Delta (DAL) has gone back to the age when it offered free meals on long flights, for everyone. On a typical flight from JFK outside New York City to LAX in Los Angeles. that means feeding 168 people, on a Boeing (BA) 757.
Some of the people would get free meals anyway. Business Class seats 16 people who are seating on seats which turn into beds. The 46 people in Delta Comfort, a sort of special set of seats between Business and the Main Cabin would get a free meal, too. They pay a premium for largest seats and other upgrades.
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All of this math means that Delta is only adding 108 free meals on the JFK to LAX flight, which probably does not add much to the costs added by the carrier.
Delta trumpeted the new service:
Delta is introducing complimentary meals on some of its longest domestic flights, including transcontinental routes between New York’s JFK and Los Angeles/San Francisco. The airline will be the only U.S. carrier to offer complimentary fresh meals from nose to tail on select coast-to-coast routes.
Presumably Delta believes that the offer will get people to move their flights from other airlines. Whether the new menu is enough depends to some extent on people's tastes for a small array of meals:
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Delta’s new meal program will feature a variety of options for customers depending on the time of day of their flight. In the morning, customers will have the option to choose between a Honey Maple Breakfast Sandwich, Luvo Breakfast Medley or fruit and cheese plate. During the day, customers will be able to select from a Mesquite-Smoked Turkey Combo, Luvo Mediterranean Whole Grain Veggie Wrap, or fruit and cheese plate. For overnight flights, customers will be offered a breakfast bar during the pre-arrival beverage service.
The meals probably only cost Delta a few dollars each, so one added customer may cover the entire cost.