Airlines rethink inflight food.

 
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Bad airline food has long been a cliche. But as airports increasingly roll out higher-end eateries, airlines, too, are upping their game, at least for premium passengers.

Could free meals be ready for a comeback in economy class and in premium economy on North American flights, or will it continue to be buy-as-you-fly? One of the USA's biggest carriers is considering it for at least some cross-country flights.

U.S. carriers are revamping their domestic flight menus, enlisting renowned chefs, and harvesting fresher ingredients to present fliers with better options for a healthy meal.

Delta doubled the number of first class menu items it offers on short-haul domestic flights. Alaska Airlines' economy passengers can buy a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich as well as other bites that reflect the mult-ethnic flavor of its home home of Seattle.

United launched menu items such as duck confit ravioli along with its new premium service between Newark and San Francisco and Los Angeles. And American is incorporating seasonal veggies to cater to health conscious customers traveling on transcontinental flights.

In economy class, Delta Air Lines has started complimentary meal service on its transcontinental service between its hub at New York JFK and the California cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. It began Nov. 1 2016 as part of a trial that will run through Dec. 15 and could become permanent if it's well-received by fliers.

Morning passengers can choose between a honey maple breakfast sandwich or a "breakfast medley." Lunch options include a mesquite-smoked turkey combo with chips or a whole-grain veggie wrap.

When asked if Delta is would consider bringing back complimentary meals on multiple cross-country flights or just on its "Transcon service" routes between New York and California, Delta spokeswoman said "Right now, we are focusing on those (Transcon) markets for the testing, but we will plan to use the results and feedback from customers to determine next steps."

Some airlines are going in the opposite direction, dropping complimentary meals in an effort to meet the growing demand for low-cost airfare.

Others are taking advantage of the increased liquidity provided by the current increase in travel demand and drop in fuel cost to reinvest in the customer experience. In either case, efforts are intended to cater to passenger preference.

Canadian LCC WestJet has recently announced that hot meals will not be complimentary on its nine-hour...

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