The changes, announced Thursday, mean that instead of potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and bananas, passengers on flights of at least 800 miles will get meals such as chicken and mozzarella on a tomato focaccia roll and turkey and Swiss cheese on a cranberry baguette.
"Customers shouldn't have to make sacrifices just because they are onboard an aircraft," says Todd Traynor-Corey, the airline's managing director of food design.
Dennis Cary, an airline consultant with ICF International, says meals alone won't drive passengers to one airline over another, but can help leave a better impression of a flight.
CEO Jeff Smisek has struggled to collect the same high airfares from business customers that other airline do, leading to pressure from Wall Street analysts.
"Business travelers, running from a meeting to catch an earlier flight, don't have the time stop and pick up food along the way," says Gary Leff, co-founder of online frequent flier discussion site MilePoint.