December 20, 2010

When it Comes to Kosher, the Airlines Still Can’t Get it Straight

On a recent Transatlantic flight, a major international carrier served a passenger in Business Class a kosher dairy meal with grilled chicken as the hot dish. After complaining to the airline, the carrier offered a 15% discount on future flights, acknowledging only that it failed to provide the kosher meal rather than admitting its mistake. The European kosher caterer who supplied the meal simply ignored the passenger’s complaint. Several other passengers on international flights complained that their meals were “half-frozen” and one even told of a carrier that served him a Passover meal three weeks after the holiday had ended. There is the sense that despite the progress of kosher in the air, the airlines still have a way to go in training and execution. And why not? Orthodox Jews and kosher travelers are commonplace nowadays, far more prevalent than the many special meals that airlines offer without incident these days.

Perhaps the kosher caterers and the certification agencies should take the initiative and offer ongoing training to airline crews. There is no reason why so may travelers tell stories of frozen fruit cocktail and even little challah rolls that cannot be cut. What about the confusion that ensues as to whether to open the wrappers or not. Another complaint that simply does not make sense these days is that frequently kosher customers are denied upgrade privileges because the economy meals on board do not measure up to the class of travel. That would be fine if the airlines got it right in the upgraded class, but when they serve milk and meat on one tray, there is no reason why an upgraded passengers cannot chose to eat an economy kosher meal in business or first class. As grateful as travelers are for the accommodation of a kosher meal 35,000 feet in the air, they do expect the airline crews to be well grounded in how to serve the meals.