LET THEM EAT STROOPWAFELS Snacky days are here again

Posted on 02/04/2016

Maybe airlines have a conscience after all. Nah, perish the thought: A better description of American and United’s sudden burst of pretzel and cookie altruism is more likely the result of a guilt complex. The dots aren’t hard to connect: Following United’s example and just a few days after announcing a record fourth quarter net income of US $3.28 billion, American said it would be extending “free snacking” to all its coach passengers by April.

By the way, in case anyone other than United and American forgot, the dictionary definition of a “snack” is, “a light meal eaten in a casual manner.” At least Marie Antoinette offered the peasants cake! United’s snack is a ‘Stroopwafel’ which is described as, “a toasted waffle with caramel filling” – yum, just what your nutritionist ordered. On American meanwhile, it’s ‘Biscoff Cookies’ or ‘Mini Pretzels’. Come on chaps, couldn’t you at least stretch to the full sized version?

But what’s quite incredible about these moves is that it demonstrates how much these bozos just don’t get it. Here’s what Jimmy Samartzis, United’s vice president of food services had to say, “We’re refocusing on the big and little things that we know matter to our customers and shape how they feel about their travel experience. We’re bringing back complimentary snacks that are a nod to our global presence. They also add that extra level of service our employees will be proud to deliver and will make a big difference for our customers.” “A nod to our global presence” – “will make a big difference to our customers”. What the hell is he smoking? And how many United cabin crew members are going to be “proud to deliver” a caramel filled waffle: “Here’s your Stroopwafel sir – take it or leave it.” It’s really kind of sad. They had just got their passengers used to the fact that such “free” gourmet delights were a thing of the past. Everyone was becoming quite accepting of the new norm wherein (with a few exceptions like JetBlue and Virgin America) if you wanted snacks you had to pay for them. Like baggage fees and drinks, the a la carte model was settling in quite nicely but now, moves like this, just confuse the delicate status non-quo. Delta for instance is out-pretzeling its two major competitors this week by introducing “Free (there’s that word again) Luvo chicken and veggie wraps” to coach passengers on it’s trans-con services. This sure makes those mini pretzels look pretty stingy, so undoubtedly the other two will have to respond and, before you can say “chicken or beef in a dog dish” we could be right back to square one. If any more proof is needed that this is the thin end of the parmesan grilled chicken wedge, American has already said that in May it intends to start giving “free” meals to passengers travelling between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Hawaii. That's great if you’re flying that particular route, but why for instance aren’t Miami to San Francisco passengers getting the same treatment, it’s a five-hour flight. So what about every flight of over four hours, especially those that extend over a mealtime? Here we go again. At $30-a-barrel oil, the world looks very different and, instead of dropping fare levels and leaving the a la carte model intact, these kind of “Stroopwafel Initiatives” are probably seen as a happy compromise by airline CFO’s. They are sadly mistaken: When the price of jet fuel goes up again, as it surely will, they are simply setting themselves up for another round of passenger food fights when they remove the Stroopwafels, cookies and pretzels. Meanwhile from the perspective of passengers and stand-up comedians there is at least some good news. Just when they thought it was behind them they’ll have a whole new raft of airline food stories to complain about and poke fun at.