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Eat before flying coach to Europe

August 24, 2008|From Times Wire Reports

United Airlines, struggling to curb losses from record fuel prices, will become the first U.S. carrier to stop serving free meals in the coach cabin of some overseas flights.

Instead, the second-largest U.S. carrier will offer food that can be purchased aboard trips to Europe from Washington's Dulles International Airport starting Oct. 1, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said.

The change expands the list of formerly complimentary services airlines are charging for as they combat a 52% rise in the price of jet fuel during the last year. United parent UAL Corp., with an estimated total net loss of $3.3 billion in the last three quarters, is eliminating 7,000 jobs and parking 100 aircraft to cut operating costs.

"International flights have historically been sacrosanct from these kinds of charges," said David Stempler, president of Air Travelers Assn., a passenger advocacy group. "This is the new era of a fee for every service. We should get used to it."

United won't eliminate free coach meals on travel from Dulles to Kuwait because the flight is about 12 hours instead of the typical eight to nine hours to Europe, Urbanski said.

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