Plane fare
June 28th, 2010
04:00 PM ET
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A colleague's husband claims the best foie gras he's ever had (and he's had his fair share) is the torchon that's served as an amuse bouche on Air France. I'm happy for him. Mazeltov.

I was just asked if I'd like to buy some pretzels on my 4+ hour flight from Denver to New York. I seriously considered it.

It's not that I ever distinctly crave pretzels - in fact I eat them almost exclusively on airplanes. It's just that despite my plummeting blood sugar, I'd actively avoided the grab-n-go baby carrot dip packs and Saran-swaddled cold cut bombs available for lots and lots of money at the grim little comissary near my departure gate. Or I could have brought food - tasty, awesome food - from home, or eaten elsewhere before, but I didn't. On purpose.

Stupidly perverse and foot-shooting, I know, but I somehow can’t shake the notion that there should be meals on planes, because, darn it, there used to be.

They were, almost inevitably, comically - hackneyed 1980s comically - awful. But with that came a certain esprit de corps with fellow travelers, collectively grimacing at slices of spongy chickenbeef that'd been doomed to a watery, grey gravy tomb. There may have been corn or possibly leathery green beans. There were always potatoes in some semi-identifiable incarnation.

But they came on a tray! With actual metal utensils! Brought to you by a friendly, smiling lady whose feet were probably killing her, and who was having to endure sloppy, Dewars-soaked come-ons from the suit in 6A. Okay, I'm glad she's now spared that indignity, but I have a twinge of nostalgia for those glimmers of mid-air civility.

If nothing else, a meal - even just a packet of peanuts - offered normalcy and distraction in an otherwise potentially dire situation. "We're hurtling through the air in a massive, metallic cannister that by no means ought to loft one centimeter off the ground and...ooh! Chicken Kiev...sort of. Let's focus on that."

And of course any reasonable adult human should be perfectly able to slog through four food-free hours. But especially as of late, airport and airline conditions seem carefully calibrated to reduce even the most sanguine, steadfast among us into a whimpering, self-sorry, pretzel-hungry mess of a semi-human, grateful for any small, nasty morsel of kindness tossed our way. And a four hour flight is hardly just four hours. There's the shlep there, the slog through Security (don't forget to toss that water bottle!), the haul to the gate, the inevitable runway delay, the wait to reach cruising altitude, the...

Hey look! The water cart is coming my way! Gimmie.

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Filed under: Airlines • Bite • Take-Out

soundoff (337 Responses)
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    January 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  4. Margie

    I'm glad to see the flip flop thing adressed. these things are ugly

    June 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  5. Brownstain

    Fatties, stinkers, screamers, seat kickers and toe nail lumberjacks must travel in baggage.
    No exceptions.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:24 am |
  6. ChoCho

    @Lynne: Wow, now that I'm sure no one has no idea about: airlines having to compete for routes? I just thought they flew them, and did so to avoid hitting others! ^_^;

    June 30, 2010 at 7:44 am |
  7. Jule

    Come on Vicki, don't lump us all into one group. There are a variety of people in any profession, just as there are a variety of passengers. I don't expect people to dress up, but it would be real nice if they would at least shower, wear clean clothes and not clip their toenails while on the plane. (Happens all the time).

    June 29, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
    • wren7

      Jule, you've seen people actually clip their toenails on an airplane??? Good Lord. Proves my observation that manners and civility have all but disappeared in American society over the last several decades. My generation was taught manners (table manners, manners on behaving in public, with elders, etc.). Most parents don't seem to teach their children manners any more. It's sad. Road rage is just one example of how civility is disappearing, airline passengers wearing flip flops, wrinkled shorts or sweat pants and not even bothering to comb their hair before getting on a plane where they're crammed next to a stranger (or God forbid clipping their toenails) is another. If someone next to me did that I would have to say something.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
  8. Vicki

    Every flight I have been on including recent American Airlines flights give complimentary beverages (not alcohol). What happened to stewards in nice clothes, jackets for men and suits or dresses with high heels for woman? This made it feel classy. Now, the attendants look like they were brought in from McDonalds.

    June 29, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
  9. Anne Philllip

    Most of my flying these days is from Toronto to Washington DC or to Boston MA – both flights a little more than an hour
    and usually on Air Canada. A/C rates pretty high with me because I am handicapped and require some help within the terminals. They offer beverage service with a pack of tostito crumbs, so my ritual on the plane is to order a Bloody Mary and I bring my own snacks – Pringle Sticks – which I usually share with my seatmate. They now require that you pay by credit card for a $6 drink and I don't like to use my card for such small amounts. I always had the $6 cash ready, but now they don't take it. Card only. And the return flight for Washington is always late because the flight goes from NYC to Toronto and the turn around leg is from Toronto to Washington, so drinks are usually free in apology for late arrival.

    there will always be griping passengeers, but what can you do? You can't get off in midair I think people who want to provide their o wn food are certainly entitled to do so, but on a recent flight, someone near me must have had a garlic and onion sandwich – how awful it smelled as it wafted thru the plane! If you have a short fuse, tell yourself it's a short flight and read a magazine! You can deplane soon! anabel

    June 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
  10. sanddollar

    I used to commute between Chicago and NY, flying into LaGuardia and spending a night in NYC to be there for early morning meetings that lasted most of the day. Suddenly I remembered the old train service between Chiacgo and Manhattan (Penn Station), leave at night and arrive at 6:00 AM, even a sleeping car or berth as I remembered from my childhood. The dining car was open for dinner, and seems to me open for early breakfast, but I could be wrong. Called the "Overnight Limited" or seomething like that.

    I called to ask about it and finally gor someone who remembered it very well, said if the train was late, they gave every passenger $1 for every minute of delay. It was never late, he said. He said Amtrak was the only train between the two cities then, and "on time" wasn't in their vocabulary though "accidents" were, thanks to little or no track maintenance.

    So I continued airline commuting which deposited me an hour away from my destination in town. Add the time from LaGuardia to Manhattan and then back to LaGuardia on the return to already killer long days and several hours of hassle were eaten up.

    When good rail service for both shipping and passenger travel ended, that was the end of decent road travel without enduring miles and miles of trucks and the end of alternative commuter service.

    Amtrak still scares me. Too many stories about major accidents.

    June 29, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  11. Sue

    Almost forgot. There was only one airline that flew into Phoenix and the plane was only half full.

    June 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
  12. GH

    Flip flops are for the beach and pool. They are not meant for regular wear. Wear attractive sandals or comfy shoes. I've seen my share of broken ankles with people triping on these things

    June 29, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
  13. skier31

    Personally, I don't care about their snacks; I bring my own snacks and drink.

    June 29, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  14. Matthew

    i suspect that in real dollars, flying was more expensive in the golden days. Now it is just about getting from point A to point B. The sad news is that this is even a story. The real story is that there seems to be too much idle media.

    June 29, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  15. Kate

    I don't fly often, but when I do, a cup of coffee and a glass of water is really all I need for a four-hour flight. Maybe if a flight is delayed on the runway, a complimentary granola bar would be nice but anything more just doesn't seem necessary. International flights are a different story and should definitely have food that's edible.

    And to those of you complaining about "sloppy" dress on flights–get over it. I wear jeans and flip-flops because I don't want to be fussing with wrinkles when I get off the plane or holding up a security line while I relace my shoes. I'm clean, isn't that what matters?

    June 29, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  16. Lon

    I rather take offense to being lumped in with "fell out of bed and onto the airplane" seated in coach set. Yes, I fly coach but only because its all employer will pay for. I always dress nicely and no matter how bad of a day I'm having I'm always polite and respectful to the flight crews. I can only wish that the crews would reciprocate. Instead I'm only coach-class riff-raff on the U.S. carriers. However, when I fly Singapore Airlines, I get treated decently and get superior service (real meals, frequent drink and snack service and a smile from the flight attendants). I hope there'll never be an "airline bailout". Let them all fail and let the vastly superior foreign carriers take over their routes.

    June 29, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
  17. Steve in NY

    From an Economic standpoint – a long time ago, only the wealthy could afford air travel and comparing prices was a lot of work. Now air travel is used more by the general public and websites compare prices of flights. This forces airlines to price competitively so price is more of a determinant than ever before – hence the aggressive cost cutting. If price is the most important factor to you, then your purchasing behavior is exactly the reason that food is being cut.

    June 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  18. Natch

    Simple solution. Go to Walmart (or your favorite alternate retailer), and buy some trail mix. Or some cookie packs. Or peanuts. Or crackers with peanut butter. Or those cute little cracker packets with the cheese and the little spreading stick!
    If you don't want to buy the small packages, buy a bigger one, and (get this, it's a fairly complicated idea), make smaller packages yourself, using sandwich zip-lock bags!!

    Or shell out $10 for a sandwich and a soda at the airport. Your choice!

    June 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • wren7

      And airport security will allow you to get through security with these brought-from-home sandwiches or snacks in zip-lock bags??? I'll bet they would be confiscated along with your water bottle and over-3 ounce tiny lotion bottle because geez, we all look like terrorists and are surely trying to blow up the plane.

      June 29, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
      • Tom

        No, you can take them through security not problem. I brought a cold cut on my last flight.

        June 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  19. Jo

    When flying on Air France we've always had meals. And those trips were from the US to UK, France and Africa. So they were not short trips. I believe they should have the meals on the planes for the long trips, over 1/2 hour and provide the snacks for less than that. You have paid your fee to get on the flight, paid for your luggage and you are not supposed to bring any snacks (to my knowledge) liquid or otherwise on the plane with you, because of security reasons these days being what they are, so yeah they airline should provide it.
    I've been in the customer service field for many years and I'll say that without the consumer there would be no business, so those working on the flights and complaining about "some" of the consumers also need to suck it up because its also a part of the game. Not everyone is the same. Not all customers are rude and obnoxious asking you to "rub their feet" and same goes for flight personnel. RixLax – relax and please don't put all of us in the same category.

    June 29, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
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