Our tasting panel has returned its verdict on American Airlines' new sandwiches: Nothing to phone home about -- but not bad, for airline food.
Looking to avoid "menu fatigue," American has rolled out six new sandwiches -- three morning and three lunch/dinner versions -- in its onboard-food-for-sale program on transcontinental and Hawaii flights. Each of the airline's three regions will offer a different sandwich, on a rotating basis, every 30 days.
The two sandwich varieties that kicked off the program Feb. 1 "will take a short break," according to American's manager of menu planning and development, Tim McMahan.
The airline's catering company, LSG Sky Chefs, delivered samples for us to try last week. Most tasters agreed that the sandwiches were well-stuffed for the $5 price, though none of the sandwiches earned an unqualified thumbs-up.
Best of show was the ham-and-cream-cheese breakfast sandwich on raisin bread, praised for its generously raisined bread and flavorful ham. If the other sandwiches had been made with decent sliced bread instead of flour tortillas or croissants, they'd have scored better, too.
As with most wraps, the flour tortillas serve more to hold the ingredients together than to add any positive flavor or texture. "Gummy," "bland," "chewy" and "tough" were adjectives our tasters applied to the tortillas enclosing the breakfast egg salad wrap; the roast turkey, cranberry and brie wrap; and the turkey pesto wrap. We liked the egg salad -- the only vegetarian option -- for its fresh-tasting filling, though, even if it was a little heavy on the iceberg lettuce.
The bacon slices on the ham-and-Cheddar club and the breakfast club croissant were a mixed blessing: They added flavor, but the limp-cardboard texture was a turn-off. The ham version got better marks for flavor but demerits for its "Danish croissant roll": "Eat this on a plane, and be ready for the stares when the bread crumbles all over you - and all over the stranger next to you."
As for the pair of p.m. turkey wraps, everybody welcomed the dried cranberries that punctuated both. We found the pesto version tastier than the turkey-and-brie wrap, unanimously deemed bland.
The turkey pesto wrap is the one currently being served on flights from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to Hawaii, the only American Airlines sandwich flights from our airport (flights of less than five but more than three hours offer $3 snack boxes).
Will you be satisfied with your purchase if you buy one? One of our tasters summed up the consensus:
"If I ordered a turkey-pesto sandwich at Corner Bakery and got this, I'd be disappointed. If I ordered a turkey-pesto sandwich on an American Airlines flight to Iceland, I'd be pleased."
The airline began charging for sandwiches and snacks in the main cabin of U.S. flights on Feb. 1 and as many as 60 percent of passengers buy the sandwich boxes.
Dining on an airplane these days is like hitting a convenience store.
Spirit will soon only permit one piece of free checked luggage and BA will not accept any luggage weighing more than 50 pounds.
Last year, the national health- advocacy group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine surveyed the nation's 13 largest airports in search of healthy vegetarian items.