Friday, February 13, 2009

Dining on the Fly

Yesterday, Steve and I flew to Maine via JFK on Jet Blue. Neither of us have ever flown JB, and overall, had a fine time. No JB horror stories of being stuck on the tarmac for hours.

After an hour long subway and Air Train ride to get to the airport, we arrived at the bright, white, shiny, and spacious terminal five. Check in was a breeze - I love travelling on weekdays - and we zipped through security. Well, I zipped, Steve had to zag a bit because he left his 4 ounce toothpaste in his carry on so he had to dig that out and throw it away.

After security we suddenly found our selves in a huge, cavernous room that was all about food. After noting the stepped laptop station where users can sit on cushy square pillows, plug in, and utilize the free WiFi, we focused on finding some lunch. The terminal has four sit-down table service restaurants - sushi, Italian, Mexican, and American - and a large food court and market. The food court has the usual fare - pizza & pasta, sandwiches, quick Asian, and burgers - but it tended toward the upscale/trendy side and not the cheap-o mall side. Most of it was made-to-order. There was also a full hot bar that had entrees and sides steaming in chafing dishes. And a large, fresh salad bar. Chips and drinks were "healthy" varieties with lots of whole grains, kettle baked, and Newman's Own products. Not a Frito or Dorito bag in sight. Travel friendly whole fresh fruit - apples, oranges, and bananas - were also available.

We settled on paninis from the Boar's Head counter. Steve had something called "The Godfather" that had about three kinds of Italian meats on it, cheese, roasted red peppers, and pesto. I had a simple ham and provolone with pesto panini. Both were huge and could easily have been split with sides. I also got a perfectly portioned side of red potato salad and a banana.

I was very pleased with the food options. Since airlines aren't feeding passengers anymore, it's good to see that the airports and vendors have quickly jumped on the opportunity to offer more meal choices and higher quality food to travellers.

We also investigated the touch screen food ordering system that is at the gates. Rows of stools and computer screens are set up at bar height and you can click through menu choices. You pay by swiping a credit card and the food is delivered to you. Very interesting.

These touch screens are also how one orders from all the food court vendors. Each vendor has two screens set up under the "order here" sign. Your order is made and then you take your receipt, which the person who made your food gives you and then you go to the central cashier to pay. While I thought the ordering process was interesting, there was clearly not enough people making sandwiches at the Boar's Head counter because we had quite a wait until our paninis were ready.

We also noticed that alcoholic beverages are heavily promoted. The food court had beer and it could be ordered from the touch screen terminals at the gates. Once we were on the plane, JB also has mixers for sale. I could have had a mojito or a cosmo or a margarita if I had wanted one.

If you get to go through terminal five, take a minute to look around at the food. It ain't too bad and pricing is about what you'd expect for the airport.

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