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Airline Dining at its Best

by Lux Joseph 5. September 2014

No matter whom you speak to from any part of the world, food is always a conversation topic and certainly something travelers enjoy most when going to places outside of their home country. A satisfying meal remains a top point of interest when selecting hotels, venues for meetings, and even when selecting their airline carrier.

United Airlines was the first carrier to open an experimental airport kitchen in Oakland, CA back in 1934.  They started a trend that was soon followed by many of the other major carriers at the time and by the 1950s, meal service was an amenity that travelers were looking forward to when traveling by air. In 1969 Air France and British Airways introduced a new distinct level of culinary expertise, but a decade later the quality of food on planes took a back seat as customers were looking for low fares. Low cost carriers continued to offer food service, but for a price in addition to the airline ticket. Food service was seen as something that was “extra” and those wishing to have it, would pay the cost as opposed to including that expense into every airline ticket.

Nonetheless, in-flight catering is not a fast food product or products you would find at your local 7-Eleven. It is a culinary masterpiece and that is exactly how the major players, Gategroup, LSG Sky Chefs, and Serair, view their product.  All those participating in airline catering look for big names in the culinary world to highlight their array of services. These companies believe that having a well-known chef design and implement an in-flight menu will bring success to the onboard experience. When I traveled from Beijing, China to Hong Kong in First Class I had the opportunity to enjoy an award winning meal on Hong Kong Airways. While they did not utilize an established celebrity chef to highlight their menu, they did offer an enjoyable meal that included Filet Mignon.

As a traveler, you should become aware of the meal selections offered on planes especially if you are traveling internationally. As more and more individuals are becoming more health conscious, the airline catering services have to meet these high demands. When traveling internationally or in domestic first class where a meal service is offered you can request a special type of meal through your travel agent. If you did not book with a travel agent you can call the airline, but we encourage you to do this at least 72 hours prior to departure, as the airline needs to put the necessary requests in place.  Some of these requests include vegetarian, vegan, kosher, gluten free, low sodium, low fat/low cholesterol/low calorie, diabetic meal, and even a bland meal.

Each airline takes a different approach to delivering a high level of food and beverage services. In 2013 Turkish Airlines received the award of Best Business Class Catering in the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards. They strive to deliver an authentic and elegant dining experience. Delta takes a different approach by partnering with top chefs to design their business class meals. Some of these chefs are Food Network stars and Delta believes these partnerships help providing a quality-dining program. Swiss Air takes the approach of sharing their culinary expertise by showcasing different regions of Switzerland. Every three months they bring on a different Swiss chef to focus on different local flavors throughout the country. Swiss Air has also taken it a step further by being recognized as the world’s first Allergy Friend Airlines. For British Airways they focus on the consumer’s feedback to drive their major decisions around food and beverage. They once focused on high end chocolates for the business and first class travelers, but the travelers have called for Cadbury so that is what they deliver. British Airways also partners with Twinings to design a blend of “altitude tea” for guests.

High-Flying Tastes is something airlines have to accommodate in order to meet and exceed consumer’s expectations. When consumers have the choice of different airlines, it is critical for the airlines to set themselves apart. As you fly, take the opportunity to observe the small details that each airline does to set them apart.


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