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Jewish World Review April 24, 2002 / 13 Iyar, 5762

Art Buchwald

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Consumer Reports

The greatest breakthrough | The greatest breakthrough in commercial aviation history took place recently, when an upstart airline, known as JetBlue, changed the eating habits of the air traveler. Instead of feeding them airline food, they told their passengers to bring their own meals. When JetBlue first announced this radical shift in doing business, the other airlines said it would never work.

An official spokesman for a major airline, who refused to be identified, said, "Our biggest attraction is airline food. Just mention it and people's mouths start to water. When they go through airport security and are asked if they have anything to declare, 70 percent say, 'I can't wait to taste the beef stroganoff.'"

How did JetBlue come up with the idea? Their CEO, David Neeleman, was reading a book on Lindbergh one night and suddenly one paragraph jumped off the page. "Lindbergh took his own food with him to lighten the plane. He had a tuna sandwich and a vacuum bottle of hot tea." The historian who wrote the book also said, "If Lindbergh had eaten airline food, he never would have made it to Paris."

It was midnight, but Neeleman called his marketing director and said, "Did you know Lindbergh brought his own meal when he crossed the Atlantic Ocean?"

"I didn't know it boss, but I believe it if you say so."

"If we let our passengers bring their own food, we could save 30 cents on each ticket."

"Boss, you're a genius. Do you think the FAA will approve it?"

Neeleman said, "They will probably first test the idea with the antitrust people at Justice to see if they can sue us. And the airline caterers' union will strike, but it's still worth doing."

"I'll get on it right away," the marketing man said.

The advertising agency came up with a campaign: "Fly JetBlue and bring your own food. Lindbergh did it and so can you. The money JetBlue saves on food goes into your pocket."

As soon as the FAA gave its approval, customers jammed up to the airline's ticket counters. The food concessions in the airports provided everything from turkey to egg salad sandwiches.

Then a strange thing happened. A man named Harry Gilmush stopped at the Stage Delicatessen on his way to Florida on JetBlue. He bought a corned beef and chicken liver sandwich with sauerkraut on garlic bread, a giant green pickle, a piece of homemade cheesecake, and two bottles of cream soda.

When he got to the airport, the JetBlue agent asked, "What have you got in the paper bag?" Harry told him and the agent said, "Did you pack it yourself?"

Harry said, "No, the guy at Stage Delicatessen packed it for me."

The agent said, "You're going to have to leave the dill pickle behind. It's a lethal weapon."

Harry said he didn't understand.

The agent told him, "Do you know what our passengers would do if they knew you were eating a dill pickle and then saw what else you were having for lunch? They would kill you."

JetBlue now has a rule that no one can fly on their planes if they have a dill pickle in their carry-on luggage. The other airlines have no choice but to follow JetBlue's food policy, and when they do they will adopt the no-dill-pickle rule.

Comment on JWR contributor Art Buchwald's column by clicking here.

04/18/02: Conflict of Interest
04/15/02: The Sign That Couldn't
04/11/02: It's Cherry Blossom Time
04/08/02: The Young Audience
03/31/02: Safe Deposit for Sale
03/26/02: Au Revoir to Soft Money
03/21/02: Andersen Defense Fund?
03/19/02: Celebrity kickers
03/15/02: A Mickey Mouse solution
03/13/02: Shadow government in the sandbox
03/07/02: The Way It Is
03/05/02: Not telling the truth
03/01/02: Book flogging
02/27/02: The players are mad

© 2002, TMS