In an age where airline passengers have come to expect mediocre airplane eats and in-flight meals that make your average microwave dinner look gourmet, some carriers have begun to step up to the plate with offerings like local craft beers and even organic farm-to-table menus.
Traveling by air is never a walk in the park; this much is true and readily accepted by any wayfarer planning to leave the comforts of home and venture out into the world beyond their respective local communities. Even with our modern resources that make it quick and easy to book a flight - parking, customs, crowds, luggage, check-in, delays, and lay-overs are just a few of the challenges faced by the modern airplane passenger. These, for the most part, are taken in stride and accepted as worth the fruitful rewards long-distance travel can bear. But be it for business, pleasure, or a little bit of both, one entrusts an airline with their comfort and well-being once they are in the sky and a decent bite to eat is considered standard by any culture's consideration of hospitality. It seems, though, that the reality of airborne fare has come to epitomize a capstone of low expectations and disappointment, from snacks (or lack thereof) on short domestic flights to suppers on longer intercontinental jaunts.
Some are Expanding Menu Options & Hiring Celebrity Chefs
Airlines have been acutely aware of the criticism and lack of satisfaction their in-flight meals have prompted and several companies have been attempting to address the problem for some time. Everything from expanded menu choices to celebrity chefs have been employed with varying success, but few of these endeavors have had a substantial positive impact on the industry. Emirates Air Lines, for example, has been featuring private personal chefs for first class travelers on longer international flights; the problem with this approach to providing tasty eatables? A one-way first class flight on Emirates Air Lines can carry up to a 5-digit price tag (yes, that's in USD) and the average globetrotter doesn't even consider spending that kind of money on an entire trip altogether, especially with access to the guaranteed best rates in the industry on everything from traditional cars to spacious van rentals and everything in between!
...While Others are Missing the Mark Completely
Elite personal chefs aside, the expansion of menu choices on predominantly economy and business class airlines like Jetblue and Virgin, although well-intentioned, have only complicated the already overburdened job of preparing and serving meals on an aircraft with limited space and resources for stewards and stewardesses. Options are commonly sold out or improperly cooked and airline patrons who aren't willing or able to shell out big bucks are left feeling spurned and vulnerable as the captive audience that they are at 10,000 feet.
In a totally backwards concept aimed at making use of leftover or excess meals after a flight is over one company, "Air Food One", has begun offering home delivery of the very same meals one might find on a long-distance flight. Although sound in theory with stated goals in waste reduction and an ambitious pursuit of the growing delivered-to-your-door meals market, Air Food One comes off as more of a stale joke than a promising business enterprise. Slogans like "inspired by airline food" cue memories of rubbery meats, pitiful peanut packets, and that kid in the aisle behind you who wouldn't stop kicking your seat. Although Air Food One spokesmen claim that the entrées will be based off of German airline Lufthansa's menu and, apparently, of a higher quality and freshness than in-flight fare served on American carriers, the business venture is lofty at best and far from insightful or visionary.
Sustainable and Satisfying Solutions
Despite a rash of failures and flukes in undertakings to improve the quality of airline food some attempts have been met with exigent success. Following suit with popular trends in earthbound eateries, Delta Air Lines has begun a program of 100% locally sourced farm-to-table dishes available on select outbound international flights from Atlanta. Although currently small in scope, the project has thus far received rave reviews and serves as a laudable precedent for a market rife with inadequacy. Featured dishes require little to no heating or cooking, ingredients are local and freshly prepared on the ground, and the fastidious attention to optimizing meals for a specific locale allows more opportunity for successful improvement rather than setting unrealistic goals to revamp the entire airline food industry at large.
A focus on specific locales and domestic fare seems to be a prevailing trend in the business of airplane food. While the knee-jerk reaction to industry-wide dissatisfaction may be to redress or rebuild the entire trade as a whole, a majority of the real achievements made can be found on a smaller scale. Various airlines around the globe now offer domestic craft beers from respective flight's destinations and origins and, although modest on the whole, the proffers have attracted drastically improved reviews and reactions from clients in a domain where harsh criticism is the norm. In an industry that has been aggressively seeking improvement and acceptance in vain, the real solution for the airplane food market seems to be a focus towards what's already good on the ground and an insistence upon appreciating the local cultures én route.