Will Fly For Food

To whet passengers' appetites, airlines are improving the onboard fare

Airline food has been the stuff of jokessince almost the dawn of aviation. But after many years of dulling passengers' appetites, a number of carriers insist they've gotten serious about upgrading the air fare, even in economy.

Following recent menu improvements in business and first class, Delta Air Lines (DAL ) is getting set to roll out cold entrées created for coach by chef Todd English, owner of six Olives restaurants. The initial selections--at $7 to $10, on a par with airport shops--include a roast beef Cobb salad sandwich, grilled shrimp salad, and black olive spaghetti salad. "We are trying to do a range of things that are familiar but push the envelope a bit," says English (right, with olive spaghetti salad). "You can't get too esoteric on a plane."

I tasted all three dishes, which will be available from Nov. 1 on longer domestic flights; my favorite was the roast beef. Then again, English prepared and served them at Olives in New York. Will the bread be as crisp and the ingredients as fresh when they come out of a cooler at 30,000 feet?

English, who took part in an ambitious catering venture for Northwest Airlines (NWA ) in the 1990s, says he and Delta thought long and hard about what foods would hold up well in the air. They'll soon see if customers approve.


FRONT OF PLANE: A trio of chefs designs international fi rst-class menus that include entrées such as mojito shrimp with pineapple. Business class on Boeing 767s gets similarly enhanced fare.

MAIN CABIN: The buy-onboard service offers $2 to $4 snack options. “Fresh Light Meals” for $5, such as an Asian chicken wrap, are available on U.S., Caribbean, and Mexico flights of three hours or longer.


FRONT OF PLANE: A “Congress of Chefs” highlights international flavors. For the Oct. 1 inaugural flight from New York to Mumbai, gosht pasanda (lamb chops in yogurt-cream sauce) will be served.

MAIN CABIN: It offers a rarity in 21st century domestic fl ying: complimentary coach meals. Sandwiches and salads are prepared by Continental’s own division, Chelsea Food Services.


FRONT OF PLANE: Miami chef Michelle Bernstein’s menu items have been featured in international BusinessElite since August, 2006. She just moved into U.S. first class.

MAIN CABIN: Delta reinstituted a food-for-sale menu in September after offering only snacks since 2003. Todd English’s entrées will appear on Nov. 1 for $7 to $10 each.


FRONT OF PLANE: Passengers get a choice of snacks, including cashews, biscotti, munchies mix, and the carrier’s signature Terra Blues potato chips. Wash it down with a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

MAIN CABIN: This is a one-class airline, so everyone gets the same food.


FRONT OF PLANE: “Connoisseurs on Board” appoints renowned chefs to design menus for first and business classes. In October, David Bouley is the featured culinary master for all long-haul flights.

MAIN CABIN: Economy cabin has full complimentary service, with the number of meals depending on the length of the flight. If you don’t


FRONT OF PLANE: Chef Shawn Monroe of Mader’s restaurant in Milwaukee helped develop the Best Care Cuisine program in 2005. October’s menu includes a hot pulled-pork panini lunch for $10.

MAIN CABIN: This is a one-class airline, so everyone gets the same food.

Menu items are subject to change and may not be available on all routes

By Amy Dunkin, with Romy Drucker

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