Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Getting clogged at 30,000 feet

Perhaps the clean-artery commandos prefer to drive wherever they go. Certainly they’re not flying. If they were, they’d stop screeching about fast-food chains’ use of partially hydrogenated oils and start harping at the airlines for what they serve in-flight. Unless you pay for first-class accommodations, or luck out and land a seat on one of the blue yonder’s mavericks, your in-flight food options amount to trans fat, trans fat, or trans fat. With a beverage of your choice.

Typically the only variable is what form it takes. Would you prefer chips, crackers, muffins, cookies, or that dried-cat-food analog they call “snack mix”? Look for “partially hydrogenated oil” on the wrapper, and you’ll find it more readily than you will your luggage.

This might sound as if I’m lambasting a sector of our very own industry. That’s because I am. The chains targeted by the health zealots typically contend that their obligation is to offer choices, so that consumers can opt for better-for-you fare. They argue, rightfully so, that a decision on health should not be made for patrons.

Many feeders-in-the-sky offer no choice, or at best a limited one. And it’s not as if you can vote against all the options with your feet. The restaurant industry’s fear of losing patrons to the place next door just doesn’t hold at 30,000 feet. It’s take it or leave it. And after 12 or 14 straight hours of travel, you’re not going to leave it, even if they’re serving wood chips.

Of course, if you leave it, these days they may not care. As it is, they have too few seats for all the butts that want to fill them. And study after study has shown that people choose flights on the basis of schedule and cost, not the potential effects on their circulation.

It’s just a shame that the pressure exerted elsewhere doesn’t fall on a sector that might need that push to change its cholesterol-boosting ways.

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