Biscoff cookies and warmed-up plastic container of pasta from your trans-Atlantic flight are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to inflight dining options on premium flights; expect custom menus designed by celebrity chefs as well as drinks included with your ticket price.
Airlines first began serving meals aboard flights during the 1920s, with Western Air Express serving meals on US routes. Since then, inflight cuisine has undergone great change. For an example of great inflight dining you can check out Cathay Pacific’s weekly flight offers.
The History of Inflight Meals
Over time, airline meals have undergone many transformations, from being luxurious affairs to something that many dread having to consume. Could celebrity chefs bring change back into airline meals and elevate flight snacks back up towards luxury status?
Airline food began with cold fried chicken sandwiches served on pre-World War I Handley Page airplanes, while by the 1930s as planes became bigger, higher flying and with pressurized cabins more available, passengers expected to experience decent onboard dining experiences.
United Airlines pioneered on board kitchens in 1936 to prepare passenger meals. Offering foods like scrambled eggs and fried chicken to appeal to its classier clientele. By the 1950s, airlines began catering more upscale clientele by serving refined meals served on white china plates with silver cutlery in business or first class seating.
However, as air travel became increasingly popular and flights became longer and more crowded, crew members found it increasingly challenging to meet expectations of service. By the 1970s, airlines focused more on ticket pricing and less on improving in-flight cuisine – leading Union de Transports Aeriens of France to hire Chef Raymond Oliver as part of a revamp to their menu to reevaluate and enhance quality in-flight meals.
Now, most meals are prepared on the ground in catering facilities before being transported directly to an aircraft for heating and serving. This allows airlines to maintain control over ingredients used, as well as hygiene regulations regarding meals served on board. Meals usually consist of main courses (chicken or pasta), salad and dessert with drinks available but limited by regulations regarding total liquid capacity on board.
To overcome their poor reputation for in-flight meals, some airlines are turning to Michelin-star chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Tom Kerridge as part of an attempt at improving onboard menus. But is this enough for creating tasty flight meals?
Flight catering facilities prepare, cook and package meals to be transported onto aircraft for reheating once in flight. Depending on the type of food being prepared, it may either be frozen or kept cold until ready to serve; then sent via large trucks at specific temperatures (checked by an in-house team) directly to each plane. These kitchens may also produce items for onboard use such as blankets, hot towels and condiments as well as pajamas for first and business class passengers.
Airline food can be difficult to navigate in flight, where cabin pressure can alter our perception of taste and aroma. Many dishes are designed to be mild enough that everyone can enjoy them, including those with allergies or sensitivities; however, chefs must often adjust recipes based on traveler requests or what would work best when reheating in flight.
Many airlines have recruited celebrity and Michelin-star chefs to help improve their inflight menus, including Heston Blumenthal of British Airways who created an original menu back in 2012. Tom Kerridge offers short-haul flights with easyJet. Unfortunately, these high-profile menus have done nothing more than make airline food taste better; most still consider inflight meals subpar.
In an effort to change this, some airlines are now offering made-to-order meals in their premium cabins, prepared onboard by flight attendants. Meals like chicken skewers or noodles may be prepared according to customer orders – an indulgence, yet an expensive feat during pandemics.
Airlines are working to improve the quality of economy class meals by using local ingredients and developing more flavorful sauces, and investing in new cooking equipment to give meals an authentic home-cooked flavor; for instance, one airline is using a special oven which simultaneously cooks and rewarms food, creating fresher and appetizing meals.
Airline food service is an integral component of travel industry. It serves both passengers and airlines by making flights more enjoyable while simultaneously giving airlines an opportunity to promote their brands. As more people opt for air travel, this industry has expanded rapidly due to low costs, safety measures and convenience benefits; furthermore it has recently seen major changes such as British Airways discontinuing short-haul meals which led to many passengers complaining.
Catering companies usually prepare the meals served to passengers on flights via trolley. Meals prepared for airline meals tend to taste delicious even at high altitudes and often consist of meat or fish, vegetables, bread roll and pudding packaged neatly into plastic trays for delivery to seats. Some airlines even provide hot and cold beverage choices onboard!
Some airlines also provide the option of upgrading a standard economy class meal by purchasing it and paying online prior to flying. These meals typically provide better quality than their free counterparts at a more reasonable cost; however, their quality varies depending on which airline and their reputation.
Additionally to food, some airlines provide passengers with beverages like tea, coffee and soft drinks (some alcoholic). These can help passengers relax during their flight while others offer snacks like chips or chocolates to make the experience more pleasant.
ANA offers customers the ability to pre-order their meal up to eight days before flying, with monthly menu updates. Customers can select collaboration menus for Tokyo departures and other routes as well as selecting their beverage choice – with its current wine selection designed by staff involved with on-board services as well as external advisor sommeliers.
Catering services that specialize exclusively in airline catering prepare much of the food served on flights. These services employ expert airline chefs who craft menus and produce it in warehouse-like facilities; these chefs are trained to create meals that satisfy passengers while adhering to stringent food regulations imposed by aviation. With increased passenger traffic and growing demand for high-quality meals, this in-flight dining market is predicted to experience exponential growth.
No matter if it’s for business or pleasure, proper dining etiquette in an airplane will help ensure a pleasant dining experience for you and all other passengers and staff members alike. Remember to show respect towards others on board!
Be mindful to limit conversations to an acceptable volume and respect the privacy of other passengers. Avoid loud or disruptive chatter during meals and refrain from using your phone or tablet; also avoid interrupting other seatmates eating or drinking without permission first.
Use your elbows and feet to limit how much space you take up in your seat. Keep work materials, newspapers and laptop screens out of sight of fellow passengers, and don’t read their worksheets or laptop screens. If someone in your seat is sleeping, gently tap their arm instead of shouting or shaking their head violently to wake them up.
When eating finger food, using your hands is acceptable; just remember to use the napkin provided to clean them after each use. If utensils are available, using them whenever possible helps avoid unnecessarily dirtying your fingers and contaminating your food. When dining with others, be considerate of their choices in food and avoid ordering separate plates which don’t complement each other.
Alcohol may be legally ordered on flights, but opening your own bottle could violate federal regulations and result in the flight being grounded, leading to fines of thousands of dollars for violating them.
In many cultures, it’s considered polite to finish your entire plate even if the food doesn’t taste particularly great. Furthermore, French etiquette dictates saying “S’il vous plait” and “Merci” upon receiving service.
If you have a dietary restriction, it’s essential that you let the flight attendant know in advance. They won’t take offense; instead they want to ensure there are multiple options available for you to enjoy – for instance some airlines provide meals certified as Halal for Muslims (meaning no pork) so the flight attendant will want to ensure there are sufficient vegetarian or fish-based dishes for you to try during their meal service.