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Delta and United Are Bringing Back the Sweets, But There’s a Screw

(CNN) — Here’s some “hard news” for premium travelers whose New Year’s resolution was to eat healthier: Dessert is back.

After a pandemic pause, signature treats are returning to premium cabins on United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

Offerings include Delta’s Dessert Cart and United’s Sunday Cart. They’re only available on international flights in the highest class of service—among other swanky amenities like lie-flat seats and plush premium bedding.

United’s Sunday cart is the cherry on top of its Polaris Business Class on long-haul international flights. The airline said the service is currently available on some flights from San Francisco and will expand in February.

Delta’s “Treat of Treats” also includes ice cream — and “toppings like whipped cream, cookie crumble, fruit compote and chocolate chips.”

The benefit of some international flights in the upscale Delta One cabin, other delicious options include cake, cheese, and fruit.

changing travel patterns

US airlines shut down various services during the pandemic – cutting costs when planes were flying at a financial loss and exposing flight attendants to less-than-personal interactions.

For example, United stated that the sundae cart was replaced with packaged, single-serve ice cream.

But even as passengers have returned to domestic flights, airlines are still working to get passengers back on international routes. International travel in 2020 was down 23% from 2019’s pre-pandemic level — a difference of 58 million passengers — according to government data compiled by the air carrier industry group Airlines for America.

Figures from the group show corporate travel – paid for by companies that can spend several thousand dollars for a first-class foreign seat – is down but rising.

United said selling international seats is especially challenging in its premium cabins, where ice cream carts are ready to roll. But the return of corporate travelers will help because “that’s how we fill the front of the plane.”

“Polaris isn’t back where we want it yet,” Andrew Nocella, United’s chief commercial officer, told investors on a call this month.

“I am confident that when we end 2023, we will be able to report that Polaris paid load factor and paid yield are much closer to the 2019 baseline than in 2022,” he said.

Delta, meanwhile, is expanding its premium seating and plans to upgrade 84% of its large international planes this summer.

CEO Ed Bastian told investors on his own call this month to expect more Delta trans-Atlantic capacity than will fly in 2019. The airline also said it sold more dollars worth of premium seats in December 2022 than in December 2019.

And it was before Delta rolled out espresso martinis and chocolate chip cookies.