Airlines tighten their belts on food service

United Airlines, struggling to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, last week began cutting back on food service, and America West began charging for meals.

United is replacing hot lunches and dinners with cold fare in first and business class in the U.S. and Canada, except for coast-to-coast routes; some shorter flights will not have meal service. Some coach passengers between the West Coast and Hawaii will no longer receive a sandwich. These and other changes are being phased in through Feb. 1, United said.

In what it said is a three-week experiment, America West began a “Buy on Board” program on some flights out of Phoenix. Depending on flight length, passengers may be offered such options as a snack box for $3, a “very large cinnamon bun” at breakfast for $5 or entire meals, such as chicken Kiev with salad, baked potato, green beans and a chocolate bar, for $10.


America West said it still offers free food service in coach on longer flights, such as those between Phoenix and the Northeast, and to first-class customers on some other flights. Some other majors were reportedly reviewing the idea of charging for meals.

United lowers walk-up fares on some routes

In a bid to lure business fliers, United Airlines last week reduced one-way walk-up fares on some routes to and from Chicago and Denver. It took up to 40% off regular unrestricted, refundable coach fares; such discounted fares were made nonrefundable. “We want to close the gap with low-fare carriers,” United spokesman Joe Hopkins said. American Airlines last year began testing similar discounts.

Four must-see exhibits for culture vultures

Several exhibits worth a trip are opening this winter. Among them:

New York: “The First Europeans: Treasures from the Hills of Atapuerca” at the American Museum of Natural History displays scores of fossils and artifacts related to human evolution, up to 1 million years old, found in northern Spain. It is the first time the objects have left Spain, a museum spokesman said.

Atapuerca is the site of the oldest Western European hominid fossil remains; in 1997 a new species, Homo antecessor, was named by archeologists there. Through April 13. Suggested adult admission $12. (212) 769-5100,

Also in New York, what’s billed as the most comprehensive exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings displayed in the U.S. opens Jan. 22 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and runs through March 30. “Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman” includes nearly 120 works. Adult admission $10. (212) 535-7710,

Philadelphia: Tickets went on sale this month for “Degas and the Dance,” featuring nearly 135 works by the French artist focused on the dancers of the Paris Opera.


The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the second and final U.S. venue for the show, which was drawn from a dozen countries and which closes today in Detroit. It runs Feb. 12 through May 11 in Philadelphia. Adult tickets, $20, are available by calling (215) 235-7469 or visiting

Phoenix: Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” is one of 32 works at “El Greco to Picasso,” a survey of European art drawn from the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

The Phoenix Art Museum is the only venue in the West for the traveling show, which runs Jan. 26 to May 4. Timed-entry tickets, $16 for adults, are available from Ticketmaster, (480) 784-4444, or by visiting the museum. (602) 257-1880,


Two weeks in Provence

Idyll Ltd. of Media, Pa., offers a two-week package for independent travelers in Provence, France, starting at $1,639 (March 26 departure) or $1,859 (April 9) per person, double occupancy. The price includes round-trip air fare from Los Angeles to Marseille, France, on Lufthansa; 14 nights in an apartment in the l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue area, about 45 minutes east of Avignon; 14-day car rental (manual; upgrades at extra cost); and an orientation session and escort to your apartment. Meals are extra.

Idyll Ltd. is a small company, so trips may sell out quickly. (888) 868-6871 (reservations and information),


Beyond Orlando theme parks

Orlando, Fla., has attractions besides theme parks, and the “Unexpected Orlando” brochure is a guide to them. You’ll find information on 20 art museums and galleries, local theater, historic sites and tours, zoos, gardens and outdoor recreation. Order by calling the visitor center, (407) 363-5872.