Think Twice Before Buying In-Flight Snacks

Hyougushi, Flickr

As airlines continue to squeeze all the add-on fees they possibly can out of travelers, it isn’t in-flight Wi-Fi or extra legroom that is bringing in the most money. The fastest-growing moneymaker for airlines comes from in-flight meal purchases, and passengers are eating the fees up. Shockingly, airlines have been known to charge up to 2,600 percent more than supermarkets for drinks and snacks — such as $4 for a bottle of water. Here are some examples:

  • Blueberry muffin on easyJet: $3.83. In store: $2.25.
  • Check Mix on US Airways: $3.49. In store: $2.19.
  • Clif Bar on American Airlines: $2.89. In store: $1.50.
  • Kit Kat Bar on Aer Lingus: $2. In store: $0.79.
  • Peanut M&Ms on Delta Air Lines: $3.00. In Store: $0.79.
  • Starburst on United Airlines: $2.99. In store: $0.79.
  • Water bottle on RyanAir: $4. In store: $1.49.

Travelers, don’t let the airlines nickel and dime you. Avoid a la carte fees by packing snacks in your carry-on luggage or scooping them up at the airport before boarding.

Please note: all in-store prices are taken from Target.

Australians Outraged Over Qantas Pork Ban

To the outrage of some Australians, pigs can no longer fly on Qantas airlines.

Many meat eaters can talk for hours about their love of bacon, but when the airline took pork off their menu the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages were bombarded with racist and religiously offensive comments.

On the heels of a new partnership with Dubai-based Emirates airline, Qantas removed the meat from some of its flights to appease those prohibited from eating pork due to religious restrictions. Even though Qantas maintains the elimination will minimally affect its menu, the usually happy-go-lucky Australians were outraged and many of them spewed their hatred via social media.

The airline has since pleaded with its followers to stray from posting such comments, and is removing anything that might be considered offensive. If things continue to escalate, the airline may even go so far as to disable commenting for a period of time.

[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Airlines offer in-flight menu items at food trucks, pop-ups

airline food trucksIn a marketing move best described as “ironic,” a handful of airlines are now offering land-bound folk a taste of the finest of what they serve in the air. The New York Times reports that Air France, Austrian Airlines, Southwest, and Delta are trying to lure potential passengers by tempting them with samples of in-flight meals “from” celebrity-chefs.

The modus operandi are primarily roving food trucks and pop-up restaurants in cities from New York to Denver (there are also some permanent vendor spots at various sports stadiums). In Washington, passerby were offered European coffee and guglhupf, a type of cake. In Manhattan, crowds lined up for a taste of buckwheat crepes with ham, mushrooms, and Mornay sauce, or duck confit.

I get it. Airline food sucks. Time for an image makeover. But isn’t the airline industry so financially strapped that we’re lucky to get a bag of stale pretzels during a cross-country flight? And just because reknown chefs like Joël Robuchon, Tom Colicchio and Michelle Bernstein act as consultants for airlines and design their menus, that doesn’t mean it’s their food you’re eating on the JFK-to-Paris red-eye.

Most ludicrous, however, is the notion that there’s any basis for comparison against fresh ingredients and made-to-order food versus even the best institutionally-prepared airline crap. I’ve had a couple of decent meals designed by well-regarded chefs when I’ve been lucky enough to fly business class, but in the grand scheme of things, they were still made from flash-frozen, sub-par ingredients whose origins I’d rather not ponder. And if food truck crews are merely nuking actual airline food, then how are they any different from the corner deli with a microwave?

I’m not trying to be a food snob. I just find it interesting that airlines are hopping on two of the hottest culinary trends of the new century–ones largely based upon local, sustainable, seasonal ingredients. Yet by all accounts (to hear airline reps tell it), the plane campaign has been wildly successful. Of course. Who doesn’t love free food?airline food trucksRaymond Kollau, founder of Airlinetrends.com, cites social media as the gateway to this type of “experiential marketing.” “As people are bombarded with marketing messages,” he explains, “real-life interaction with products and brands has become increasingly valuable for airlines to get their message across.”

Valid point, and there’s no doubt this is a clever scheme. But truth in advertising is what wins consumers. What a catering company can pull off on-site is a hell of a lot different from what you’ll be ingesting in the friendly skies. If airlines want to use food to entice new passengers, they need to start by sourcing ingredients in a more responsible, sustainable manner, rather than supporting ecologically detrimental produce, meat, and poultry (talk about carbon offsets). I realize that’s not financially feasible at this time, but supposedly, neither are in-flight meals. As for making it taste good? You got me.

[Photo credit: Flickr user OpalMirror]

Continental to charge for meals in coach

The other shoe has finally dropped. Continental Airlines, the one domestic airline still proudly boasting free meals in coach just announced that they’ll be eliminating the perk come fall 2010. They’ll be joining the ranks of all other domestic carriers that currently charge for food, a move that they estimate will earn them $35M per year.

Eventually, we all knew that this had to happen. With each carrier gradually moving towards an a la carte model of pricing, extra services from baggage to leg room to food now comes with a price — that’s partially what has kept airline prices so low for the last decade. So in order to remain competitive, Continental had to adapt.

More than anything, Continental’s changes are symbolic of an industry changing. Like our parents bemoan the days of black tie air travel, I see myself one day telling my grandkids about how they “used to serve food for free on airplanes!” Perhaps we should just all be happy that we’re still getting from point A to point B.