Airline Accidentally Replaces Food with Plastic; Passengers Hail Improvement
Jamaica, NY (AP) – The 12:40 PM American Airlines flight 440 to Houston began uneventfully enough. Passengers settled into their crowded seats and began the familiar drudgery of safety presentations, beverage carts and in-flight entertainment.
But when the cabin crew began heating up and preparing the in-flight meals, they discovered the food had been accidentally replaced with plastic replicas. A mix-up had occurred with a training seminar taking place at the same time in Pittsburgh, and the supply shipments had crisscrossed. Fearing an immediate passenger revolt, the crew decided to proceed with the meal service, and let the passengers decide for themselves not to eat the unpleasant offerings.
To their surprise, the passengers ate their meals with unusual gusto. Claire Emmer, a flight attendant with eight years of experience, says she had never seen so many economy-class passengers eat so much so happily. “We had people asking if there were any extra meals,” she recalled, still sounding bewildered. There were only seconds available for about twenty people, she said.
“I don’t know what they’ve changed, but I like it,” said Patrick Arnold, a passenger on the flight who managed to get one of the precious second helpings. “I took the same flight four months ago, and the food was just terrible. But American Airlines did something right here, because this stuff was actually edible.”
This is not the first time a logistical foul-up has had unexpected culinary impact on a flight. In January, the on-board kitchen system malfunctioned on a Los-Angeles-bound United Airlines flight, resulting in food poisoning of many passengers and the flight crew. A former pilot named Ted Striker was able to take control of the plane and land it safely, but his actions during that time generated controversy.
In March 2008 an Alitalia flight had to turn around over the Atlantic when the crew discovered it had neglected to stock any red wine. The plane replenished its stock in Barcelona, Spain, and then proceeded to New York once again.
Pam Anne, an aviation industry analyst, does not believe the American Airlines incident will have broad repercussions in the industry. “It’s not really cheaper to use plastic food, so I can’t see airlines rushing to implement a new in-flight meal paradigm,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Airlines in the U.S. have to answer to all manner of regulatory institutions, and it would be costly in itself just to submit that change for approval. They might want to make a goodwill gesture to improve the food if it doesn’t cost them much, but plastic actually costs more than the industrial waste they currently use, so there’s no point.”
“It’s not like the customer has a choice in the matter,” she continued. “Really, who cares about that idiot in 13B?”
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