Food Service


Aug 24, 2002
We finally moved up on the food issue.
You still can''t beat a good steak house.
Airline food: Worse yet
Airlines cutting back on quality and quantity, critics say
By Barbara Kollmeyer, CBS MarketWatch
Last Update: 12:01 AM ET Oct. 4, 2002

LOS ANGELES (CBS.MW) -When it comes to air travel these days, coach-class passengers are getting poorer menu offerings from an industry struggling to pare its grocery bill.

Airlines already eliminated most meals, and they''re now scaling back on quality, consumer advocates say. Sandwiches replace meals, and tiny snack bags are replacing sandwiches.
The quality has changed and the amount has changed, said Barbara Beyer, president of Avmark, Inc., an aviation-consulting firm. You used to have real meat, now it''s pasta and salad. It''s been an enormous amount of annoyance to the passenger.
Most airlines stopped offering meals late last year in coach for most flights under four hours and in business for less than two hours.
After 9-11, there was a tremendous cutback in the amount of food being served in cabins. They brought it back on Jan. 1, then as part of cost cutting moves, they started cutting back on food, said David Stempler, president of Air Travelers Association.
Of course, airlines say their quality and quantity hasn''t changed for the meals themselves. If you were getting steak and potato on a 2000 mile flight, a similar type of food would be served today, said John Kennedy, Delta Air Lines (DAL: news, chart, profile) spokesman.
Slim pickings
Yet, the quality of food is going up for passengers the airlines are courting hard again -- business travelers. Food prepared under the supervision of top New York chefs will soon grace the menu for BusinessElite passengers flying Delta between New York''s John F. Kennedy Airport and Los Angeles or San Francisco airports.
Featuring a different chef every quarter, it''s an effort to grab business passengers in the cross-country market. That northeast corridor is the world''s most lucrative aviation market. Obviously, we''re all looking for an edge, Kennedy said.

If you do get a meal, though, who is serving the best six-mile-high grub? Continental Airlines (CAL: news, chart, profile) this year snagged Conde Nast''s best major U.S. carrier title based on comfort, reliability and value. Food was an important element -- Continental was commended for still providing meals on flights under four hours.
Other notables can be found at The Web site is dedicated to in-flight food and contains pictures of hundreds of meals from over 100 international airlines, snapped by passengers themselves, along with tips on where to get the best food at airports.
Continental and United Airlines (UAL: news, chart, profile) are receiving high marks on the site lately, says owner Marco t''Hart of Rotterdam, Holland. Also, I noticed that marks for the more recent meals of United are higher than those for the older pics.
Peanuts, really
How much are airlines saving with the frugal gourmet approach? Apparently, not that much.
Food is a minute part of airline operation costs, though every bit helps in the current climate, says Ray Neidl, airline analyst with Blaylock & Part. The only way it would be really a big savings is if they eliminate the galley altogether and put in more seats.
Down the road, Stempler says passengers may be lucky to get any complimentary food at all. It may be dependent on what kind of ticket you buy. The more expensive the ticket, the more likely you are to be fed.