"I think airline food for years has had a stigma associated with it because the truth is you don't have a full working kitchen," said Beatriz Sims, who oversees Delta's international menu and product development
"The taste buds do dull a little bit so we try to strike a right balance so the flavors aren't overpowering but withstand the conditions," said Sims in a phone interview.
She said it's a misconnection that the only thing that goes into making food airplane-ready is merely adding salt. Instead, Delta dishes incorporate ingredients like sriracha, black olives and herbs to add flavor with staying power at 35,000 feet.
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Earlier this month, competitor United also changed its lunch and dinner options for United First and business customers on flights throughout the U.S. and Canada, and to Mexico, Caribbean and Latin America leisure markets.
To compensate for diminished flavor at higher altitudes, United Executive Chef Gerry McLoughlin uses added spices and aromatic herbs. The airline also roasts vegetables to release natural sugars, prepares meats and fish to retain moisture via a sous-vide method and avoids butter-based sauces, such as hollandaise, which tend to break when reheated.
Meanwhile, Delta's meals for its Comfort+ and Main Cabin on transoceanic flights will also feature regionally-inspired fare that will change seasonally.
The moves are the latest in a series aimed at making its food better. Last week, the airline overhauled first-class lunch and dinner offerings for domestic flights between 900 and 1,499 miles.