Story and sky photo by Manos Angelakis
Plane photo courtesy Royal Air Maroc
Turkish Airlines Chef courtesy Barbara Angelakis
We have been traveling for both business and pleasure for many years now and in-flight meals have been the butt of many jokes and complaints. Meals are still included in many long haul flights but the most tasteless food is served on US based carriers. On domestic flights many US companies offer poor quality food, if they offer any food at all. Peanuts, because of “allergy fears” have disappeared as in-flight snacks.
Finally... a number of international airlines are upping their culinary game, even in coach. As far as I’m concerned, Lufthansa, Finnair and Air France top my preference list for culinary quality when flying to Europe, as well as EVA Air, Korean Air, Emirates, All Nippon Airways and Singapore Airways when flying to Asia. One of our travel writers recently flew a South American airline on her way to Lima and, I’ll quote her: “bring with you a couple sandwiches; even a stale homemade sandwich is better than what is now served on those flights!”
On the rest of the international carriers front, the Arab airlines seem to serve good meals, and so do a number of South American carriers. European airlines span the gamut from excellent to just edible. I should give kudos to Turkish Airlines and Royal Air Maroc for their meal quality. Asian carriers have, in general, good to excellent food depending on length of the flight. Even Garuda, one of the smallest Asian carriers, has upped their meal quality.
US carriers are protected by Congress from competition on domestic flights and allowed to mistreat their passengers and overcharge them at will. On our recent 2½ hour flights from and to Newark, New Jersey from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on United no food was offered even though both flights were at dinner time, only “snacks” were available for purchase. We brought our own sandwiches and I will agree with our writer; a stale sandwich was much better than what was offered for sale!
And don’t let me start about the “service” the in-flight crew gave. They seem to consider it a major favor to give you a glass of water.
In the meantime United is nickeling and dimming you to death for the sardine-style packed seating on any class.
Since the beginning of this year we have flown on numerous flights.
On Royal Air Maroc to and from Casablanca plus domestic flights in Morocco – both transatlantic and domestic flights had good to excellent food in all classes and pleasant multilingual cabin crew.
Delta Airlines to and from Athens, Greece. Flight was almost fully booked when I tried to make the reservation. So, I took “Premium” seats in coach using frequent flier mileage, since I had to fly to Athens for family reasons. On the outgoing flight they offered a poor quality meal barely edible; I should have asked for a kosher or other specialty meal. The cabin crew was pleasant but liked to congregate in the back galley during the long overnight flight. The seat that I used extra mileage for, as it was supposedly a premium seat, was nothing more than a coach seat without any extra leg room, the same as all the other coach seats, and it did not recline… what a scam! The day I needed to fly out, the Delta direct flight to Athens from JFK was absolutely full, so I had to book a flight from JFK to Boston to take a flight from there to Athens. The connecting flight, because of poor weather between JFK and Boston, was delayed and me and the 7 other passengers that had to use the connection just made the international flight by being driven directly from the domestic flight to the international by in-airport bus; only our luggage that was checked in at JFK did not make the connection. Delta at the Athens airport said they would have the bag the next day and deliver it to my brother’s home in the afternoon after that day’s Boston flight arrived and gave me a printout with a phone number to call. When I tried to call the baggage claim line in Athens to get an idea what time the bag would be actually delivered, the phone kept ringing with no one picking up. After a dozen attempts I gave up. When on the return flight I complained at the Delta desk at the Athens airport about it, they said they were very short staffed and “could NOT answer calls.” So why did they give me the phone number and told me I can check, if they were not answering? The bag was actually delivered the third day after my arrival, by a driver that was ready to just leave it on the front steps of the apartment building's entrance. It’s a good thing I was on my way to the local coffee shop to get a WiFi connection since my brother has no internet at home, when I intercepted the driver and signed for my bag.
Turkish Airlines, both transatlantic and domestic flights in Turkey. Excellent food and wines in the international flights, especially since they had in-flight chefs preparing business and first class meals. We were in business class on the flight to Istanbul, and the seating was very comfortable with a seat that would recline to enable someone to sleep. The domestic flights to and from Izmir were pleasant, with good meals and functioning seats.
International flight to and from Buenos Aires on American Airlines. As overpriced with poor service quality as any US carrier. Barely edible food. The flight was packed. The seats would be comfortable for a midget not an over 6 foot individual and business class was jammed. The next day when we flew domestically from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia on an Aerolineas Argentinas chartered flight there was food that was edible and the seats had enough space for my height.
Flight on United in late December from Newark International to and from Fort Lauderdale. The most deplorable flight I have recently experienced.
Since the deregulation of the US airline industry on October of 1978, lack of competition and monopoly power is what has allowed US based airlines to act the way they do and Congress and President Carter are responsible for the deterioration of quality on-board. Domestic airlines have been allowed to merge without concerns to creating competition. There were 12 major carriers in the ‘80s, there are only 4 left today with another 5 or 6 minor regional companies that are frequently divisions of or fly under the livery of the larger carriers or smaller, discount, no-frills airlines, flying the millions of passengers within the country.
I propose that Congress should repeal the Cabotage Laws that prohibit foreign carriers to pick up fliers between domestic US airports. There are plenty of international carriers that fly in from South America, for example, to Miami, deplane many passengers at that airport then fly with many empty seats to JFK in New York or other airports; and the same goes for flights in the West Coast to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Those seats could be used to alleviate the chronic congestion for domestic fliers between Miami and New York City or Miami and other gateway cities or West Coast fliers to other final destinations. Then, the US airlines would not levy their unconscionable, sky-high rates, because they would be facing competition from multiple other companies.
My final thoughts: Avoid US based carriers as much as you can on international flights. Even using frequent flier miles is not worth it, when you will be subjected to indifference at best or abuse at worse. You have no choice in domestic routes.
From most foreign carriers you will get much better service, better seating and pitch between seats and good meals. And you will not be nickeled and dimed – what they advertise as the price, is the inclusive price you pay and it has edible food and soft drinks and even free wine if you imbibe and a free bag either in the hold or the overhead bins or 2 free bags, one in the hold and one in the overhead.
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