Author Topic: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?  (Read 5486 times)

Offline milechazzer

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Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« on: March 05, 2018, 12:22:33 AM »
I recently took a couple of flights in first class with sorely disappointing kosher meals. On one of the flights, the (Cathay) flight attendant was completely astounded and embarrassed than the airline would serve such a poor quality and poorly presented meal to a first class passenger, and she apologized to me and encouraged me to complain about it. Most flight attendants have probably seen enough of these meals that they've grown immune to poor appearance and quality, or they just assume that this is representative of all kosher food.  But this experience got me thinking... Why can't we expect better from the airlines?

I think there is a general feeling among kosher travelers that we're lucky if the meal shows up, and we should always expect the worst. On flights in or from the US, kosher travelers have come to expect the worst possible food from US caterers, and no one even talks about their kosher meal experience unless they were fortunate enough to be served a misplaced kosher meal that came from a European caterer.

We know that many of these same airlines source much higher quality meals on flights departing from outside the US, and presumably they are paying more for these meals. In addition, there are a couple of US airlines that serve higher quality meals from the same US caterers that are infamous for the providing the worst meals on most US-based airlines. So it seems that even the US caterers that prepare the worst quality meals, also prepare relatively good quality meals when the airlines demand and pay for it.

If the airlines routinely purchase higher quality meals outside the US, and the US caterers have the ability to provide better meals in the US, then why can't we expect the airlines to demand better quality and possibly even spend a little more on the kosher meals prepared in the US - at least for travelers in first and business class?  What can we collectively do to effect change?

While individual complaints sometimes reach the right person and may have a small impact, I would say the best tool would be a simple website to gather and share photos and reviews of kosher meals. With a couple of clicks, and drop-down selections, travelers could post pictures of the good or bad meals they were served and also rate the meals at the same time. This could easily be categorized and sorted by airline, class, route, etc.  Once there are enough photos and data posted by travelers, this should be a useful resource to refer some of the airlines to, and to help guide the airlines' decision-makers about where there may be much room for improvement, and how some of the other airlines are providing a much more satisfying experience.

Please share any thoughts, ideas, suggestions or critique.

Offline mikebg

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2018, 03:48:56 AM »
As long as the airlines are able to source a meal cheaper they will have no incentive to provide a more expensive meal. It is simple economics. The only way to change anything at all is for very heavy FFs to write to the premium emails of their airlines with photos attached and complain again and again and again. That can change things, even if only slowly.

I'll give three examples.

Years ago I was a very heavy EL AL flyer. I was a Platinum member (well before they invented Top Platinum). I used to fly a good deal in First. They were sourcing their First Class meals ex-London from Hermolis and they were really excellent. All of a sudden they stopped doing this and began to source them from TLV. That meant I needed to start ordering a special Badatz meal. These were awful, small, and basically identical to the business class meals. I was furious about how I and others who required glatt meals were being treated and took some photos. I sent them to Hayim Romano, the then CEO of EL AL together with my cut up Platinum card, as personal registered mail. I wrote that he may wish to order this junk nexst time he flies in First. I happened to know a few EL AL Insiders in those days and they told me later that they had never seen him so angry. Within a short time they had arranged for me to travel to Hamasbia where I discovered that they were perfectly capable of producing good meals, but that it was basically down to cost. A couple of letters later, carefully coordinated with them, and things changed for the better pretty radically. One thing I was told though was that NOBODY HAD EVER COMPLAINED BEFORE.

Now a couple of small British Airways ones:

The BA premium lounge in LHR T5 is the Concorde Room (CCR). The way kosher meals work at LHR is that you can get a panini and soup in the business class lounge and a main course in the First Class lounge. The CCR is essentially the same as the First Class lounge except that the non-kosher menu is worlds apart, and very upscale. So I asked (like Oliver Twist ...) if I could get kosher soup there. Of course, the answer was "No", only in the business class lounge. SO I told them I would be going there first to get my soup and would return later. Sensing the absurdity of the situation the manager told me he would get it for me. Not wanting a repeat, I wrote. In the reply I was told that from now onwards there would be a supply of kosher soup in the CCR. Well, that never happened, but anyone asking for kosher soup there will get it, even if the manager brings it personally from the other lounge. Once again, NOBODY HAD EVER WRITTEN ABOUT THE ISSUE BEFORE.

BA serves fresh orange juice on board in First (and possible in Club World as well). That used to be with the exception of ex-TLV, where they would serve some vile orange coloured liquid they call "nectar" in Israel, and which in the UK they tend to call "orange squash". The thing is that it used to come in a plastic bottle which looked just like the ones that BA got their really fresh orange juice in in the UK. Once again, I wrote. The response this time was interesting: it seems that (reading between the lines) BA were actually being conned by their Israeli supplier. This was rectified within a week. Again, NOBODY ELSE HAD EVER WRITTEN ABOUT THIS ISSUE!

The common denominator in these anecdotes is that people (especially kosher travelers) rarely complain. If they did complain on a regular basis it would be the end of Stogel/WAM dog food, at least in premium cabins. So its no good setting up websites with photos. Take those photos, and plenty of them, and SEND THEM TO THE AIRLINE! Make sure they know how much status you have (if you do have high status with them). An dkeep doing it again and again. Eventually things will improve. I have, likewise raised kosher food issues at "premium members evenings" which BA host from time to time. Nothing else will change matters.

Offline DTM

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2018, 05:59:21 AM »
Excellent posts and ideas. I like both, the website combined with individual complaints sent with a cc copy to the website.
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Offline BarryLincoln

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2018, 02:41:24 PM »
The common denominator in these anecdotes is that people (especially kosher travelers) rarely complain.

Sorry... this made me laugh... I think there are several members of this forum that would probably beg to differ...

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2018, 03:01:08 PM »
Sorry... this made me laugh... I think there are several members of this forum that would probably beg to differ...

Lol :)

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2018, 03:19:01 PM »
Sorry... this made me laugh... I think there are several members of this forum that would probably beg to differ...
Maybe on this forum, but everyone I know would never complain about a KSML, everyone knows that it's horrible and that's  the end of it.

Offline 159dallas

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2018, 03:59:26 PM »
Maybe on this forum, but everyone I know would never complain about a KSML, everyone knows that it's horrible and that's  the end of it.

Both are true some will some won't

Offline Alexsei

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2018, 04:55:26 PM »
Is the case different for other special meals such as halal ?
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Offline Mordyk

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2018, 05:01:24 PM »
I sent them to Hayim Romano, the then CEO of EL AL together with my cut up Platinum card, as personal registered mail. I wrote that he may wish to order this junk nexst time he flies in First. I happened to know a few EL AL Insiders in those days and they told me later that they had never seen him so angry.
;D

Offline milechazzer

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2018, 07:41:57 PM »
Thanks all for your responses and input.

Although I would characterize myself as a chronic letter-writer (and have gotten pretty positive results over the years from airlines, hotels, etc.) and I'm sure plenty of others here fall into that same category, I think it's fair to say that most people will not bother to send a letter, write an email, or complain by any medium. Even though complaining has become so much easier with email, twitter, facebook, etc., most people either don't know how to do it right, or will not find the time. But I believe that many of those same people who won't take the time to write/email a complaint to the airline, will still take a couple of quick photos and upload them onto a website, if the interface is simple enough. This minimal effort will provide a valuable reference for any other passenger to show the airline what good or bad kosher meals may look like, where there is room for improvement, and which airline (and caterer) has really done a great job.

There's no question that everyone (and especially those with status, and those flying business or first class) should be sending emails to the airline whenever they're served a sub-par meal. But the people at the airlines who are receiving these complaints most likely know very little about kosher meals. They don't know how bad or good your meal was, relative to what their competition is serving. They don't know that your meal in first class may have been identical to the meal served in coach. They probably don't know that the same caterer whom they sourced your meal from, is currently making a much better meal for one or more other airlines. They may not even know that it's possible for a kosher airline meal to look and taste good. They probably don't realize that they are serving far superior meals on the same exact plane when it returns from Europe, Asia, etc.  They most likely don't realize that they have the option of serving a kosher passenger in first or business class on new china and with new flatware, as some airline have arranged with their kosher caterers.

So although sending emails is obviously the most effective method of effecting change, I think that an email only provides an individual's perspective, without sufficient reference points or depth of information to let an airline know what options there are in the kosher market, and how they could improve their meal offerings.  The ultimate objective would be to move the under-performing kosher caterers to a higher standard, either on their own volition, or at behest of the airlines. It may be less realistic to expect any dramatic improvement in coach meals, which airlines probably budget a very small dollar amount for, but efforts like these should certainly have a positive impact for meals in business and first class, and any increased focus on quality of kosher meals should hopefully lead to overall improvements of standards across the board.

Bottom line.... The airlines don't get enough complaints about kosher meals, but also aren't aware enough about options and alternatives in the kosher meal market. I think they need pressure and education. I would encourage everyone to reach out to the airline when they have a bad meal experience. But I think the website would also be a really useful tool to collect information, help educate the airlines and push the PR pendulum.

My web design skills are pretty limited, but I'm wondering if anyone here with the requisite web design skills would take this on as a pet-project. (I'd be happy to assist in any other way.)
Please reply here if you'd volunteer for the task, or feel free to share with anyone else who you think could help with this.

Offline Einstein

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2018, 11:42:50 PM »
Its always bothered me as well....thanks for bringing this up...
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Offline shmoe joe

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2018, 12:19:50 AM »
IMO the real answer is, because most people anyways bring their own food. So they don't end up touching what's served, so they don't even know to complain.
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Offline Proisrael

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2018, 03:49:48 AM »
Here you go, someone get Jared Kushner and Ivanka to retweet this

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/kosher-food-airplanes

Offline milechazzer

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2018, 03:43:31 PM »
Here you go, someone get Jared Kushner and Ivanka to retweet this

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/kosher-food-airplanes

Petition doesn't seem to be getting much traction yet. But the good news is I think the website is in the works.

I welcome your ideas and suggestions for website content and features....

Offline DTM

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Re: Kosher Meals - Can we do better?
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2018, 04:02:20 PM »
Petition doesn't seem to be getting much traction yet. But the good news is I think the website is in the works.

I welcome your ideas and suggestions for website content and features....

Post flight reviews of kosher meals should include the specific Airline, flight date and number, seating class, meal (b,l,d), name of the kosher food supplier, and each of the specific items on the tray, each separately rated, so that Airlines and food suppliers can look to see where specific improvements can be made.   
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