<I>TSC</I> Readers Air Their Opinions on In-Flight Meals

There's some light at the end of the tunnel of traditionally awful airline food.
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Before we go any further, happy holidays to all of you! Just the fact that you are reading this is impressive. We figure most people are busy today trying to pick up all those obnoxious blue foam peanuts that came packed around the electronic

Jeopardy

games, the electronic organizers and the new computers.

Yep, we can see it now. Those little S-shaped indestructible objects are now all over the floor, the furniture, under your toes -- and you strongly suspect that a few are inside the dog as well.

Ah ... aren't the holidays wonderful?

And speaking of holidays, we know that one of the biggest treats today will be the holiday feast.

In keeping with this line of thought, we bring you as promised our

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"Airline Food Winners and Losers." Our thanks to all the readers who participated in our little competition for the best and worst airline food stories.

Surprise! There is some light at the end of the tunnel of traditionally rubbery, soggy airline food, according to

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Road Warriors who have had personal experience with better meals.

Regarding

Delta Air Lines

(DAL) - Get Report

, one reader wrote: "I've actually gotten a couple of decent salads of late." Overall, he said, he had picked up on a general improvement in the quality of food. However, he said that he, too, is concerned about our

report that the airline will be adding more "brand names" to the menu. "The idea of a

Spam

Surprise or Beanie Weenie Wonder Platter doesn't excite me," he added (earning himself a winning T-shirt).

No kidding. Wonder why?

Another reader added, "Holly, the days of the soggy cold bun with the mystery meat sandwich appear to be gone on Delta. Thank God."

As for breakfast,

AMR's

(AMR)

American Airlines

came out on top with many readers, with its now fairly standard selection of fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt and a bagel. Having had this breakfast more than once, we also think it hits the spot.

As one reader said, "While American's was the best, the breakfast selections in

TWA's

(TWA)

first class can be downright scary." He then went on to describe his last TWA breakfast adventure that included rather cold scrambled eggs and salsa. Ugh.

Many readers also said that the best way to get better food on a flight is to request the low-fat meal option. One reader who frequently flies coach on domestic flights said he has not been terribly disappointed with the meals since he started requesting that option. "When you do this, it means that airlines cannot serve you those pizza pocket lunch things -- too much fat." (There's a T-shirt-winning suggestion!) He did admit, however, that sometimes the offering is just rabbit food, i.e., a lot of lettuce.

We just flew from Providence, R.I., to New Orleans and back on

Southwest Airlines

(LUV) - Get Report

and can attest that the airline seems right on track in offering tasty add-ons to its legendary peanut offerings. We had some really good low-fat animal crackers (my brother, the pilot, says that these are now the crew food of choice), cheddar-cheese dolphins (

Goldfish

knockoffs) and cookies. The days of peanuts-only fare appear to be gone.

Finally, the most negative airline food experience submitted involved

UAL's

(UAL) - Get Report

United Airlines

. Our intrepid

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reader reported that he and his wife were flying from Washington to Denver last year when hamburgers were served. "The burger buns were so stale and hard that they could not be bitten through

really, much less chewed, so we just ate the hamburger without the bun. The stewardesses were embarrassed but helpless to correct the situation. As we were leaving the plane, I remarked to the stewardess that the hamburgers gave new meaning to the phrase 'buns of steel.' She laughingly agreed, and said she had never seen anything so bad and would pass along our comments to management. Since we haven't had UAL hamburgers again, I can't testify to the success of the complaint." (We can. Have a T-shirt for your trouble!)

Thanks to all who wrote. Congrats to the three

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readers who submitted the most informative or creative responses to our question:

George Hawks

,

Chris Jacoby

and

Tommy Tomlinson

.

Holly Hegeman, based in Barrington, R.I., pilots the Wing Tips column for TheStreet.com. At time of publication, Hegeman held no positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. You can usually find Hegeman, publisher of PlaneBusiness Banter, buzzing around her airline industry Web site at

www.planebusiness.com. While she cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, she welcomes your feedback at

hhegeman@planebusiness.com.