Eat Before Boarding

Food is important. It’s fuel for the body and the brain. The need to eat is a primal urge and when you have a B767-300 leaving LA at 1:10 p.m. with over 220 passengers aboard and 12 sandwiches available for purchase, what do you think will happen? Not the worst thing…like a sit-in along the aisles or a food riot…but I’m sure that is what would have happened if there had been an announcement that there were only a dozen sandwiches for sale on the plane.

Of course, some wise travelers brought their own.
Some survived on peanuts and junk snacks they brought with them. But my husband and I had departed from Wellington, New Zealand, at 5pm on Wednesday, October 12, flew an hour to Auckand, had a brief layover and then flew 12 hours from Kiwiland to LA. We had a very short time to connect to our flight from LAX bound for Atlanta and then on to our hometown of Jacksonville, FL.

We sprinted off the Air New Zealand flight, got through customs quickly, found the Delta kiosk and printed boarding passes. Since we had only carryon luggage, we dashed off to security and found ourselves in DisneyWorld snake lines and were doubtful we would make our connecting flight to Atlanta. If we had any clue that Delta would be so uncaring about the welfare of its passengers, we would have grabbed a refrigerated sandwich from a vendor near the gate as we sprinted by.

But we trusted Delta. We don’t like paying for something that used to be included in the cost of our flight, but at least we were counting on a decent sandwich from Delta’s caterers or kitchen. We believed we wouldn’t go hungry. We ate a tiny breakfast of one scrambled egg, one small sausage link and a couple of other tidbits on Air New Zealand 2 hours before we arrived in LA. That was about 5 hours before Delta Flight 1654 began food and beverage service. Now we were faced with a 5 hour flight to Atlanta to arrive at 8:30 p.m. East Coast time.

My husband and I were in seats 37F and 37G. The flight attendants started serving at the front of the cabin, so by the time they got to us, the large lady in the seat in front of us was gobbling down the last roast beef slider. There were no more sandwiches, no fresh fruit platters with cheese…only junk like Pringles and M&Ms. The flight attendant apologized and said this happens a lot. That’s when we found out there had been only 12 sandwiches prepared for over 220 people. Well, I guess it would be really less than 220 since some of the passengers were installed in First Class and would have gotten a real lunch or dinner. The flight attendant said we could buy something called Travel Treats for $5.50 each. Almost anything would be better than six over-salted peanuts.

Our Travel Treat box looked pretty on the outside and featured a lovely green lettuce leaf, real chicken salad and one piece of parsley. But when the box was opened I realized it should have been called Travel Surprise. There was one 2.9 oz. can of Bumble Bee Chicken Salad, 2 crackers, Lance cheese crackers, a tiny bag of trail mix, 2 little cookies and a mini-candy bar. Wow! A party in a box. Yeah, right. But where’s the lettuce and my sprig of parsley?!

The Bumble Bee Chicken Salad was loaded with sugar and fructose, something that was a surprise. Maybe it was intended to taste like a chicken berry salad which can have bursts of sweetness from fresh grapes and nuts or cranberries. Since we hadn’t eaten in hours, anything that promised nourishment was welcome. We used the plastic fork/spoon which featured a hinged handle, either for safety or to fit in the box to spread the oddly sweet chicken salad on the crackers. We didn’t die.

The Lance crackers took me back to my childhood when I earned enough allowance to buy any junk food I wanted.
Lance cheddar crackers were my vice of choice. I stuffed the rest of the contents of Delta’s Travel Treat package into my backpack to enjoy during the next hurricane.

Here’s the bottom line.
Yes, we know everyone except rich folks are struggling worldwide in this terrible economy. Yes, we know most travelers compare rates online when buying tickets. But, can’t there be full disclosure and travel warnings? Like those traveling cross-country should bring their own provisions? It’s bad enough that the airlines charge us to check bags. Like who’s going on vacation or a business trip without clothes? Charging doesn’t save petrol because the weight of the luggage is just transferred from the cargo hold to the overhead bins. It also causes high anxiety among flyers. Will we find a bin for our bags?

And now we must add to our travel nightmares list: Will we be on a cross-country flight with no food? Next time, we’ll bring a picnic. Oh, but wait, I’ll bet we’ll have to pay extra baggage fees to carry that on board. Maybe we’ll just stay home.

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