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Interview With Dana Dickey

Aired June 18, 2003 - 20:46   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Financially troubled airlines are trying out a new way to save money. And it's going to come out of your pocket when you fly. No surprise there. Several carriers are doing away with free meals. Dana Dickey, senior editor at "Conde Nast Traveler" has been looking at how the experiment is going over. Dana, thanks for being with us. You brought a lot of food with us. Now, basically, this is an experiment being done by a lot of carriers right now. How is it going?
DANA DICKEY, CONDE NAST TRAVELER: It's going really well. It's going so well, in fact, that more and more domestic carriers are rolling this out. Domestic airline food has always been a joke. But no more. There is organic vegetables, there's exotic ingredients, and we brought a bunch of them to show you.

COOPER: And the difference now is that the passengers pay for it.

DICKEY: Well, that's right. The passengers pay for it. It's $7 to $10 per meal. But they're finding more and more they'd rather have this than the reheated sort of TV tray dinner.

COOPER: Or the bag of potato chips thrown at them by the surly steward.

DICKEY: That's not pleasant either.

COOPER: No one likes that. Let's see what we have. This is from Delta's budget carrier, Song.

DICKEY: The new Delta Song airline is changing a lot of things. And here is a California veggie soft taco. And again, this was put together by Michelle Nishan (ph), formerly of New York City's W Hotels. That's there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) organic vegetables and Newman's Own salsa.

COOPER: OK. So just like McDonald's which is using Newman's sauce in their salads, everyone is trying to brand things.

DICKEY: That's right. I don't know if Chef Michelle (ph) would appreciate that.


DICKEY: But that's true. You're right there.

COOPER: And this one, what airline is this?

DICKEY: On to Midwest. This is Midwest Airlines. And again, this, along with Northwest, was one of the first airlines to really start trying this out. This is a grilled veggie wrap. And one of the -- we talked about exotic ingredients. This is la flora (ph) dressing, which is a Greek-style dressing. It's a lovely sort of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) taste.

COOPER: That's the smallest apple, by the way, I've ever seen.

DICKEY: Well, it had to fit inside the basket.

COOPER: It's not even an apple. It's a (UNINTELLIGIBLE). There you go. Shows my food knowledge.

DICKEY: We -- one of the reasons why -- one of the popular things they're finding are boxes and baskets.


DICKEY: Instead of the old trays.

COOPER: Oh, that's good. What is this? This is in flight cafe?

DICKEY: This is from Northwest. This is a balsamic (ph) chicken salad. And this is one of the favorites. Isn't this great? It's strawberries and toasted walnuts with cheese on a bed of romaine.

COOPER: Like a flat bread and a cookie. Yummy. That looks very good. And this is TGI Friday's. I mean, you're talking about the brand, this is sort of the most obvious, a very commercial box.

DICKEY: That's right. United and TGI Friday's are putting this out together. And this is sun-dried tomato pesto on a chicken sandwich. It's a tomato pesto mayonnaise, along with ceasar.

COOPER: Looks good. And the final one we have? Einstein Brothers?

DICKEY: U.S. Airways and Einstein Brothers have come together. And this is a delicious turkey sandwich.

COOPER: On chala bread.

DICKEY: On chala bread, very good.

COOPER: I like saying chala bread. That's my favorite.

With big, huge cookies. Their cookie are much bigger than some of the other people's cookies.

DICKEY: Well, and it comes with kettle chips also. So you get the salty potato chips along with the sweet.

And one thing to remember about this is you are never going to get board with these meals, because they're taking frequent flyers into account. They're changing them every month, the airlines.

COOPER: Oh, really?

DICKEY: That's right.

COOPER: Well, that's great. So these are right now just being tested out on various airlines. The first one to roll out full time, though, I think is going to be U.S. Air?

DICKEY: U.S. Airways is July 1. Going to put on all their domestic routes. Already you'll have found them on Midwest and Northwest.

COOPER: And This, which is I guess vegetarian, was in response to a lot of people said they wanted more vegetables on this.

DICKEY: This was a real surprise. It was a test case in response to the vegetarians. And actually, other non-vegetarian customers.

COOPER: Regular people like vegetables too.

DICKEY: It's a hit with them.

COOPER: And $7 to $10 is not -- when you consider what you pay in an airport for food, I mean, you buy a stick of gum in an airport it's like $20. Sort of.

DICKEY: Well, also, the thing to remember, you're not ...

COOPER: Well, it's not 20, but it seems like it.

DICKEY: What airports are you going to?

COOPER: Well, like you buy a bottle of water in an airport, it's like $3. It's ridiculous.

DICKEY: That's right, and you have to remember, you're getting well-balanced gourmet meal that's going to make you feel really good when you're off of your flight rather than maybe loading up on salted nuts or pretzels or anything like that.

COOPER: And they all come with bottled water, some kind of water. All right, Dana, thanks very much. It was fun.

DICKEY: Thank you.


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