One thing you don't do in this world: You don't fly for the food.

At least, you don't fly for the food in economy class, where a simple passable chicken sandwich or an edible salad can seem like a small victory.   

It makes sense, sadly. For most big airlines, their model involves squeezing big dollars out of passengers in premium cabins, while nickel and diming those poor folks in the back of the plane.

All of which makes something Delta Air Lines announced this week more than a little bit surprising. It's rolling out "enhanced meal and beverage service" for some of its economy class passengers.

It's only a test for now, limited to international flights traveling between Portland, Oregon, and Tokyo. 

But as Lewis Lazare, perhaps the hardest working reporter covering the U.S. airline industry reports, the test "could force United States-based rivals United Airlines and American Airlines to radically rethink their approach to dining in the back of the bus on international flights."

Radically rethink their approach?

I'm up for it. But will it actually change anything? I suppose that depends on a few factors, including what's on the menu. 

Here's the list of service items. Remember, this is intended to be served to passengers who've paid the lowest prices for the least plush seats on the plane. 

The "economy cabin bistro dinner service" begins with a Bellini (that's Prosecco with peach puree or nectar, in case you're as much of a drink luddite as I am, but it sounds pretty good)), along with other cocktails and sparkling water.

Next up: a three-course dinner, "selected from choices on a printed menu with appetizers such as salad with quinoa, roasted grapes and pine nuts," as Lazare puts it, followed by a three-course dinner and ice cream.

"All appetizers and entrees are being served in white dishes that look far more pleasing than what economy passengers are used to seeing in economy cabins," he described. "Larger dinner napkins and sleekly-designed tableware (plastic but sleek) are part of the service too."

We should stop for a moment to reflect on how far we've fallen. There was a time--granted, I'm too young to remember it--but when service like this would have been de rigeur, even in the cheap seats.

But that was then, and this is now. Heck, you can't even get peanuts on Southwest anymore.

If everything goes well on the test routes, Delta says it could potentially serve this kind of spread on every international flight by the end of the year.

Could the love spread to domestic flights as well? Time will tell.

But regardless, "it could immediately put pressure on United and American to respond in some fashion," as Lazare puts it. 

And nobody will complain about that.

Published on: Jul 28, 2018