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Kosher in coach slashed at US Air

WASHINGTON, July 17 — Step onto a US Airways flight and you could be facing a long, hungry ride. Though the vanishing of the airplane meal is nothing new — many domestic carriers serve no more than drinks and pretzels on short hops — the Arlington-based airline on July 1 launched an In-flight Cafe with a twist: no special meals. That means if you want to order a kosher breakfast, lunch or dinner on most domestic flights of over 700 miles, you’re out of luck. The same goes for passengers who by dint of health or religion, require vegetarian, vegan, hallal or diabetic food. “All special meals are being eliminated” in coach class, confirmed Amy Kudwa, the manager of media relations for the airline. Yet the menu restrictions do not apply to those with the means to buy more expensive seats. “Travelers in first class can order special meals,” said Kudwa. She had no explanation for the lack of this alternative in the more populous coach section of US Airways flights, aside from the “cost-cutting measures” taken by the airline since the Sept., 11, 2001, terrorist attacks dampened the demand for air travel. “Food service is one of the many things that was scaled back throughout the industry,” Kudwa said. Anti-Defamation League Washington, D.C., regional office director David Friedman said the move signaled a lack of respect for all the affected groups. “We find it most insensitive and rather discouraging,” Friedman said. “It’s a serious step backward and sends a message to many people that their patronage simply is not wanted.” Orthodox Union Institute for Public Affairs director Nathan Diament flagged the growth of kosher cuisine, not only among Jews. Given the rising demand for kashrut, said Diament, “US Airways is probably shortsighted in this regulation, and people who care about this may choose to fly other carriers.” Silver Spring resident Ilan Haber, 30, visits 8-10 college campuses a year for his job as Hillel senior associate for campus strategic services. Committed to keeping Jewish dietary laws, he sees the lack of kosher meals as a particular problem for longer flights. “If they don’t have an opportunity to order a kosher meal and you’re flying cross-country, it is an inconvenience if you can’t get a nutritious alternative besides the peanuts or a candy bar” bought at the airport, Haber lamented. The cafe menu currently posted on the airline’s Web site includes two $10 lunch options: a chicken and Asiago cheese sandwich or a roasted chicken salad with feta cheese. Besides using nonkosher fowl, both mix dairy and meat — a clear kashrut violation. A $7 breakfast of blueberry and walnut muffin, honeydew and mandarin orange salad, yogurt and granola crunchies may be acceptable to some. The carrier is now providing “deli-style” meals for cash on flights out of Washington Reagan National Airport and 23 other U.S. airports. Most domestic flights, Kudwa pointed out, have had no meal service for most of the past two years beyond the prepackaged box lunches common to the industry. As to the future, the US Airways spokesperson predicted that the menu would likely expand in response to customer response. “The product is certainly something that is going to evolve over time,” Kudwa said. Its latest incarnation does not seem designed to aid the kosher traveler, however. Joining the current “Blueberry Madness” muffin plate on the breakfast menu as of July 16, she said, was a new offering of prosciutto (Italian cured ham), brie and honeydew melon.