Business

Some airlines ground pricey limes from beverage service

A recent spike in the price of limes has caused some airlines to stop offering the fruit in their beverage service.
Larry Crowe/Associated Press
A recent spike in the price of limes has caused some airlines to stop offering the fruit in their beverage service.

NEW YORK — Airline passengers might notice something missing from their vodka tonics: the lime.

A spike in the price of limes has caused some airlines — for now — to stop offering the fruit.

‘‘We temporarily pulled limes about two weeks ago, due to skyrocketing lime prices,’’ said Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Halley Knigge. The airline typically goes through about 900 limes a day.

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Growers in the Mexico have reduced their supply because of unrest caused by drug cartels and flooding from heavy rains. That, combined with drought in California and a growing demand for limes, has driven up prices to a three-year high.

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The average advertised price in US supermarkets was 56 cents last week, according to the Department of Agriculture — up from 37 cents the week ended March 28 and 31 cents a year ago.

United Airlines has had to make do with lemons on some flights.

‘‘We still serve limes, though they’re more difficult to source,’’ spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said.

For frequent fliers like Ben Schlappig, author of the travel blog One Mile at a Time, that won’t cut it. ‘‘There are lots of cocktails where lemon simply isn’t a substitute for lime,’’ he said.

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One of its largest caters told United it has 15 to 20 percent of the typical lime inventory. The airline expects to have a normal supply by late May.

The elimination of limes is reminiscent of a famous cost-cutting move. In the 1980s, then American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall decided to remove a single olive from every salad. The thought was that passengers wouldn’t notice, and American would save $40,000 a year.

Not all airlines are changing their drink service. Delta Air Lines and American Airlines said they haven’t made any changes. JetBlue has never provided fresh fruit with its drinks.

‘‘Ultimately it’s just a minor annoyance,’’ Schlappig said.