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A United Airlines Bistro on Board sandwich
A United Airlines Bistro on Board sandwich
An Air Asia X Pak Nasser's nasi lemak box
An Air Asia X Pak Nasser's nasi lemak box

In commercial aviation, buy on board (BoB) is a system where in-flight food or beverages are not included in the ticket price, but are either purchased on board, or ordered in advance as an optional extra during or after booking process.

United States

As the airline market in the United States became deregulated, airlines began to compete by price. Airline ticket prices began to decrease, and airlines began to charge extra for services that were once included in the airfare.[1]

Starting in 2003, many United States air carriers began eliminating free meal services in economy classes on North American flights and replacing them with buy on board services.[2][3] In the 2000s US Airways (now part of American Airlines) briefly charged for soft drinks, but then reversed course. By 2009, many US carriers had established buy on board as part of an à la carte pricing movement.[4] Around that year, US carriers began using celebrity-named and brand name products to make their buy on board products generate more revenue.[5] Continental Airlines, the last large United States carrier to offer free meals on all domestic flights,[6] announced in March 2010 that it would begin a buy on board program in fall 2010 and end many of its free meal programs on domestic flights.[7] Jeff Green of Businessweek described the end of Continental's program as an "end of an era."[8]

In the United States, passengers increasingly began to bring their own foods on board to avoid paying for buy on board.[9]

As of 2016, Hawaiian Airlines remains the last U.S. legacy airline to offer free meals on board, although all of its flights are to/from Hawaii.[10] Southwest Airlines is the only mainland U.S. airline without a buy-on-board program as of 2016.

Today, all three major U.S. airlines now offer free snacks in economy on board their flights, in addition to their buy-on-board menus.[11]


In Europe, the general increase in the number of tourists that fly, and deregulation which enabled low price carriers, has caused stiffer price competition. Low cost carriers, such as Ryanair, which charges for all food or drink, have forced traditional airlines to lower their costs. As of 2017 only 6 out of the 21 most popular airlines in Europe offered complimentary inflight food and drink. KLM, Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Air France, Alitalia and TAP Portugal all continued to offer free snacks and beverages on their short-haul flights.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Brancatelli, Joe. "What's Fair Is Fare." (Bizjournals). July 21, 2010. 1. Retrieved on September 28, 2010.
  2. ^ Alexander, Keith L. "Passengers find buy-on-board food hard to digest - Airlines are starting to feed fliers again." San Francisco Chronicle. Sunday March 27, 2005.
  3. ^ "Buy On-Board Meals?." The Early Show/CBS News. July 7, 2003.
  4. ^ Stellin, Susan. "Pros and cons of a la carte airfare pricing." CNN. Thursday February 19, 2009. Retrieved on February 19, 2009.
  5. ^ "Pie in the Sky? Upgrading Food in Coach." The Wall Street Journal. September 3, 2003. Retrieved on September 5, 2009.
  6. ^ Bennett, Andrea. "The lowdown on airline food." Travel+Leisure at CNN. Tuesday September 29, 2009. Retrieved on March 15, 2010.
  7. ^ Hunter, Marnie. "Continental cuts back on free food." CNN. March 15, 2010. Retrieved on March 15, 2010.
  8. ^ Green, Jeff. "Continental Ends Airline Era as Free Coach Meals Cut (Update3)." Businessweek. March 15, 2010. Retrieved on March 16, 2010.
  9. ^ Pawlowski, A. "Food fight: Meals are tricky in the sky." CNN. April 5, 2010. Retrieved on April 5, 2010.
  10. ^ "Dining and Drinks".
  11. ^ "Free snacks now back at all 3 big U.S. Airlines, even in coach".
  12. ^ Morris, Hugh (7 March 2017). "Revealed: The airline that charges most for in-flight food and drink". The Telegraph.