Free snacks coming back on American and United

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Among the amenities that American Airlines will offer is free snacks: Pretzels and Biscoff cookies. The airline also plans to add more movies and television shows to its planes with in-seat screens.

You will still have to pay to check a bag, or get a pillow, a blanket, or a seat with extra legroom.

But in a throwback to an earlier era, American and United Airlines are bringing back free snacks in the economy cabin. The perks all but disappeared after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 2008 recession.

American, Philadelphia's largest carrier, announced Monday it will offer coach passengers crunchy Biscoff-brand cookies and pretzels, starting this month, on coast-to-coast flights between New York and Miami and California, and in April on all U.S. flights.

United on Monday began offering its economy travelers a complimentary cinnamon- and caramel-scented waffle treat, called a Stroopwafel, on flights leaving before 9:45 a.m., and a choice of two snack mixes on flights departing after 9:45.

United said the waffles "may be enjoyed straight out of the package, or warmed on top of a cup of coffee or tea to soften the waffle and melt the caramel filling."

Passengers in coach will still be able to purchase meals, the carriers said.

In May, American passengers flying between Dallas and Hawaii will be offered a complimentary meal in the coach cabin.

American also said it was expanding free entertainment offerings to 40 movies, 60 TV shows, and 300 music albums on domestic flights equipped with in-seat TV screens.

Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines continued to offer complimentary snacks even after the airline industry weathered bankruptcies in the mid-2000s and a global recession.

"The airlines are now competing beyond price," said Brett Snyder, author of CrankyFlier.com, an airline-industry blog. "They are all now trying to compete with each other, and make sure they are offering products that people are willing to choose."

Hawaiian Airlines, based in Honolulu, is the only U.S. carrier to still offer a free meal in coach, Snyder said. "Hawaiian says it's a cultural thing, that when people come into your home, you offer them food," he said. "Hawaiian views food as an important symbol of their welcoming people.

"So the other airlines are seeing that there is some value in doing that as well, I guess."

lloyd@phillynews.com

215-854-2831 @LoydLinda

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