For airlines, , the challenges of creating menus – presentation, flavor and quality – are multiplied by things that only matter at 35,000 feet. In addition to typical restaurant issues such as portion size and sourcing food, airlines have to think about operating in this most demanding of culinary environments.
How to keep the fresh taste in meals that are prepared sometimes hours in advance is just the beginning. Menus have to be created to counteract the effects of altitude and low humidity which impact the perception of taste and quality. Then of course airlines have to consider problems that no restaurant on terra firma has to take into account, like the weight of the food, the service ware, even the empty wine bottles. The cost of keeping an airliner aloft has to include all these items and more. Every ounce counts.
Finally, the airline industry demands hundreds or even thousands of meals every day, at each of their points of origin. It’s an enormous food service and logistics operation for each carrier that only grows more complex as customer demands become more sophisticated.
Nonetheless, many airlines – especially among the highly competitive network carriers – regard their culinary offerings as a distinguishing mark to set themselves apart from their rivals. And the effort is no longer limited to the front of the plane; epicurean inspiration can be found in economy cabins as well.
So even with all the planning, energy and expense that go into the creation of new food offerings, airlines continue to devise new ways to surprise us. Here are a few of the latest.
Flag carrier British Airways has launched its revamped Club World dining service, with passengers being offered a choice of starters and desserts from new display trolleys.
The carrier announced the new service in 2017 as part the airline’s $500 million-plus investment in Club World, and rolled it out initially on the Heathrow-New York JFK route, with plans to roll it out across the rest of the network.
Customers are offered a choice of four starters from the display trolley including Loch Fyne smoked salmon tartare with wasabi crème fraîche, and burrata and tomato carpaccio with olive oil and balsamic dressing. Main courses are served plated, with choices including best of Heritage beef homemade gnocchi in Café de Paris sauce and pan-fried green asparagus, and line-caught grilled Cornish Dover sole with Mediterranean lentils, celeriac mousseline and lemon butter
Finally desserts are again offered via the trolley, with choices including DO & CO‘s double chocolate medley, lemon tart and Viennese-style apple strudel with vanilla sauce.
BA says that “The carefully curated wine selection will feature white wines and Champagnes presented on top of the trolleys in large, silver wine coolers, while regiments of red wine bottles stand alongside them.”
Delta Air Lines
US carrier Delta has unveiled what it describes as “one of [its] biggest investments in the Main Cabin dining experience” for travelers on its international flights. First rolled out in November and continuing into 2018, the Main Cabin dining experience refresh launched with the introduction of “customer experience menu cards” detailing at what times different services will be offered along with in-flight food and beverage information.
This was followed in December with new Main Cabin cutlery. In mid-2018, the initiative will be expanded to include new meals and serviceware, designed to give travelers what it describes as “a restaurant-style dining experience.”
In addition the carrier has added Avissi prosecco to its drinks menu on international flights. From a family estate in Veneto, the prosecco is made from 100 percent prosecco grapes, created to “drink young, when the fruit flavors and aromas are at their very freshest.”
Gulf carrier Qatar Airways has launched a new pre-select dining option for its premium passengers on selected long-haul routes departing Doha. Business and first class passengers can now pre-order their preferred main course from an a la carte menu at any time from 14 days up to 24 hours before scheduled departure. The order can be placed by logging into the My Trips section at qatarairways.com or through the carrier’s app.
The new service has been introduced on selected flights from Doha to Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia.
Scandinavian carrier SAS has launched a new range of food choices focusing on customers’ lifestyle and dietary requirements. SAS Go (economy) customers on flights within Europe with a duration of two hours or more can now pre-order vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, gluten and lactose-free and pork-free dishes.
Meals are “packed in a cube” – a design which the carrier says is inspired by take-out culture, “making it easy to eat while working, reading or watching a movie.”
Dishes cost €11 ($14) each, except for the €6 ($7.50) vegetarian mini pizza, and can be pre-ordered up to 18 hours before departure, either at the time of booking a flight, by logging into the My Bookings section online, or via a travel agent.
Canadian carrier Westjet has partnered with the rapidly growing fresh-casual restaurant chain The Chopped Leaf, to offer the brand’s “whole bowls, multi-grain sandwiches and salads” for pre-purchase or buy-on-board on more than 250 daily flights.
In a release the airline said that “ingredients in The Chopped Leaf items are made from real food including whole grains, vegetables and meats that contain little to no preservatives,” adding that “meals will be rotated throughout the pre-purchase and buy-on-board menus as more products and variety are developed.”
Japanese airline ANA has introduced premium sake to its economy drinks menu. The airline previously offered its “sake service” to first and business class passengers only, but has now begun serving the rice wine from leading brewery Ichinokura in economy. The sake is made from two varieties of rice from the Miyagi prefecture, north of Tokyo.
“Sake is popular in Japan and in many countries around the world,” according to Yuzo Hara, vice president of products and services strategy at ANA. “In recent years, many of our passengers have been asking us to serve sake in economy class,” Hara adds.
“The number of international visitors to Japan is increasing, and this trend is expected to continue, as Japan hosts a number of international events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Being Japan’s only five-star airline, we want to give all our passengers around the world the opportunity to try quality sake,” Hara explains.
“We hope that our passengers will pair the sake with their meals on board ANA flights, for a full Japanese gastronomic experience. The Ichinokura brewery is famous for carefully brewing high-quality sake using a blend of tradition mixed with innovation, which are two of the values we share at ANA.”
United Airlines has started offering Pizzeria Uno branded deep-dish pizza to economy class passengers on North American flights. Deep-dish pizza originated in Chicago, where United’s headquarters is located.
A United spokesperson said passengers have the option to purchase a spinach and garlic deep-dish Uno’s pizza for $9.99. “It will be prepared and served in our skillet dish to help the cheese brown and keep the crust crispy,” said the spokesperson, while a pizza-and-beer combo will cost $13.99, with Miller Lite beer.
Easyjet has relaunched its in-flight retail offering, with two new brochures, a price guarantee and a new all-day breakfast option. Passengers can now browse separate brochures for its Bistro (for food and drink) and Boutique (for “luxuries, gifts and travel essentials”) ranges.
The Boutique magazine now features editorial by Grazia’s Health and Beauty director, and a price guarantee with “a commitment to refund the difference in price if customers are able to find any Boutique product cheaper on the UK high street.”
Meanwhile an all-day breakfast option has been added to its Bistro menu, with a choice of tea, coffee or Tropicana, plus a 9NINE bar or croissant for £3.50 ($5), or porridge for £4 ($5.65). The carrier says it has seen a 12 percent increase in on-board food and drink sales over the past twelve months “due to improved choice and popular brands.”
Customers can also browse Easyjet’s in-flight offering before departure on the carrier’s app.
The designer behind Qantas’ 787 Dreamliner cabin interiors has now created a new range of tableware for use in the airline’s first, business and premium economy cabins as well as its airport lounges. Made up of a 16-piece fine bone china crockery set, a five-piece stainless steel cutlery setting, as well as glassware, the new tableware has been specifically designed for use in-flight, according to designer David Caon.
Cabin crew as well as the culinary team behind Qantas’s in-flight menus were consulted during the design process regarding the “functionality of tableware at 40,000 feet,” Caon says.
The new sets rolled out in December when Qantas launched its inaugural Dreamliner service between Melbourne and Los Angeles.
Air France has launched a new “My Fun Menu” option for passengers on its long-haul services departing Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly. The paid-for menu – which adds to the carrier’s existing A La Carte choices on long-haul flights – includes a “burger made from French beef, with Emmental cheese and Bearnaise sauce,” as well as Kettle chips, yogurt, a doughnut with caramel filling, and a bag of Haribo sweets.
The option is available for purchase for flights departing from April 1, and costs €13 ($16), or 4,500 Flying Blue miles. The airline now offers a total of five paid-for meal choices on long-haul flights, including a seafood Ocean Menu, and a menu designed by France’s Lenotre group of restaurants and boutiques. Air France continues to provide a complimentary food and drink selection to passengers on its long-haul flights.