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will you miss airline food?

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  • muhlyssa Sep 21, 2001 01:40 PM
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American, TWA to end meal service
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Sept. 20, 2001 | FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) --
American Airlines and Trans World Airlines said Thursday they would stop serving meals in the main cabin on most domestic flights by Nov. 1.

The food cutback came one day after the airlines' parent company, Fort Worth-based AMR Corp., said it would lay off at least 20,000 workers, more than 14 percent of its work force.

American and TWA said eliminating meals was a cost-cutting step made necessary by a falloff in travel business since terrorists hijacked and crashed four jetliners last week.

"We simply cannot ignore the new operating realities that have risen from last week's tragic events," said Mike Gunn, American's executive vice president of marketing and planning.

The end of most meal service also should help keep flights on schedule, the airlines said. Among new security measures are tougher inspection of food vendors that have access to planes.

American, the world's largest carrier, said its first-class customers would continue to get meals except on flights under two hours. But coach passengers would get meals only on coast-to-coast flights that have a first-class section, it said.

Meals would also be served on international flights that have first-class, business and coach seating, the airline said. American said it would continue to serve beverages and snacks on all flights.

Airlines are struggling with a loss of business since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and near Washington. The nation's aviation system was grounded for two days, and passenger counts have been light since then.

Major carriers, anticipating a lengthy decline in air travel, have already said they would cut their flight schedules by 20 percent.

In addition, American warned investors that it faces huge potential liabilities stemming from the hijacking of two of its planes, which crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

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  1. I won't miss it! yeecchh! I only ever eat the dessert anyway. It is amazing how great some cold KFC tasts on a long flight!

    3 Replies
    1. re: SusanB

      As I recall, Calvin Trillin once did a piece on a terrific meal including wine he brought on board a flight. Some friends like to bring po' boy sandwiches aboard when they return from New Orleans. Of course, I guess there will have to be a food search now.

      1. re: michael

        I assume that the wine they will allow us to bring on board now will be of the screwcap variety.

        1. re: brian

          Oh, you're right! Or, you could always decant into tupperware! (I've seen it done for camping trips, not that bad, actually.)

    2. My parents flew last Sunday and were given real forks and plastic knives with their meals. A flight attendant, knowing my dad is a retired Delta pilot, held up the two implements and posed the question, "Now which one of these looks more like a weapon?"

      I think eliminating food service is the only way to get around the entire knife issue. Of course, almost anything can be fashioned into a shank if you're motivated enough.

      And I won't miss the food; I fly coach.

      1. This brings back memories of taking my grandmother to the old LAX with a packed lunch to eat on the long plane ride to NY. While this is certainly an inconvenience to travelers, bringing your own will probably increase the quality of food consumed on any given flight.

        1. It seems a sensible move on the airlines part and I venture to guess most people won't miss the fare they serve.
          However, I'm thinking this may lead to class warfare on the plane--first class gets food, Joe Average (the forgotten, often abused coach traveler) gets to bring his own bread and water.
          Why not dump the service for everyone?? Or do first class travelers really need the food more than the rest of us schlubs...

          8 Replies
          1. re: berkleybabe

            The airlines have been deliberately lowering the standard of coach service for some time in order to encourage business flyers to pony up the extra money. This is just a further acceleration of that strategy. The meals on a flight actually cost very little; the last table I saw showed coach class lunches at about $2.00 per passenger, dinners at less than $4.00. There is a range, with Midwest Express and Alaska Airlines spending the most, Continental the least among airlines that offer food, and Southwest spending nothing...

            I doubt that this decision by American will hold, since I doubt that their competitors will follow suit. If they do not then American will be at a competitive disadvantage, which they will not allow. American is cutthroat about costs but also about competition. It's a shame, they used to be a great airline, but my friends and clients who have flown them lately have had terrible experiences.

            1. re: Richard Foss

              Consistent with what you've heard, on a recent trip to Paris via American we were warned by friendly flight staff that food on the return trip was notoriously bad. We stopped at a take out and at a bakery in Paris to pick up our return flight meal, and had quite a lovely repast while our fellow passengers were dining on the proverbial rubber chicken and salmon in ptomaine sauce.

              1. re: Richard Foss

                In defense of my favorite cheapie airline, Southwest (living up to its slogan of "no frills"), they actually give these little lunchable-type packs of food for any flight which is longer than 2-3 hours. They have cheese, crackers, a beef jerky-looking stick, and some kind of after-snack cookie. It's no 4-star meal, but compared to that mystery meat hidden underneath congealed sauces on other airlines, I vote for the former.

                1. re: Can

                  The last few times I have flown Southwest (Burbank to Las Vegas) they have not passed out their best-known delicacy - peanuts. Could it be the allergy thing?

                  1. re: brian

                    No idea...I usually take the Ontario-Sacramento route at least once a month, and they faithfully serve them. I know they offer raisins as an allergy sub...could it be that they were really behind schedule? That has happened to me in the past, but very rarely.

                    Check the magazine pocket in front of you next time...most of them are a treasure trove of unwanted peanuts!

                    1. re: Can

                      Would those be the peanuts which, in response to the allergy scare, now are labelled "Warning: May contain nuts"?

                      1. re: rfgs

                        Which brings to mind a classic Simpsons episode where Lisa goes vegetarian and is gazing at all the carnivorous selections in the school cafeteria.

                        Lisa: Don't you have anything that doesn't contain meat?
                        Lunchlady Doris: Possibly the meatloaf.

                        1. re: Can

                          Is it too soon for airline food nostalgia to set in?

            2. A number of years ago my brother and I flew to New York for a one-day vacation, which was an idiotic idea but we had some frequent flyer miles that were expiring. We flew in on a redeye, toured New York for the day, and flew back on a 6 PM flight. On the way back to the airport we stopped at a restaurant called Twins and ordered a lavish Italian meal to go, which we ate on the Continental Airlines flight back. We opened our containers of wonderful and garlicky pasta at about the same time as the other passengers were tucking into turkey sandwiches that appeared to have been mummified. The other passengers were all staring at us longingly, and the stewardess was hostile because everybody was comparing their meals to ours, and finding them wanting.

              The next time I fly, I think I'll stop by the local Japanese deli and pick up a bento box...

              1. I'll just bring a brown bag repleat with all the fixins'and bottle of wine decanted into a plastic water bottle.

                Best,
                DM

                1. Not on American, surely.

                  The food on american carriers is certainly the worst. Of course, I've never flown on a Soviet airline before. But it seems the food, if not delicious, was more edible on SAS, British Airways, Air France, even Royal Air Maroc (or maybe I was still in bliss mode).

                  I've been known to stop by Dean & Deluca when returning from New York (or Gourmet Garage or the stalls in Grand Central) for plane snacks (or Shirokiya in Hawaii). Hey - we should compose a list of places to stop before going to the airport!

                  Although I must say I was pleasantly surprised when flying Virgin home from London last year: a seemingly endless parade of pretty darn good snacks: salmon parpardelle, grilled vegetable panini, mango and vanilla popsicles and on and on. The mango popsicle really put me over edge as I flipped the stations between a Clash documentary and a coupla movies and applied Virgin lip gloss. Sure, my knees were cramping up a bit in the tiny seats, but I only paid $250 for my ticket (on an online auction site)!

                  I'm sure this little kiss of luxury will diminish, if not disappear entirely in the near future, and I'll miss that.

                  But I have it easy - at least I'm not getting laid off like my airline employed girlfriend! (yet!?)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: julia

                    Virgin Atlantic is my favorite airline for international travel - the food really is much better than average. There is a spirit among the staff that makes it fun to fly with them. Their Upper Class is the quality of other carriers' First Class, at a much lower cost.

                    At the oppposite extreme, I have flown Balkan Air Bulgaria, which seemed to have war surplus aircraft, stewardesses, and food. And I'm not even sure which war, it may have been World War 1 or the Crimean war. They may have gotten better in the fifteen years since I flew them - I hope so, because they could hardly get worse.