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United reverses decision to charge for food on transatlantic flights

United Airlines has decided to axe tests of charging passengers in economy class for meals on certain transatlantic flights after the carrier received negative feedback from its customers.

Last month United said it intended to eliminate complimentary food on flights beginning 2 September, but would offer buy-on-board products to customers, with business class passengers still receiving complimentary drinks and given buy-on-board options for a particular flight.

United attempted to institute those changes to reduce costs as it posted a $2.7 billion loss during the second quarter and could see a $3.5 billion rise in its fuel bill during 2008.

In a letter to customers today United praised the "direct, candid feedback" on the tests, explaining it has decided not to move forward and will continue to offer complimentary hot meals on those transatlantic flights tagged for the testing.

The carrier on 1 October plans to test complimentary options for United Business customers on three-cabin aircraft used in domestic service representing 16 daily flights. Passengers on those flights will receive sandwiches, salads, breakfast, snack boxes or snacks, depending on the length of flight time and departure, United explains.

"We will evaluate the results and determine next steps by the end of the year," United says.

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