American Airlines Ditches Salad and Other Airline Bans

This week (June 1), American Airlines dropped salad from its menu on flights from Europe (yes, you can still get a meal on a trans-Atlantic flight, at least for the moment).

Why Airline Says No to Salad

This was done as a health precaution due to a deadly E. coli outbreak that has claimed victims in several European nations.

This is quick response is commendable, it seems to me, and we should also note that Lufthansa’s inflight catering company has likewise “adjusted its meal production” while Delta is also said to be closely monitoring the situation.

My first thought, of course, was with the folks who’ve been affected by this bacterial menace; but American’s prompt action also reminded me of a similar “greens ban” carried out for a very different reason.

The Famous Disappearing Olive

It was back in the 1980’s, and American’s legendary CEO Robert Crandall wanted to save some money. So he ordered the removal of a single olive from every salad on every plane. I suppose it sounds crazy but it actually netted the carrier a savings of about $40,000 a year (which was a tidy sum back then).

Today, other items are being banned to save weight, as a way to save on jet fuel, an especially important consideration when you look at today’s steep oil prices. Back in March, for example, American began introducing lighter-weight drink/meal carts which the airline expects will ultimately save about $5 million a year in fuel costs (Crandall would be proud).

Actually, airlines have been looking at fuel savings for years. Back in 2005, when oil prices shot up sharply in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, JetBlue quit waiting to dump its jets’ used water and lavatory waste storage tanks until its planes had made a few flights; instead, they began dumping them after every flight, to save weight and save money and that was in fact the result.

iPads for Pilots

Alaska Airlines is also saving weight, some 25 pounds per pilot, by issuing the cockpit commanders iPads in lieu of paper manuals. Interestingly, the airline reported that its main concern wasn’t about saving fuel but about saving wear and tear on these human employees who have to lug all that paper around.

As for the current American Airlines salad ban, the airline says this change in the menus also extends to food offered in its various VIP lounges throughout Europe. However, American also maintains that it will go back to serving salad when they “believe it is safe to do so.” In the meantime, they are taking direction from local and international health authorities as to when this present danger will have run its course.

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Published: June 3, 2011