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Delta goes pasta-only for thousands of international travelers after ‘spoiled’ food forced a flight to divert

A Boeing 767 passenger aircraft of Delta Air Lines arrives from Dublin at JFK International Airport in New York as the Manhattan skyline looms in the background on Feb. 7, 2024.

Charly Triballeau | Afp | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines pulled some meal options from dozens of international flights on Wednesday hours after the carrier said reports of “spoiled” food on an Amsterdam-bound flight forced the plane to divert to New York.

Delta was only serving pasta in the main cabin on about 75 international flights on Wednesday and a similar number on Thursday, according to an airline spokeswoman.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Delta teams have proactively adjusted our in-flight meal service on a number of international flights,” the spokeswoman said in a statement to CNBC on Wednesday.

Delta apologized to customers over the report of spoiled food in the main cabin on the Detroit-to-Amsterdam flight.

“This is not the service Delta is known for and we sincerely apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and delay in their travels,” Delta said.

In an email to staff on Wednesday, Ash Dhokte, who leads onboard service at Delta, said the airline is investigating what went wrong and that “immediate corrective actions have been implemented to avoid recurrence.” 

Do&Co., a Delta caterer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“As our last line of defense, please examine the dish before serving it and do not serve any food that may have a contaminant,” Dhokte wrote, noting that onboard food safety incidents are “extremely rare.”

The incident occurred in the midst of the peak summer travel season, when Delta and its rivals are fighting over travelers. Airlines serve thousands of meals a day to customers and such incidents are rare, said Henry Harteveldt, a travel consultant and founder of Atmosphere Research Group.

“Delta is taking prudent action. When you have a food scare you don’t want anyone getting sick on a plane,” said Harteveldt. “Going to all pasta is the safest and smartest option.”

The airline industry is facing another challenge: a possible strike by workers at major inflight caterer Gate Gourmet. Federal mediators released Gate Gourmet and its unions from mediation earlier this week, paving the way for a potential strike at the end of July.

“Gate Gourmet caters for us at 19 domestic stations and we are reviewing strategies to limit disruptions for you and our customers should an interruption occur,” Delta’s Dhokte said in the staff note Wednesday.

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