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Continental Airlines to charge for food

Attention coach passengers. Continental Airlines, which used to boast about giving away free hamburgers and barbecue while rivals passed out tiny bags of pretzels, is changing its tune on food.

The airline plans to launch a food-for-sale program in the fall that mirrors what other carriers are already doing. Menu choices and prices will be disclosed later.

Currently, Continental flights lasting less than two hours usually have a free beverage service with a small snack. Flights of two to three hours offer a small sandwich roll, or a muffin in the morning. Flights over three hours currently offer a free hot sandwich or other hot meal, or cereal in the morning.

Under the new plan, Continental passengers on some international routes, on domestic flights longer than six hours and those who sit in first or business class on routes worldwide will continue to get free food. Snacks such as pretzels and nonalcoholic drinks will still be free for all.

A spokesman said Monday that the Houston-based airline expects a $35 million annual benefit from cost savings and added revenue.

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