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United Airlines to charge up to $9 for snacks  Aug 21, 2008

UAL Corp.'s United Airlines will adjust its flight attendant staffing to the minimum level required by the Federal Aviation Administration and begin charging up to $9 for snacks on certain domestic and international flights in October, the latest sign of distress in the airline industry.

Rising fuel costs have forced airlines to cut staffing in most employee groups and charge for a range of services that were previously considered part of the ticket price, as well as identifying new ways to extract revenue from airline passengers.

Carriers, including United, also have been forced to slash projected capacity for this year. Critics say the airlines risk making customers feel "nickel and dimed," but the companies say that the new charges are needed.

In a memo sent to flight attendants on Monday, United said it will no longer offer customers complimentary cookies and pretzels on certain flights and will expand its selection of snacks for purchase on flights lasting about two to three hours, effective Sept. 2, following testing in select markets.

In the memo, United said, "In the wake of high fuel prices and a challenging economic environment, we must continue to examine every aspect of our business and find new ways to improve our day-to-day operations through efficiencies that still meet our customers' expectations."

In October, the airline will raise prices of its snack boxes on longer flights. Shelf-stable items will see prices rise a dollar to $6, while fresh items will go up to $9 from $7.

The changes won't apply to customers traveling in the first-class cabin. Those in business class will receive complimentary beverages but will pay for snack items.

The buy-on-board offering will also replace complimentary meals on most flights to Europe.

In June, US Airways Inc. became the first airline to charge for nonalcoholic beverages.

Several U.S. carriers, including United and US Airways Group Inc., have begun charging passengers a fee for the first checked bag on top of a higher fee for checking a second bag.

United Airlines to charge up to $9 for snacks

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