Fly United this month and you can order a smoked beef and pork sausage link smothered in BBQ sauce and served on a pretzel roll. But its journey from kitchen to airplane demonstrates how difficult it is to offer tasty in-flight food.
The Chicago Tribune reports that United tried five different sausage recipes and 36 different pretzel buns before finally selecting the combo that now appears in the economy class buy-on-board menu. In fact, over, 200 hours were spent working with Lillie’s Q in Chicago to come up with something that would be tasty above 30,000 feet and maintain its flavor.
Spices were also removed so as not to offend more sensitive palates, but herbs and salt were added. Smell is also critical in informing overall taste.
Food must be first refrigerated, then heated. It must not only withstand the cold, but it must withstand being in the oven for extended periods. United calls this the “torture test” and in pre-flight testing, items will be left in the oven far longer than recommended to see if they still hold up.
Despite sometimes vocal consumer demands for healthy food, airlines find that “comfort food” sells best. On United, that’s the cheeseburger, the best-seller in economy class. Even so, American, Delta, and United try to offer at least one vegetarian choice on flights.
Might meal service improve? Gary Leff told the Tribune:
There is a model that suggests it is possible to do better than what airlines do today. The question is whether anyone wants to bet it will attract enough business to be worth the cost.
Delta is making that bet as it introduces a la carte dining in economy class this autumn.
> Read More: Delta Invests In Itself By Investing In Customer
Later this week, I’ll put United’s new smoked beef and pork sausage link to the test. In the meantime, have you noticed an improvement or degradation in in-flight meals?