Monday, March 15, 2010

Continental: No More Free Lunch - Probably for the Best

Continental Airlines, which has made considerable marketing hay about the fact that they still served airline food for free, has decided to drop the practice.

Clever Continental advertising pieces like these will need to be re-worked a bit but free (airline) food can't be as big of a draw as other airline purchasing influencers such as price, schedule and frequent flyer program.

Back when other airlines began imposing baggage fees, Continental was among the last of the airlines (save Southwest of course) that opted to begin charging for checked baggage. We are told that Continental was looking for signs of share shift away from airlines that were adding baggage fees. Alas, no share shift was apparent so ultimately Continental decided to match the other mainline hub and spoke carriers and enjoy the revenue benefit.

Similarly, it has probably become impossible for Continental to show any share-shift (and resulting revenue gain) from continuing to serve food. In fact, they may have actually been at a disadvantage as some carriers have started to really sell some good food.

From recent first-hand experience, we can report that while free food on CO was nice, it was certainly nothing to write home about. In fact, some of the buy-on-board food has become so good (particularly on Delta) we'd actually prefer to pay a few extra bucks and actually get something that is fresh, healthy and tasty. Or not.

So, we'll see some costs come out and, hopefully, some nice ancillary revenue gains - Continental is projecting about $35M in improved revenue and cost savings - and that's a lot of sandwiches.


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