On my recent trip to New York, I flew Sun Country Air. I've used them before, and have had generally positive experiences. For flights in and out of Minneapolis, they are far cheaper than the competition, especially the exorbitant fares charged by Northwest, which dominates the airport. They fly direct, which is nice for me, in comparison to the other major low-fare airline that goes to MSP--AirTran, which directs all its flights through Atlanta (Atlanta is not exactly on the way between the Twin Cities and DC). And their flights are normally uncrowded--not a good sign of profitability, but far more comfortable to fly in.
The flights on this trip were delayed on both ends, but that was more a function of JFK International being a complete mess than anything the airline did. However, I did have a rather peculiar experience flying home. Sun Country offers a hot sandwich as its "snack" on the flight. The way there, it was turkey pastrami. Coming back, it was a cheeseburger. Being a semi-kosher Jew, I can't eat cheeseburgers. I asked if they had one without cheese, and the flight attendant told me, sorry, they don't. So I told her they should have a few without cheese, because sometimes Jews fly too. And she looked at me and said, half-indulgently and half-patronizingly, "well, we can't have everything."
She didn't say it mean, exactly, but the tone of voice made me feel as if I was making some wildly unreasonable demand of her company. And I resent being made to feel that way. I don't like it when Judaism is treated as some strange and mysterious cult, and I don't think it's utter craziness to set aside a few hamburgers without cheese so that people who--because they keep kosher, or are lactose intolerant, or whatever--can't have cheeseburgers still can eat. But I didn't say any of that. I don't like to make a fuss. So I accepted a small, significantly less filling cookie, and sat quietly for the rest of the flight.
Of course, the ordeal was even more awkward for me because of my own imperfect record of keeping kosher. Though I still don't ever eat bacon or shellfish, the "milk/meat" mix rule has started to fall apart significantly. The turkey pastrami sandwich on the way there had some hot goo on it which "for all I knew was mayonnaise", but pretty surely was cheese. I eat Philly Cheese Steaks without embarrassment now, and Chicken Parmesan as well. But, in my childhood, cheeseburgers were the quintessential example of an "unkosher food", something everybody ate but I didn't. As such, even though I don't really honor the rule which prevents me from eating it anymore, it occupies a peculiar space in my psyche that turns it into a sort of redline: if I start eating cheeseburgers, I've crossed over into total non-kosherness. So, unlike the pastrami, I refused the cheeseburger, and sat hungrily in my chair. Academically, I think this sort of negotiation over how to be Jewish in the modern world is totally legitimate. But practically speaking, it makes it hard for me to truly press that the airline accommodate kosher preferences.
But even still, this experience really impressed upon me that, even though Jews are treated pretty well in America and are reasonably comfortable here, we're still "strangers in a strange land." If I was flying El Al, this event would not have happened. My imperfect little negotiations would have been a moot point, and it's nice sometimes to not have to deliberate about which little sacrifices to my Judaism I'm willing to make to be a non-obtrusive citizen. What this event signifies is that even minority groups which are on relatively friendly terms with majority culture still remain minority groups. There is always that moment of strangeness, and the more common those moments are, the more stressful life can be. It's nice sometimes to be able to retreat into my own space--the Jewish Students Center at Carleton, for example--where I know I'm not going to be weird because I'm Jewish. And because of that experience, I feel I have an obligation to support similar cultural spaces for other minority groups who are "strangers in a strange land", and should not have to always be a minority, all of the time.