Air Fare

Once, far in the past and well beyond the recollection of modern travelers, American airlines used to serve actual food on planes.  To quote Steely Dan, those days are gone forever, over a long time ago.  Now, on most flights, it’s a quick offering of lukewarm coffee and some kind of “snack.”

And it’s not like the “snack” options present the air passenger with a broad smorgasbord of mouth-watering choices, either.  Typically, three choices are offered, and two of them inevitably are peanuts and pretzels.  Any time, day or night, whether you’re on an early morning flight or trying to just get home before midnight, you can get twice your daily quotient of sodium by having the flight attendant hand you a tiny bag of greasy peanuts or stale pretzels.  Somewhere, somewhen, airlines entered into a devil’s pact with the peanut growers and pretzel bakers of America and agreed that they would comprise two of the three choices offered American air travelers.

Do you ever wonder what kind of exotic, interesting, and possibly non-salt-laden food is offered on Air India, or Air Mozambique flights?  What does Finnish Air furnish to its passengers?  We can be reasonably certain that peanuts and pretzels aren’t on the menu in every airline flying anywhere in the world.  It makes you want to fly on an international airline just to see what kinds of alternatives might actually be presented.  This is a radical notion, but perhaps — just perhaps — the offerings move beyond the already overused nut and salt categories.

If, like me, the idea of eating pretzels or salty peanuts isn’t all that appealing on a 7 a.m. flight, your focus is on the third option.  If you’re lucky, it’s some kind of granola bar or trail mix — something substantial, and chewy, and maybe with a fleck or two of dried fruit in it.  If that’s not available, you hope for the generic faux biscotti cookie/cracker, which at least is edible and not overpoweringly sugary or artificially flavored.  But sometimes, you get some mad airline food buyer’s failed experiment — like the maple-flavored cookies I was handed on a recent flight.  Really, maple-flavored?  How many people really crave the maple taste on anything other than a stack of buttery pancakes?  Can’t airlines at least aim for the middle, and try to identify food offerings that are reasonably calculated to appeal to a significant chunk of the weary air travelers of America?

I ate the maple wafers, of course, and I can say that while they were maple-flavored, at least there weren’t many of them.

It’s time to start booking some overseas travel.

 

 

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Advances In In-Flight Breakfast Snack Technology

Meet the “Stroopwaffel.” It was handed to me by a flight attendant as the snack item accompanying my cup of airline coffee with cream on my United flight this morning.

What, exactly, is a Stroopwaffel? The package describes it as a “soft, toasted waffle filled with caramel, cinnamon and real bourbon vanilla.” It even comes with instructions: you’re supposed to put it on the top of your coffee cup so the steam emanating from the cup warms the Stroopwaffel. This presumes that airline coffee is piping hot, which is a questionable assumption indeed. I tried this technique this morning, and thereby warmed the Stroopwaffel to about one degree above room temperature. Because the size of the Stroopwaffel is almost precisely the same as the size of the top of the airline coffee cup, I also strongly recommend that you not try to warm the Stroopwaffel if your flight encounters even mild turbulence, or you will either lose the Stroopwaffel entirely as it slides off the cup into airline oblivion or have a mess on your hands.

It’s kind of sad that the introduction of a new airline breakfast snack is worth noting, but such things are the stuff that fill the lives of seasoned business travelers. The Stroopwaffel is just fine as a snack, but where it really excels is its name. Who can resist the sound of “Stroopwaffel”? It blows “biscotti” out of the water in my book.

The Airline Diet

In my lifetime, there have been many diet fads.  Scarsdale.  Atkins.  The Caveman Diet.

But what about the Airline Diet?  That’s the diet in which you would do nothing except eat and drink what you get for free on an airplane trip.  Diet Coke or water for refreshment.  Peanuts and maybe some crackers for sustenance.  All served by a hurried attendant rolling a cart down a narrow aisle, and consumed on a plastic tray that hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned as you sit bumping elbows with complete strangers.

Sure, your sodium content probably would go through the roof, but you’d soon lose any interest in food — which seems to be the goal of many diets, anyway.  When you see people eating on an airplane, it’s a purely mechanical exercise.  You munch on the food because it’s been given to you and it’s something to do while you’re up in the air.  No one is really paying much attention, much less savoring the experience.  Of course, with a steady diet of Diet Coke, peanuts, and Cheese Nips, who would?

Oh, The Glamour Of Air Travel

It seems as if air travel is on an unending, downward spiral, and who knows when we will hit bottom.

Long gone are the days when people dressed up for an airplane trip and airlines showered you with food and drink on your voyage.  Now you’re likely to find yourself seated next to a sweaty, plus-sized person wearing cutoffs, a tank top and flip-flops, and you consider yourself lucky if a flight attendant hurls a handful of peanuts in your direction at some point during the flight.

On our flight to Bermuda Wednesday, Kish and I were starving after a long run through the Charlotte airport to catch our aggressive connection.  The flight offered no complimentary peanuts, crackers, or snack food, so we were forced to buy a bag of chips and Chex mix to get something in our bellies.  The Chex mix was $3.49, and my Late July Organic Sea Salt Multigrain Chips and Zesty Tomato Salsa was $4.  Seems like a lot for a small bag of chips, but airlines apparently are looking for every conceivable revenue source — be it baggage fees, early boarding fees, or charging for other former freebies — and if you don’t fly with food you should just prepare to be gouged.

I’m not sure where the downward spiral will end.  Some airlines apparently are experimenting with charging for trips to the bathroom.  That seems like the logical next step in the quest to make flying as unpleasant and irritating as possible.