Flights and Kosher Meals

One fellow blogger, whom I’ve already mentioned on this blog, wrote a post in August about kosher food on planes. As it’s only about four years since I became observant, I had never really bothered about kosher meals during flights. In addition my most recent flights were short ones to Sweden or Hungary where only drinks were served, or none at all when we flew with Ryanair in September.

Yet in August I knew I would soon fly to Hong Kong where one of my brother lives with his wife and baby girl and I knew that since the trip lasts 12 hours I would be eating a minimum of two kosher meals. So I read Treppenwitz’s post with interest, wondering what sort of food I would be served.

I had booked the flight with Swiss and was supposed to fly from Paris to Zurich and from there to Hong Kong, not that I particularly wanted to lengthen the flying time but this flight was the cheapest. However, when I arrived in Paris to check-in, the Swiss staff explained that, due to overbooking, I had been transferred to Air France. I immediately enquired about the kosher meal and was told that this could not be guaranteed because of the short notice. I was already picturing myself surviving on bread or at best steamed rice provided it was not served with the meat!

Moreover because most air pilots and hostesses were on strike we did not know if the plane would depart or not. The staff told us that the flight was « suspended » but in the meantime passengers were expected to wait in a queue in case they managed to round up enough air flight attendants and a pilot (or two) to allow the plane to take off. This meant that it was impossible for me to rush to the nearest airport store so as to buy some kosher biscuits and/or chips.

Finally twenty minutes before the plane was due to take off, we were told that it would take wing after all and boarding started immediately. Unexpectedly I did get the kosher meal. It still amazes me that, while nobody seemed to know whether the flight would go ahead, somebody remembered this meal and took great pains to bring it to the plane.

I soon became interested in what it contained, all the more so as I was famished by then. Well the meal was wonderful. It consisted of a cold salad (not the most interesting item on the menu), « boeuf mode » (beef with tomatoes, onions, carrots and peas), a cake, a fruit salad and a soy yogurt. There was also a bread roll. Observant flyers will know that the bread is  mezonos, so that we needn’t say the brachah over bread, which we would not be able to do on the plane anyway. The meal was hot, tasty and balanced. I looked at the label to identify the caterer; it was a French one « Servair Kasher », an Airfrance subsidiary. After twelve hours’ flight I was given breakfast. It had been prepared by the same caterer and was once again quite appetizing (a pita filled with scrambled egg and ratatouille), a fruit salad and coffee.

On the way back I flew with Swiss and obviously got the kosher meal I had asked for months before when booking the flight. Unfortunately, it was not so good. There was no cold salad this time. The salmon was hot but the rice and vegetables were cold. The fruit salad was fine and after I had eaten it, I decided to have a closer look at the two other desserts; while wondering why they had put three desserts on one tray. The first one was a chocolate cake with chocolate cream inside. I took a bite and decided to give up straight away as it was too creamy and with very little chocolate flavor. The other one was a chocolate cigar, filled with yet more cream and framed by two apricot halves! I tried but soon gave up that one too. Believe me I am not a fussy eater but those two sweets were just too rich for a flight. Whoever has planned this meal had never been on an international flight or had forgotten about it. Breakfast the next morning was no better: three half-bagels each filled with three different sorts of meat, a fruit salad and coffee. I was hungry so I ate the lot regretting the light and tasty pita I had eaten twelve days before.

For those two meals the caterer was an English company I won’t mention since I only had two of their meals and it would not be fair to assume they are always serving such unsavory food. However, for the sake of Jewish travelers, I do hope they start working on improving what they serve on long flights.