Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Snack Box - Best Taken Literally

Virgin Atlantic's New Business Class Cabin

I stand before you humbled by having to admit that, for the first time ever, I finally caved-in and bought one of United Airline's on-board "snack boxes".

I was sort of hoping that my upgrade request would have gone through but it didn't, and I only got to find this out at the gate as they were boarding my flight back to San Francisco. I therefore had held off buying anything at the airport to eat on the way home, hoping instead to be dining on roast swan off the back of a naked airline stewardess, or whatever else they do for you in business class these days. Alas, 'twas not to be. Therefore, I checked my conscience at the door, swallowed hard, and forked over $10 for a (very) small bottle of merlot and one of the 4 "hearty" concoctions on offer, the "rightbite" in this case, in order not to get home even crankier than is usual after 4.5 hours in the tender care of United (motto: " we piss the staff off so you don't have to").

Contents? Let me quote from the Book of Revelations, aka the United Hemisphere magazine:

"Bumblebee Sensations Lemon & Pepper Seasoned tuna medley; Late July organic crackers; Wild Garden hummus;Stacy's Multigrain Baked pita chips; Glacier Ridge Farms Gouda cheese slice; Sunmaid raisins; Mini-Toblerone." And all for the princely sum of just 5 of our Yankee dollars. "How can they deliver such fine comestibles so ridiculously cheaply?", I hear you cry.

As you may suspect, the quality of the marketing prose far exceeded that of the item itself. I have no idea what constitutes a "medley" when applied to some dry tuna in a tin, unless it was mashed with the eponymous bumblebees at some point of course, but then it would have actually had some taste to it so that can't be right. And what, pray, makes a few common-or-garden Ritz crackers into "Late July" doses of pure sunshine and health? I'm pretty certain it's not the one-inch crust of salt that the trans-fats handily help to attach to it for a start.

Apart from the Toblerone, which was the only accurately labelled thing in there (especially the "mini" part) the rest was high fat/high calorie junk. Believe it or not, you have to be incarcerated on a flight for more than 5 hours these days on United before you can even qualify to buy a bog-standard sandwich, let alone find out that they ran out three rows ahead of you, so this really is about as good as it gets for almost all domestic runs. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the one I chose was supposed to be the healthiest of the lot ....

It turns out that "snack box" is a very fair description. Indeed, "junk the contents and eat the box" get my vote as a much more accurate marketing pitch. And it's healthier, too. I mean, at least the cardboard will give you some much needed fibre, is meat-free, has no added salt or sugar and definitely no trans-fats. Hard to get food that's better for you than that, right?

(And yes, the wine was ropey too.)

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