Let's Eat at Delta Tonight!

Here's a conversation you'll probably never hear:

"Hey honey, what do you want for dinner?"

"Well, I've kind of got a craving for some of that nice airline food."

The most enjoyable part of the flight, if there is one these days, is seldom the food. But Delta Air Lines hopes to change that perception with a new lounge in midtown Manhattan that showcases the airline's new cuisine, drink and entertainment options.

It won't be taking reservations, but for the next six weeks Delta will be serving some of its new in-flight food offerings — designed by celebrity chef Todd English — at the lounge. Delta is highlighting its new first- and business-class menus and offers a separate for-sale menu in coach priced from $5 to $9.

The new space, called SKY360, is aimed at elite frequent fliers, big corporate clients and other invitation-only guests, but Delta expects 300 to 1,000 other people to walk in off the street for a meal.

The idea behind the lounge: Let people experience the new services and generate buzz about them, said Tim Mapes, Delta's vice president of marketing.

Visitors can sit in Delta's new business-class seats, drink cocktails created by nightclub owner Rande Gerber and check out the airline's new entertainment system.

"You can certainly talk about [these new features] in an ad, but unless you've seen them or sat in them or felt them or tasted them — obviously an experience lets you take full advantage of all five senses, not just sight or hearing it on a radio spot," Mapes said.

Delta recently emerged from bankruptcy, and this lounge is one of the ways it's trying to tell the world that it is back and has fixed past mistakes.

"Delta has gone through troubled times in the past," Mapes said. "This is very much reflective of a new Delta, a fresh Delta and a much more globally innovative Delta."

Delta had a steady stream of people flowing through the lounge at lunchtime today.

Anthony Marino and Lorenzo Tattoli work across the street and decided to check it out.

Both men said it was nice, but that price was still a major factor in determining which airline they fly.

But they both said the food was good.

"If they can compete with JetBlue, I definitely will make the switch," Marino said.

Larry and Bobbie Kunkler learned about the lounge through a TV news report.

Bobbie Kunkler said she remembered the Delta of long ago and wanted to see what they have to offer today.

"It used to be very grand," she said.

The verdict on the food and amenities was positive.

But what really impressed Larry Kunkler were the flight attendants who staff the lounge.

"If they're very enthusiastic, it might be worthwhile to go back to Delta," he said.

The lounge has a light and airy feeling.

The ceiling tiles light up to look like a partially cloudy sky. White couches and white pods overlook the street. Waiters serving food wore shirts at today's opening with the slogan: "Clean Planes Dirty Martinis."

But can an airline be saved by a roast beef Cobb sandwich, a chilled black-olive spaghetti salad or a Mediterranean salad with grilled shrimp?

"For international, it does make [a] difference for your premium customer," said Ray Neidl, an airline analyst with Calyon Securities. "This is just one way of emphasizing that you are providing a competitive and superior service."

Calyon has provided advisory services to Delta in the last year.

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