I've been flying since I was young, and I've been eating since, well, anyway, it's obvious I've never missed a meal. And mixing the two is sometimes a treat, sometimes it's a bit aweful.
But America West has it mixed perfectly!
I flew on America West from Phoenix to Tampa on Friday, 24 Jan 03, one of the final days of the 'Buy On Board' program. This was also the ONLY week to offer a food product on long-haul flights that do not presently receive meal service. I personally think this is a great idea.
Boarding for this flight began well before I arrived at the gate. My home is in Ft. Lauderdale, but I found out all they had were middle seats open (20) and I opted to fly to Tampa, which was an A319, booked to only 65 in the back (out of 112). This way I can fly comfortably but so can my seat mates... although I'm 6'1 and 250#s, I still spill over a bit.
I approach the counter and they give me 19C towards the rear of the aircraft. I board this flight to find lots of smiling faces from everyone, except for a screaming child in 21 F. UGH!
I take my seat and notice that the seat pitch is the same as on Frontier's A319s. The seats aren't as comfortable, but that's probably just because I've been spoiled for so long on United and others that use more padding.
During the DEMO, the FAs were very attentive and doing lots of eye-contact with the passengers, which helps ease me knowing that they no longer just stare at the ceiling while showing us where the exit rows are!
Pushback/taxi/takeoff are all uneventful. There were no announcements that this flight was a 'Buy On Board' flight.
About 15 minutes into the flight, the lead (purser) began to talk about the inflight entertainment and then went into the 'Buy On Board' program. She mentioned that if you want to purchase a meal, that you should drink your beverage slowly as they do not offer a drink service with the meal carts. I think HP should change that and have a drink cart follow ONLY for passengers purchasing food, as it was about 30 minutes between the beverage cart and the meal cart.
After the drink service, a woman in a dress began passing out surveys to everyone in the cabin. She later identified herself as the Assistant to Mr. Parker, the CEO & President of America West. She was very intrigued by our website and the fact I was taking pictures of the meals for this site and airlinemeals.net. I hope she continues to visit FlyerTalk and pass along input to Mr. Parker on what the Cactus Air flyers think of their airline. I was certainly impressed!
Back to the meals,
We were given 3 choices on today's flight:
-Chicken Kiev with salad, baked potato, butter, sour cream and cheese, green beans and chocolate bar $10
-Cold beef tenderloin, pasta salad, fresh marinated vegetables, cheese and crackers, fresh strawberries, apple cobbler and chocolate mint $10
-Chicken Parmesian Hot Pocket, with Pringles chips, cheese spread, garlic bread stick, Oreo Cookies, fruit snack $5.
They did the meal service from 2 carts, 1 at the front of the cabin, 1 at the rear. Each cart had a 2 foot menu on each:
$5 Dollar Menu - http://home.earthlink.net/~natelv/images/hp5dolmenu.gif
$10 Dollar Menu - http://home.earthlink.net/~natelv/images/hp10dolmenu.gif
The movie, The Tuxedo, began and I wasn't interested in it... I was busy taking pictures of the meals!
I picked the Beef Tenderloin (cold) dinner after taking pictures of all 3 samples.
Beef Pic #1, $10 http://home.earthlink.net/~natelv/images/hpbeef01.gif
Beef Pic #2, $10 http://home.earthlink.net/~natelv/images/hpbeef02.gif
HP has a winner. This was a HUGE meal that took over an hour to eat (no joke). After opening up the package, I started to munch on the green beans and pasta, before I found some seasoned potatoes beneath the beef. I then realized there was a HUGE bed of green lettuce/spinach on the bottom and I was suppose to make it as a salad. The salad dressing was a Basalmic Vingarette (I think), but it wasn't enough...
The beef was cold and very tender and actually had a taste to it. The pasta could have used a bit more seasoning, but it was quite good. The green beans were also quite good, as I tasted some salt and garlic in them. I then tore into the cheese and crackers (like the ones you get in United's Red Carpet Clubs)... my only recommendation to Mr. Parker is to include *2* packages of crackers, as the slice of cheese was HUGE. The fresh strawberries were as delicious, followed by yours truely inhaling the apple cobbler.
Of all of my years of eating while flying, I think this meal was the best. It took forever to eat, and really DID fill me....
which made trying the hot pocket so hard to do!
The other option I tried was the Hot Pocket (only AFTER everyone was served, and of course, this was over 1/2 way through the flight. The lead and I decided it would be best to cut it in half for the picture.
Hot Pocket, $5 - http://home.earthlink.net/~natelv/images/hphotpocket01.gif
I only ate one half of the hot pocket and gave the rest of the meal to my hungry seat mate, who was flying to Tampa to see his boyfriend again (what's up w/ me sitting next to other 'family' on all of my America West flights??!!?? no complaints from me though). He said it was VERY VERY good and enjoyed it... ate everything off of his tray.
The Chicken Parmesian Hot Pocket seems to be standard fair for HP after looking through AirlineMeals.net. I think that this meal should be enhanced with maybe another 'hot' option, such as ham & cheese. The FAs also said that they feel they burned the food, as it was timed at 35 minutes. The hot pocket *was* crunchy though, compared to its counterparts at United.
The other option was the Chicken Kiev
Chicken Kiev $10 - http://home.earthlink.net/~natelv/images/hpkiev01.gif
Out of fairness to HP, I will not comment on this food. I wish it the best *lol*. Not the best meal, although I heard the baked potato was the best thing on the tray. Something about chicken never being that good when you fly... and the more I think about it, I've only had 1 good chicken meal when I fly, and that was Robinsons BBQ Chicken in United First.. and it was soaked in the BBQ sauce.
The flights were very well received by everyone on board... we even landed 10 minutes early in Tampa, where it was a blistering 39 degrees... making me a bit disgruntled, considering it was 56 when I left Reno/Lake Tahoe earlier that morning.
HP said that so far, about 30-33% of all passengers were purchasing food. On our flight, they used a simple formula... 1/2 of total booked, which would be 35, plus the NRSAs listed. So HP anticipated about 35/40 would be interested. They loaded 11 hot meals of each (11 chicken kievs, 11 chicken parmesians) and 15 cold dinners. I think when all was said and done, they had a # of the hot meals leftover and only 2 of the beef tenderloins.
Overall, the meal service was great and I hope that HP continues with this service. It is only a matter of time before everyone is doing this..... and we have HP to thank for that.
I'd rather pay for my meals in the air than on the ground...