Delta Airlines will start offering free meals on several cross-country routes, such as a fruit and cheese plate. (Delta )

It started with the snacks. In December, Delta replaced its generic bags of peanuts and pretzels with finer crunches and chews, such as Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels, Squirrel Brand honey-roasted peanuts and NatureBox apple cinnamon yogurt bars. The next course will soon follow: free meals on a dozen cross-country routes.

The last time we saw gratis food — on any airline — that was larger than a half-ounce, we were scratching our heads over the iPad and Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Delta tested the service last year, and the people approved. On March 1, the carrier will start providing meals to main cabin passengers on flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Los Angeles or San Francisco. On April 24, it will expand to additional markets between the East (Washington, New York, Boston, Raleigh, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando) and West coasts (Portland, Seattle).

So, what’s coming out of the galley from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.? In the morning, travelers can choose from a honey maple breakfast sandwich, Luvo breakfast medley, or fruit and cheese plate. Later in the day, they can fill up on a mesquite-smoked turkey combo, Mediterranean whole-grain veggie wrap, or fruit and cheese platter. The airline will also change the offerings to incorporate seasonal and local ingredients and flavors. (Note: All of the dishes are cold, and many overlap with the for-purchase Flight Fuel menu.) On red-eyes, customers will awaken to a gift from the fairy foodmother — a breakfast bar. Passengers in Delta Comfort+, who enjoy extra legroom, receive an extra pinch of pampering with a pre-arrival snack basket; free beer, wine and spirits; and a mid-service Greek frozen yogurt bar (only on the JFK to/from LAX and SFO route).

The complimentary meals are part of the company’s multimillion-dollar plan to improve the customer experience. Since last summer, the airline has introduced new Flight Fuel options, including a non-GMO snack box; a free in-flight entertainment system called Delta Studio (available on select aircraft); and cozier blankets. First-class fliers receive a gray Westin Heavenly blanket, and coach passengers snuggle up in calming blue.

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