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By Kerry Close
August 26, 2016
Some airlines are bringing back free food and streaming services.
Some airlines are bringing back free food and streaming services.
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Airline travelers, you may have a reason to celebrate: Your next flight may include streaming TV or even a cocktail on the house.

After years of absence, free meals and alcohol—as well as complimentary access to in-flight entertainment—are returning to some flights, Bloomberg reported.

American Airlines and Delta, on their longest routes to Hawaii, have reinstated free meals and alcoholic drinks this year. American is also offering economy class passengers free access to its entire lineup of in-flight entertainment.

The culinary offerings are also improving: United is touting a premium Italian coffee from Illy, a craft beer from brewer Goose Island, Glenfarclas premium single-malt scotch, and a Dutch snack called a stroopwafel (accompanied by a video on how to eat it).

The perks aren’t limited to food and drink. In April, Delta stopped charging a fee for tickets purchased over the phone or at the airport. American will refund money on nonrefundable boarding passes if the company finds the reason compelling enough.

Airlines are able to offer these upgrades because they’re riding a wave of profitability. The 10 largest U.S. carriers collectively brought in $12 billion in profit in the first half of the year—700 million more than in the same period last year, per data from industry trade group Airlines for America.

Airlines’ bottom lines have been bolstered in part due to low fuel costs. That’s helped bring down the costs of domestic airfare. The average price of a domestic round-trip flight is expected to run $216 this fall—down 14% from the same time in 2014, but up by about 1% from last year, according to Hopper.com.

The changes follow years of airlines’ efforts to increase profits through moves like decreasing legroom and charging for checked bags. Incidentally, American and Delta lead all U.S. airlines in baggage fees. In the first quarter of 2016, they had revenue of $262 million and $197 million, respectively, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

So while you’ll probably still be bumping knees against the seat in front of you, perhaps a glass of wine and a movie will make your flight more bearable.

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The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

EDIT POST