The topic of an airline child meal does not come up very often. On almost all global carriers one can special order a variety of meals in economy class and premium cabins (business and first class). While my daughter Yael (15) is a big fan of sashimi and a number of things that you might not consider on the menu for “kids,” she also does not always love the entree selections in business class. For example, the new spring 2017 menu for Delta One (Delta’s premium international business class product, formerly known as BusinessElite) features such things as herb crusted lamb chops and chilled mustard tuna. Unlike a restaurant, you can not often get the entrees modified, for example the tuna without the chilled mustard. For fun (ok, I’m an #AvGeek and #PaxEx geek, so for me inflight food service is “fun”) we decided to pre-order the Child Meal (industry code = CHML). Delta has really been improving their services for premium customers, including enhancements at their lounges (Sky Clubs), improved food and beverage, elite transfers via Porsche on tarmac, and enhanced SkyPriority signage and features. Delta specifies if you have a special meal ordered on your boarding pass, which I always felt was a nice touch. (Unfortunately, that is not the case on the mobile boarding passes.)
The McDeltaOne Meal
We requested the “express” meal service which is a one tray service for Delta One transatlantic red-eye flights. I am guessing it does not make a big difference with regard to a child meal since there do not seem to be courses that would make sense to serve separately. Well, unless you call raw carrots a course. The meal consisted of some form of chicken nuggets, marinara pasta, lots and lots of carrots, fruit and a very sizeable amount of animal crackers, candy and pre-packaged cheese and crackers. I am still trying to determine if this is a strange meal, or not. It might be nice if they had an entree choice (ok, I am probably insane) or serve a nice piece of grilled chicken or even chicken schnitzel. My guess, is that Delta is trying to make the food look “American kid familiar,” and with regard to that they probably have succeeded. (See also, with regard to US Domestic meals : “Pre-Ordering American Airlines First Class Meals…Just Not for Kids.” )
Appropriate Child Meal? Or Not?
So, the big question is : “is this an appropriate child meal in a premium cabin?” It is sort of tough to say. On the one hand, most “picky eater” kids would be happy with this very “McDonalds like” kids meal. Delta has also covered numerous bases by including lots of extra treats. On the plus side, those treats make great take-away snacks. Most younger kids are probably traveling with parents to/from holiday, so these treats can be considered part of a vacation perk. But, on the other hand, I know many parents that would not be thrilled with a tray of very starchy and heavily processed food being presented to their child. Another thing to consider, is that most inflight (“adult”) meals are also not particularly healthy, but there is an option. Not to mention, one could order Asian Vegetarian or a Low Calorie meal if they felt so inclined. With child meals, there is a one-size fits all approach; which is a bit surprising in a premium cabin. So, perhaps, my labeling of the meal #McDeltaOne is a bit harsh. I do believe that McDonalds has a definite place in the dining spectrum. But, let’s be honest, when we want McDonalds we choose McDonalds. That is not exactly the case with inflight meals for children. And those McDonalds regional specialities, like the McKroket in Amersterdam, are super cool (on a limited basis, for sure). And, Minions! Yes, Minions Happy Meals. Who doesn’t love Minions? One final note, the ONE strawberry was a “bit” yucky. Would not say it was bad, per se, but not appetizing to my daughter. According to Delta, their meals are “Suitable for children from 2 to 12 years of age, and includes food offerings appealing to children. The meals planned follow Recommended Dietary Allowances for children.” Not sure about the dietary consult on these meals. I was sound asleep, but my daughter was awake and was served breakfast. She said it was Fruit Loops and fruit, which seems to be consistent with the Delta dinner meal. Though, I do not have a picture. Seems Delta missed an opportunity to serve something “yummy” like pancakes as Delta does offer two hot breakfast options in Delta One. Was looking for and could not locate our British Airways pancake photo, since those were enjoyed for breakfast on BA First Class KUL-LHR last year. In addition, the flight attendant serving my daughter’s side of the aisle said she was welcome to have an ice cream sundae at any time inflight. Ice cream for breakfast, yes please!
Kids and Airline Loyalty
This brings me to one of my favorite topics regarding loyalty, building brand awareness for products at a young age. Airlines have a history of providing amenities specifically for children. Such novelty items as airline “wings,” books and games as well as services. Etihad has an extensive children’s program, including a Flying Nanny program.
Do you ever wish that more help was available with children on long-haul flights, so you can sit back and have a little “me time”?
Our Flying Nanny is here to provide an extra pair of hands – whether it’s helping to get the children settled for bed, keeping them entertained or simply offering advice and support to parents. Every Flying Nanny will be equipped with a goody bag of games and activities to help keep the kids occupied, easing the pressure on you.
None of this is particularly new. Some might even argue that it is more about building the loyalty of the parents, since once one has children the entire dynamic of travel changes. I remember as a kid, TWA had a fascinating book series that they gave away inflight. In the one “kids” book on the L1011, I distinctly remember them showing a pic/diagram of the elevators that were used to get to the lower level galley by the TWA flight attendants. I happen to have an extensive TWA collection, and the Kids TWA Flying Magic Board in mint condition is a “prized” possession.
My personal opinion is that brand loyalty development by companies such as airlines should start as early as possible. I believe brands make a huge impression, my kids had opinions at an early age. One strong opinion from my son was always “please don’t make us fly Southwest as Unaccompanied Minors.” Why? Because Southwest (WN) does not have assigned seating and that seemed to bother him a lot. They learned early on, that flying Delta they could gain status. While I will admit that I am personally the most obsessed with airline status in the family, the kids do “get it.” Such a proud father when his 18 year old son sent an iMessage with a copy of the upgrade receipt upon boarding a flight by himself at MHT (Manchester, NH airport). My youngest Yael has had the most experience, since she has had the opportunity to live in Amsterdam and is now in boarding school. Yes, it was totally me that put the BA Gold (“High” OneWorld Emerald Status on British Airways) luggage tag on her school backpack. But, she left it there, so I guess it does not bother her that much. Let’s face it, status is nice! Yael has transitioned from Delta Gold Medallion to British Airways Gold; quite a step up in the world. Yael promises to publish more this summer, but when she was 13 she produced two pieces for TravelZork : KLM 747 Amsterdam to Tokyo (AMS-NRT) thoughts of a 13 year old and Kyoto, Japan | Thoughts of a 13 year old. (Spoiler : Yael LOVED the miso soup served in KLM World Business Class.)
Airlines Marketing to Kids Makes Sense
Logically marketing to kids at an early age makes sense. They will be the next generation of passengers and road warriors. Also, look at the “step up” towards lifetime status. Family travel and travel experiences are also quite the topic of conversation in the blogosphere. Especially, air travel, where numerous bloggers such as Mommy Points profile the good and the bad (“The Puke and Tears”) that is a part of traveling with kids. You will also find a lot of family travel from the Disney obsessed Pizza in Motion (do people really have “emergency” Disney trips?), and lots of #AvGeek with the family in his articles. Airlines most definitely have the chance to make both a good and bad impression with passengers young and old. The Aviation Queen Zork has a fascinating “kid focused” article she is working on, but I am not going to spoil the fun (yet). Let’s face it, just like adults kids also LOVE lie-flat seats. Even if the Delta 767 is one of my least favourite 1-2-1 single aisle access configurations. It sure is comfortable for a (almost) 5 foot tall kid.
The child meal story doesn’t end here. In a few months, we expect to be flying the same route on British Airways Club (Business Class) upper deck on the 747. Stay tuned for our Delta versus British Airways Business Class Child Meal comparison.