Continental begins the Food4Sale era


Making good on a promise from March, today marks the end of “meals at mealtime” on Continental Airlines and the beginning of Food4Sale (F4S) on-board. The new program includes a range of offerings, depending on flight length and market. There are only three domestic routes still offering complimentary meals, for example. The company expects to realize an annual savings of $35MM from this change.

Markets

Since the original announcement there has been plenty of speculation about which routes would be affected. Most uncertain were the transcon flights from Newark as they were on the cusp of the announced flight duration threshold. The most recent Monthly Operational Update publication put that discussion to rest, noting that the following markets would be F4S:

  • Domestic
  • Canada
  • Transcon
  • Hawaii (LAX, SNA – OGG, HNL
  • Latin/Caribbean Leisure
  • Caribbean Business Hybrid (BQN, LIR, SJU)

At the same time, the publication also specifies the routes that will have complimentary meals:

..[F]irst class, BusinessFirst, Hawaii (IAH, EWR – HNL), Latin/Caribbean Business (including BJX, GDL) and Domestic/Leisure routes over 6.5 hours (i.e. IAH – ANC).

Food options

The catered options will depend on the flight duration (actual scheduled flight time, not the numbers on the timetable) with four main categories.

  • On the shortest flights – less than 2.5 hours and designated “P” in the meal details – there will be no F4S service. There may be premium drinks available for purchase and maybe not, depending on if the flight was catered for such. These flights will also have Biscoff cookies at breakfast if longer than 2 hours and pretzels if longer than 1.5 hours at lunch and dinner times.
  • Flights blocked between 2.5 and 3.5 hours – designated “G” in the meal details – there will be the additional option of packaged snacks for purchase. These options include potato chips, hummus dip, beef jerky and combo packs similar to those served on other BoB airlines. These flights will also be catered with premium beverages for sale.
  • Flights between 3.5 and 6.5 hours – designated as “F” – will have the aforementioned snacks plus meal options. At breakfast this includes a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich. Later in the day choices include a fruit & cheese plate, grilled chicken spinach salad, cheeseburger and Asian noodle salad. It should be noted that the spinach/chicken salad is served with the chicken in a separate internal pack so it is a decent vegetarian option for passengers of that persuasion.
  • Flights over 6.5 hours will have complimentary meals as noted above.

Also of note is that the meal options will only be catered at EWR, IAH, CLE, HNL and OGG. This opens up the potential for flights to sell out on the outbound portion of a return trip, leaving no options for passengers on the second flight. It remains to be seen how common such sell-out situations are.

Comps and refunds

It is best to not expect either comps nor refunds from the F4S products. That way customers will not be disappointed. The only passengers entitled to complimentary meals are unaccompanied minors documented on the flight manifest. Flight attendants have been explicitly instructed to not provide comps to any other passengers:

Comping F4S is only permitted for [unaccompanied minors]. F4S cannot be comped for anyone, including pass riders, deadheaders, dissatisfied customers, first class customers or delays.

Similarly, refunds are not going to be particularly common:

Refunds are only allowed on Fresh Food items for extraordinary circumstances due to product defect. Circumstances could include moldy bread or a foreign object.

Finally, do not expect to redeem Continental Currency coupons for the F4S program. Coupons will remain only acceptable for “liquor, specialty beverages and headsets.”

Wrapping up…

In many ways the switch from meals at mealtimes to F4S was  foregone conclusion years ago. Still, a bit sad to have the last airline in the USA offering free meals in coach finally pull them. At least there are hot options that appear a bit more substantial than just packaged snack box junk on many flights.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

3 Comments

  1. Actually, the fresh food menu items (options available after 3.5 hours) are off loaded at every station and new new fresh food inventory is catered at a percentage based on passenger load. A La Carte items (all menu inventory labeled as snacks and are shelf stable) are catered only at major hub stations.

  2. The “meal” options don’t sound more substantial thank what other airlines offer. I’ve had a sandwich on US that probably can compete with the cheeseburger on CO (unless that happens to be a whopper meal with large fries), and I can’t imagine that the salads are significantly bigger than, say, UA’s salads.

    So F passengers who don’t like the choice (if any) of F food don’t get the option of substituting a free BoB meal from coach? UA seems to offer that.

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