Delta Air Lines, New York's largest airline, is launching a unique partnership with Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) – creators of some of New York City's most celebrated restaurants and helmed by James Beard Award winning restaurateur Danny Meyer – aimed at elevating the dining and inflight experience. The partnership demonstrates Delta's continued efforts to offer regionally tailored, chef-driven menus onboard as well as Delta's continued investment in New York.
Kenny Callaghan Executive Chef and Partner and Chef de Cuisine Jeffrey Held of Blue Smoke restaurant will create BusinessElite Express Meals for Delta's three daily flights between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and London-Heathrow. Delta customers on this key business route have expressed their desire for faster meal service options – allowing them more time to rest and relax, taking advantage of Delta's full-flatbed seats. Additionally, The Blue Smoke beverage team will create a signature cocktail for the menu. The new Express Meals and cocktail will debut in February 2014.
"With our shared passion for celebrating culinary innovation and hospitality, Delta and Union Square Hospitality Group are natural partners," said Joanne Smith, Delta's senior vice president – inflight service. "Union Square Hospitality Group is equally renowned for its food as much as its elevated level of service. We look forward to bringing the benefits of this new and inventive relationship to our customers."
"We've long admired Delta's commitment to inflight innovation, and BusinessElite provides an ideal stage for USHG to collaborate to help further enhance the inflight food and hospitality experience for Delta's passengers," said Danny Meyer, USHG's CEO.
Delta and Union Square Hospitality Group have a long-standing relationship, working together at Citi Field where Delta collaborated with Union Square Hospitality Group to design its Delta Sky 360 Club. Additionally, Shake Shack and Blue Smoke on the Road opened their first U.S. airport locations at Delta's new JFK Terminal 4 in May. This newest venture could pave the way for developing additional Delta inflight menus from other restaurants in the USHG family.
"From our frequent service from New York to London-Heathrow with our new partners at Virgin Atlantic, to our $1.4 billion redevelopment at JFK's Terminal 4 and our relationships with iconic New York brands like Union Square Hospitality Group, it's clear that Delta is dedicated to providing the best travel experience for New Yorkers," said Gail Grimmett, Delta's senior vice president – New York.
Delta recently closed on a transaction to acquire a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic Airways marking the next step towards a full joint venture between the two carriers. Delta and Virgin Atlantic now codeshare on routes across North America and the U.K. including seven daily flights between New York-JFK and London-Heathrow and two daily flights between Newark and London-Heathrow.
Additionally, Delta is working with Hospitality Quotient (HQ), the learning and consulting business of USHG. HQ will consult to Delta's leadership and inflight service teams to further differentiate the passenger experience on Delta, applying principles and best practices from USHG in helping Delta to create and sustain a culture of hospitality.
"Like USHG, Delta believes that happy employees lead to happy 'guests'," says Susan Salgado, managing director of HQ. "Delta is an airline we have always admired for their deep roots in hospitality and their commitment to all stakeholders, with a strong emphasis on employees. This is an ideal partnership for HQ."
Delta has expanded its culinary team and evolved its inflight food and beverage strategy to offer menus that complement regional tastes.
Earlier this year, Miami-based chef Michelle Bernstein's menus launched on flights to Latin America, including a specialized menu for flights to Mexico City. California-based chef Michael Chiarello continues to develop menus for Delta's transcontinental BusinessElite service between New York-JFK and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Those menus are paired with specially selected, California-grown wines selected by master sommelier Andrea Robinson as part of the Delta Winemaker Series. Additionally, Chef Chiarello's new menus with an Asian flair have launched on Delta's west coast flights to Japan.
Delta also recently announced the launch of a new West Coast Delta Shuttle product with hourly service between Los Angeles and San Francisco that will include meals from California-based LYFE Kitchen.
The newest member of the Delta culinary team will be revealed this fall via the "Cabin Pressure Cook Off" – a series of webisodes that feature four of FOOD & WINE magazine's Best New Chef alumni facing off in a series of cooking competitions.
Delta Air Lines is New York City's largest and fastest growing carrier, providing service to more destinations from New York State than any other airline. As part of a $1.4 billion project to create a state-of-the-art international gateway at JFK, Delta's new Terminal 4 opened earlier this year. The airline is also investing more than $160 million to expand and update Terminals C and D at LaGuardia. The unique Delta Shuttle product offers hourly service to Boston, Chicago (O'Hare) and Washington D.C. Delta's three metropolitan-area airports carried 23.1 million domestic and international passengers in 2012, up from 20.8 million passengers in 2011. Delta and its nearly 9,000 New York-based employees are part of the fabric of the New York community, acting as the official airline of the Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Rangers, Madison Square Garden, Food Bank for New York City, New York Wine and Food and AmFar among many others.