and on long-haul domestic routes over six-and-a-half hours. Continental will also continue complimentary food service in the front cabin (First Class and BusinessFirst) on routes worldwide. Traditional non-alcoholic beverages will continue to be complimentary on every Continental flight."

Mealtime options include hot and cold items such as a Jimmy Dean sausage egg, and cheese (breakfast), an Asian-style noodle salad, or an Angus cheeseburger. Just a snack? How about a gourmet cheese and fresh fruit plate or a chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick? Prices range from $1.50 for Pringles Original Potato Crisps to $8.25 for the grilled chicken spinach salad. We were fully prepared to yell "Highway Robbery," but $8.25 is on par or below what you'd be paying at a casual dining restaurant for a chicken salad these days, even if $1.50 is a little steep for potato chips.

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