Staying fed under new in-flight food & beverage restrictions

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Whether before or during a flight, knowing when you will be able to grab a bite to eat while traveling for business is critical. After the often mad dash through airport security, tracking down your gate, boarding and taking off, the flight itself is usually the first opportunity travelers have to catch their breath, hydrate and refuel. However, new restrictions produced by COVID-19 have made eating in the airport and onboard more difficult, and travelers should get used to either prepping food or having a meal plan prior to heading to the airport.

How to Prepare

There is a standard narrative among airlines, and many are coming together to say the same thing – bring your own food and beverages. TSA guidelines provide travelers with an overview of allowable food items that can be carried through security. It’s important to note that the final decision rests with TSA officers on whether an item is allowed through a security checkpoint. Please be sure to monitor TSA guidelines for ongoing changes.

Notable TSA Food Policies

Notable TSA Food Policies

  • When going through security, food items need to be removed from carry-on bags and placed in the bin for screening. It is recommended to pack these items in a separate clear bag to avoid unnecessary handling when moving through security.
  • Solid food items (not liquids or gels) can be transported in either your carry-on or checked bags. Liquid or gel food items larger than 3.4 oz are not allowed in carry-on bags.
  • Dry cereal is permitted, but canned food falls under the liquids category and is restricted.
  • Large bottles or drinks are still not allowed. You may bring water if it is less than 3.4oz/100 ml.
  • Travelers are allowed to bring mini bottles of alcohol through security, but the 3-1-1 rule for liquids is still in effect, which means that all of your liquids have to fit into a single quart-sized bag.

A number of airport concessions remain closed at this time so you may not be able to rely on your usual grab n’ go spots once past security. If you want to save yourself the hassle of trying to find food in the airport, packing healthy dry food snacks such as granola bars, beef jerky, multigrain crackers, nuts, trail mix or dried fruit would be the most manageable solution. Pre-cut, well-packaged fruit such as apples or oranges that you do not have to cut in the air is also a good option. If you can, try to purchase a larger bottle of water in the airport after you exit security and take this with you on the plane.

North American carriers' modified catering services

Below is a complete listing of the modified catering services for major North American based airlines. Please note that although you may be allowed to bring a small quantity of alcohol through security, FAA regulations prohibit passengers from drinking alcohol on the aircraft unless it is served by the air carrier.

American Airlines

  • Food and drink service in the Main Cabin will be limited. On some longer flights, snack bags will be available. Passengers can bring their own snacks and soft drinks on board.
  • The airline has implemented additional cleaning and sanitation procedures in catering kitchens, including additional sanitation of food prep areas, carts, and catering vehicles.

Air Canada

Air Canada has a different series of available services, depending on your passenger status. Shortly after boarding, all travelers receive a Customer Care Kit containing a mask, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, water bottle, a headset, and a snack.

  • For Air Canada Signature Class International, Signature North America, and North America Business Class, flights over 2 hours passengers will receive a pre-packaged meal box with a hot main course, as well as a mid-flight snack and bar service.
  • For flights under 2 hours, a complimentary water bottle service will be available. Meal and bar service will not be offered.
  • Customers who pre-purchased a meal online, or who purchased a Latitude fare, will receive a meal box with a preselected meal and snack item from the Air Canada Bistro.
  • Flights departing North America will have pre-packaged cold meal boxes distributed, and a mid-flight cold sandwich will be served on select flights.

Delta Air Lines

Delta has pared down onboard food and beverage options to reduce physical touchpoints between customers and employees. Travelers are welcome to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages onboard.

  • All passengers will be able to enjoy a snack selection.
  • Beverages will be limited to individual 8.5 oz bottled water only in all cabins.
  • On flights over 500 miles, Delta Comfort+ and First Class customers will receive complimentary beer and wine service as well as individually packaged Flight Fuel boxes.
  • No alcohol, plastic cups, or ice are available in the Main Cabin at this time.
  • Meal pre-select, and special meal service is temporarily suspended.
  • Onboard service across all long-haul international flights on Delta One, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin include only a pre-departure beverage of individual bottled water, choice of entrée, bread, and dessert selection, and a full selection of beverage offerings, including beer, spirits, and a limited selection of wine for eligible seats.

Southwest Airlines

  • Only serving water and snack mix on flights more than 250 miles in length, when available, and straws are available upon request.
  • Customers can bring their own non-alcoholic beverages onboard. 

United

  • Passengers can expect a reduction of contact between flight attendants and customers during snack and beverage services. United has moved to primarily pre-packaged foods and sealed beverages. Pre-ordered meals and food for purchase are not currently available.

Airlines are taking more precautions than ever before to ensure the health and safety of each traveler. New deep cleaning procedures are frequently being utilized on high-touch surfaces such as armrests, seat belts, tray tables, overhead controls, light buttons, and door handles. Many airlines are also instilling High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters to help generate clean air. There is no foreseen disruption to other widely enjoyed plane features such as in-flight movies and wifi, so those who are planning to use their flight time to relax or catch-up on some work should be able to do so without interruption.

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