ATLANTA, June 7, 2012 – Maintaining high-end, quality meals in Business Elite on Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE: DAL) is a demanding and exacting process filled with multiple challenges. From the logistics of supplying special ingredients, to sorting out where, how and when the chef-created meals and specially selected wines are served requires a great deal of planning and dedication, and no one knows it better than Consulting Chef Michelle Bernstein and Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson.
Among the greatest challenges is that approximately a third of the sensorial capacity of the palate is impacted by high altitude. At the normal cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, the low humidity in the cabin dries out the nose and mouth, resulting in a diminished ability to sense flavor, thus meals created on the ground will not taste the same when eaten in flight. Flavors need to be bolder, spicier, and well balanced. The same applies to the wines selected, which need to be complex and rich.
“When designing a menu, I favor reductions with herbs and spices because they infuse meals with complexity and bright flavors,” Bernstein said. “I have a great respect for salt and chilies and do not like to abuse them. I strive to prepare meals that make people feel good about what they eat and how they feel after they eat them. The meals I design must reflect the flavors of Latin America as for Delta it is important to offer a taste of the cultures travelers are experiencing.”
Another difficult challenge is that meals need to withstand the process of heating to preserve not only their texture and flavor but their overall visual appeal. The availability of seasonal ingredients in large quantities also dictates what is served on board. A favorite main course in the Business Elite cabin is the short ribs with Chimichurri sauce. Although the meal selection rotates, Chef Bernstein has kept this dish on the menu by popular demand. Accompanying sides may change depending on the season.
The importance of ample availability also impacts wine selection. Each year Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson selects 12 wines, six reds and six whites, out of thousands of offerings from wineries from all over the world to serve on the Business Elite cabin.
“What really guides the process is first and foremost that the wines are going to show well in flight and that means that they have to have a real presence on the palate and a real expressiveness because once you get to 35,000 feet your senses of smell and taste are much more attenuated,” Robinson said. “Things that tasted really good on the ground sometimes lose their character on the flight.”
The wines Robinson selects tend to be full bodied and rich so they can stand up to the special conditions at 35,000 feet. Wines served to Business Elite customers must meet a series of requirements that take into account many factors, from its complexity and richness to the sophistication required on the label to be part of the Business Elite experience.
“The selection wines must bear in mind that it is crucial to have wine producers that deliver enormous quantities,” said Sandy Gordon, vice president –In-Flight Field Operations. “More than 30,000 cases of wine are served on-board every three months.” Sampling the wines is a yearly process open to any winery and it is done at Delta’s Headquarters in Atlanta.
Currently, Chef Bernstein is working on the new menu for Business Elite which will be released in approximately six months. The Bernstein-Robinson team favors close communication in this process as their offerings to customers must be complimentary.
“We want to inspire our customers to discover the world through our selection of wines and meals. Our selections for our Latin America Business Elite cabin have heart and soul and we are proud of them,” Robinson said.
Delta is working to become the best U.S. carrier in Latin America and the Caribbean. As part of that goal Delta has established a long-term exclusive alliance with GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes investing more than US $100 million in GOL. Likewise, Delta has invested more than US $65 million in Aeroméxico as part of a long-term exclusive commercial alliance and entered a code sharing agreement with Aerolíneas Argentinas solidifying its footprint in Latin America. Executive Travel magazine recognized Delta with the Gold Leading Edge Award for the Best Flight Experience to Mexico. Delta provides service in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport reaching out to 32 countries and 54 destinations in the region offering more than 1,000 weekly flights between Latin America and the U.S. Spanish speaking Delta customers can receive assistance in Spanish through its Twitter channel @DeltaAssist_ES providing real-time, on-the-go travel assistance from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST.
Delta Air Lines serves more than 160 million customers each year. During the past year, Delta was named domestic "Airline of the Year" by the readers of Travel Weekly magazine, was named the "Top Tech-Friendly U.S. Airline" by PCWorld magazine for its innovation in technology and won the Business Travel News Annual Airline Survey. With an industry-leading global network, Delta and the Delta Connection carriers offer service to nearly 350 destinations in 65 countries on six continents. Headquartered in Atlanta, Delta employs 80,000 employees worldwide and operates a mainline fleet of more than 700 aircraft. A founding member of the SkyTeam global alliance, Delta participates in the industry's leading trans-Atlantic joint venture with Air France-KLM and Alitalia. Including its worldwide alliance partners, Delta offers customers more than 13,000 daily flights, with hubs in Amsterdam, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York-LaGuardia, New York-JFK, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Salt Lake City and Tokyo-Narita. The airline's service includes the SkyMiles frequent flier program, a world-class airline loyalty program; the award-winning BusinessElite service; and more than 50 Delta Sky Clubs in airports worldwide. Delta is investing more than $3 billion through 2013 in airport facilities and global products, services and technology to enhance the customer experience in the air and on the ground. Customers can check in for flights, print boarding passes, check bags and review flight status at delta.com.