With first-class travel on the decline, airlines are beefing up in-flight meals to lure increasingly scarce passengers to their premium cabins. In the third quarter of last year, big U.S. carriers with international routes increased their food spending by 8.5%, even as they cut expenses for advertising and labor. "Airlines fly the same kind of planes -- either a Boeing tube or an Airbus tube," says Hermann Freidanck, food service chief at Singapore Airlines. "What's different is the service and the food, and that's where we try to excel."

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