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Adding spice to the air

Bevan Springer | 6/6/2013, 3:59 p.m.
Jamaica's Butch Stewart picks Almond in Barbados

DOHA (April 25)--During a recent flight from Rome to Doha on the award-winning Qatar Airways, I was impressed--as I usually am with carriers from the Gulf--with their approach to in-flight service.

While other carriers make it clear that flight attendants--perhaps trying to shake their unfair reputation as "flying waiters and waitresses"--are there for passengers' safety and downplay the hospitality element, airlines like Emirates and Qatar understand that comfort is key to customer satisfaction.

From the moment you board, Qatar flight attendants invest in the relationship between flight attendant and passenger. No wonder millions of business and leisure travelers vote the carrier top in the world each year.

Those few hours in the air are a respite for harried business flyers, and Qatar recognizes these people want to relax and be above it all until they land.

Named the "World Best Airline" for the past two years by SKYTRAX, your humble scribe understands why. While the aircraft I flew was not the most modern in the Qatari fleet, the service delivered on board was exceptional old-style hospitality, from the focus on customer comfort to culinary excellence.

As we took to the friendly European skies in the late afternoon, dinner consisted of a sumptuous salmon steak coupled with fresh veggies, an assortment of warm bread and a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand to wash down the meal.

While enjoying dinner, a flight attendant approached and, perhaps cognizant of my nationality and associated propensity for spicy foods, asked whether I was interested in some Tabasco sauce.

While applying Tabasco to food is considered sacrilegious by many in my West Indian culture, I honored his considerate offer and soon received a tiny bottle of Tabasco, which surprisingly notched the salmon to a tastier level.

The business side of my brain was stimulated, and I immediately wondered why Caribbean pepper sauces--my favorite being the Baron brand from St. Lucia--have not more deeply penetrated the international market, including the numerous global airlines. It's a question I'd like to pose to producers of regional pepper sauces because I believe there would be significant demand for our products, beyond the diaspora markets, if we promoted them aggressively.

If any of our regional producers, the likes of Ronald Ramjattan of Baron Foods, are reading this, it may be worth pursuing if indeed this opportunity has not been previously tapped. Until then, I may have to do what Barbadian photojournalist Clyde Jones does when he is traveling: fill up an empty prescription bottle with Caribbean hot sauce and keep it close just in case there is a culinary emergency!