Monday, July 9, 2012

Come Fly with Me

American Airlines

Restaurant critic Bryan Miller once observed, “The quality of food is in inverse proportion to a dining room’s altitude, especially atop bank and hotel buildings (airplanes are an extreme example).” It is not as if the airlines never tried. In the years following the Second World War, American Airlines had famous restaurants cater the inaugural meals on its new transatlantic routes, as shown by a large menu from its first flight to Copenhagen and Stockholm on February 1, 1946.1

The unpressurized Douglas DC-4 transported 56 passengers on the fourteen-hour flight from New York to Scandinavia, which included stops at Boston, Gander (Newfoundland) and Shannon (Ireland).2 The lunch menu below was provided by Jack & Charlie’s 21 Club, a high society haunt on West 49th Street.

The logo of Jack & Charlie's 21 Club is prominently displayed on the back cover. Tucked into an inside pocket is a little “playlet” by humorist Robert Benchley that had been published in the restaurant's magazine “The Iron Gate” in 1936.

American Airlines forever secured its reputation as an aviation pioneer in 1987 when it removed olive oil from its salads, a cost-cutting measure regarded as the first of its kind in the airline industry.3 Although some international carriers are again working to improve their cuisine, they still face the same obstacles—the absence of open-flame grills, airline crews that are not trained as chefs, and the change in air pressure which numbs the taste buds. Since adding ample amounts of salt and spice can only help so much, the airlines are again turning to well-known restaurants and celebrity chefs, if for no other reason than to improve the perception of their food.4

1. American Export Airlines, owning the transatlantic rights for destinations in Northern Europe, was merged into American Airlines in 1945 and renamed American Overseas Airlines (AOA). Believing that there was no future in transatlantic air service, American Airlines sold AOA to Pan American World Airways in 1950.
2. The reliable Douglas DC-4 was replaced on the Atlantic routes by the Lockheed Constellation on 23 June 1946.
3. American Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2011, and now faces the humiliation of merging with U.S. Air.
4. New York Times, 10 March 2012.

1 comment:

Deana Sidney said...

Oh Henry! What an amazing menu. Eating that kind of food on the ground would be fabulous today... but in the air???? A miracle. Thanks for sharing that rare beauty.