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airplane child drink trayPillows, headphones, meals, checked bags … these are just a few things that travelers used to get for free but currently have to pay for on most flights. And now there’s someone out there arguing that airlines should eliminate the free beverage and snack service as well.

John Nicholson at the Huffington Post writes, “Stop forcing that default complimentary soda and snack on your economy passengers on domestic flights. Most of us don’t want it, all of us can do without it and we all know you can’t really afford it.” He goes on to argue that we can easily live without a soda or a mini-bag of pretzels for a couple of hours on the ground, so why do we need them in the air? If we actually do want some refreshment, he says, we should be able to buy it at a reasonable price, rather than paying the airlines’ current inflated prices for anything more substantial than a handful of potato chips.

While I see his point, I’m not quite convinced. First off, does anyone really think the airlines would suddenly give us reasonably priced food options if they eliminated complimentary snacks? Call me crazy, but I think they’d just pocket the profit.

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And yes, most of us can live a few hours without eating, but in the ultra-arid environment of a plane, it’s nice to have that extra drink to help us stay hydrated, even on shorter flights. If you must take my snack away, at least let me still have some water for free!

Finally, well, let’s face it: flying is boring. Having the drink/snack service to look forward to is one thing that gets me through the hours. Especially since the airlines have taken just about everything else away.

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Do you think the airlines should eliminate the complimentary soda and snack? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

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22 Responses to “Airline Beverage Service: The Next Freebie to Go?”

  1. NANCY CAVALIN says:

    With all the cut backs we have experienced over the past few years in terms of service and extra service fees, NO, I don’t think they should take away a basic drink/beverage and food/snacks. Sheesh!!!!!
    It will be the smart airlines that keep this service, that will get my business.

  2. Gary Rosendahl says:

    All you have to do is look at where this guy works, Huffington Post… First of all I have never seen a flight attendant “force” any passenger to take a complimentary soda or snack. I have always been asked if I desired a drink or a snack. If Mr. Nicholson is offended by a FA asking him if he desires a drink or a snack, I suggest that he find other transportation.

    • Kim says:

      Gary Rosendahl speaks for many of us. Thank you!
      Also, I cannot take my own water through security anymore and don’t want to release my carry on and child in order to buy some on the way to the gate. Not to mention that it’s way overpriced. Finally, John with the Huff Post must not fly much since most of us DO want it and none of us should do without it, as all professionals advise those flying to INCREASE their fluids!

  3. vagabondginger says:

    Instead of the annoying service carts being in the aisles, why not just hand each passenger a free bottle of water when they are boarding or come down the aisle without the cart and hand them out. If people need to have something to snack on they should bring it with them. I am referring to flights of 3 hours or less. Of course longer flights from coast to coast or international still would need the beverage and meal service. If on a longer flight you need more water another bottle could be requested and yes, it should be free. I am a firm believer in keeping it simple and keeping the aisles as cart free as possible.

    • Sue says:

      Totally agree with this and have suggested it for years. On short flights, the whole cart service thing is ridiculous and blocks the aisle for what most people DO need to take care every few hours, and that’s a bathroom visit!

      As for snacks, at one time Continental provided a bagged lunch that you picked up from a cart as you boarded the plane–it was a simple sandwich and chips, but if you wanted it, you grabbed one and if you didn’t you just got on the plane. Easy, peasy.

      Personally, I never get on a flight without my own water and snacks. Not because I need to eat during a short flight, but if you’ve ever been stranded on a tarmac or re-routed so that a 2 hour flight turns into 6, you WILL get hungry and thirsty and the airline won’t have provisions for you anyway. Why rely on them?

  4. Sdladi says:

    Pretty soon passengers will be paying for the wings, the wheels, the pilot’s communicaiton gear, water in the restrooms, entry to the restrooms, seating cushions (seat and back), armrests, overhead bins…………where will this end. Just when did the US become a ‘nickel and dime society’?? Consumers, time to say ‘enough is enough’!!

  5. Lee says:

    I would like the airlines to continue with free beverages. I find the air to be so dry on airplanes and greatly appreciate having the chance to drink something as frequently as possible.


    I often take the “first flight of the day” and the airlines hot cup of
    coffee is very welcome. Please don’t discontinue.

  7. C. Driskill says:

    I agree about how annoying it is to have the food carts blocking the aisles. I feel claustrophobic in an airplane enough without that. It seems like I always have to use the restroom when the aisles are blocked and this is not fun! I like the idea of giving out free bottles of drinking water and travelers providing their own snacks.

    Re: the international flights providing meals, which often are not tasty. It always seems to take forever for them to remove the debris once we’ve finished our meals. It’s uncomfortable enough sitting in cramped spaces without having to hold a tray full of trash on our laps for such a long, long time. I would be happier with a bag containing a sandwich, chips, cookies, and water that we can place back in the bag once we’re done. And, again, the bottled water given us at the door would suffice as a beverage.

  8. Allan MacLaren says:

    John, take the bus, take the train, drive or walk. Otherwise find something worthwhile to write about.

  9. Jean says:

    Those who do not want the snack there is a little word call NO that can be used.

  10. kerandder says:

    Absolutely not!!! It seems like the airlines are doing everything to make the passengers pay more and be more uncomfortable. Wouldn’t they want to prevent dehydration by offering a drink or provide a cup of coffee for people to “relax and enjoy the flight”? They can bring the drinks out on trays instead of the service carts, as some airlines do. Why don’t they instead put in seats that don’t recline? That would get my vote!

  11. Gloria says:

    Why should we as passengers have to do without… there are times you are really wanting something to drink and it’s nice to be able to get it without having to dig thru your pockets or dig for your bag… it your not interested it taking the drink or prezels than don’t… No one forces you to take it. This is the last perk you can still get for free in coach… gives us a break… even if they stop serving the free drinks.. and snacks.. you will not see any reduction in fares..

  12. Brigitte says:

    Traveling to Europe with British Airways in 2009, I did not realize they serve meals because it did not say so anywhere, and at that time other airlines were offering meals for a fee, so I packed meals and snacks for all of us. Food prices at airports are high and it’s tempting to buy food I wouldn’t buy at home. With the restrictions on carryon size and weight, our food took up a lot of my carry-on weight and space that I could have used for something else if I had known we’d be served a meal.

    Airplane air is dry, and all travel health advice includes drinking a lot of WATER. Since I can only take 100 ml bottles through security, I need to pay premium prices for water bottles. I appreciate the water the airline offers. Since my hands are generally occupied at boarding I would prefer a bottle to be passed out once I have taken my seat. Bottled water is a good idea because I can leave my tray tabel up and can sip it as slowly as I want to.

    Sometimes I’ve been REALLY cold and have appreciated a hot drink. My family has always appreciated the pretzels or cookies. We’d like the airlines to continue offering free food and drinks. I also can’t imagine them offering this at reasonable prices if they drop their ticket prices.

  13. Sam says:

    The airlines should continue to serve drinks, especially water since we can’t bring our own water to the airport and have to buy bottled water for ridiculously high prices if we want water. I do bring an empty water and fill it up at the water fountain when I remember. We are paying enough for the flight, drinks (and snacks) are not too much to ask. I also like the idea of being handed a bottle of water. I like that idea better than a cup of water. I can drink the bottled water at my leisure.

  14. Cheryl says:

    NO. Absolutely not. The fact you cant carry in a drink past TSA and the hold ups while they search handicapped 3yr olds, a lot of us dont have time to stand in LONG LONG LONG lines while quota hired workers in the food court barely do their jobs, to be able to carry one on. Its the only thing the airlines do now.

  15. Gracie says:

    Oh – another member of the HuffPost suggesting that EVERYONE do without because they deem it unnecessary.

    I agree with the poster who said he should take another form of transport if it bothers him so much. I like my diet coke, my pretzels, and my rum (which I pay for, of course).

  16. Bonny says:

    I agree with Cheryl, they should keep the free drink. I appreciate the drink it gets so dry in the cabins, that your throat dries out so you get a tickly cough. I also like the option to have a snack. With rushing to the airport 2 hrs early for check in, you miss meal times. They could do away with the clunky cart if the drinks were cold and you got the whole can, instead of half/w a cup of ice.

  17. Kent says:

    If I can’t bring my water or soda from home, then I want the airline to provide it. It’s crazy to spend $8 for a bag of chips and water/soda from the airport. It’s tough enough for me to pay for the ever increasing rates of airline fares and to worry about spending more money for some comfort food???

    If they can find a way to screen beverages that I bring from home, then I say they can get rid of beverage and snack service but until then – it won’t fly with me (pun intended)

  18. Ravindra says:

    I do not know why one should insist that the airlines do not offer free drinks or food.
    If anyone has anything against the practice, he can decline the soda or snacks or anything else.
    The airlines do not thrust the soda down any ones throat.
    I think this is elementary and does not call for any discussions/opinions.

  19. reurks says:

    If the airlines stop giving out free liquids, there will be an increase in DVT (deep vein thrombosis, i.e. blood clots) incidents, especially in the elderly population.
    Airlines could give up the snacks, but they need to at least pass out bottles of water (the longer the flight, the bigger the bottle) at the beginning of the flight. If they stop handing out free fluids and flyers have DVT, strokes as a result, the lawyers will be smiling all the way to the bank.
    I am one who chokes at buying water at airport prices.

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