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Airline Food

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As the number of flyers soar airlines are making sure their guests are well fed when they are 35000 feet above sea level.

Love it or hate it, everyone has an opinion on airline food. After all a meal on flight especially long duration flights are an important consideration when it comes to choosing an airline. Jet setters, frequent fliers and regular travelers are making sure that airlines up their game as far as inflight food is concerned.

Do the New

As flying for quite some time meant only getting from one point to another, Indian travellers had almost forgotten that delicious in-flight meals are a thing that people used to look forward to earlier. Now, with travel becoming an essential aspect of today’s lifestyles, we’re seeing that people in India are increasingly opting for wholesome, emotionally fulfilling and personalised travel experiences. The travel expenditures have also seen a significant rise, as people now view travelling as an investment to their personal growth.  “Premium services are the need of the hour – whether it is introducing more region specific, local food on menus or upgrading meal ordering devices (MOD) to tablets and smart phones – boundaries of inflight dining are constantly being pushed. Gone are the days when you had just vegetarian and non-vegetarian meal options to pick from on board a flight. The menus now are vaster, you can even pre book and customize what you want to eat. Another brilliant trend is focus is serving balanced, healthy, fresh and region specific meals on board the flight. The idea is to match an inflight meal to that in a fine dining establishment rather than a quick takeaway restaurant,” avers Celebrity Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. After all he would know as he has been associated with Singapore Airlines for more than 10 years now. “Now we are experimenting with more intricate and exciting menu concepts. For example The Asian Vegetarian Meal – which is an au natural Indian meal made without the use of any industrial ingredients. It offers a chance to experience Indian cuisine, the way it was traditionally intended to be and that too on board a flight. In fact, I will be hosting a live demo for some of the guests, which will keep us more in tune with the needs and expectations of the consumer and them more in touch with all goes into making their inflight food experience a memorable one,” adds Kapoor.

The new Santan menu has 13 dishes catering to taste buds of everyone
The new Santan menu has 13 dishes catering to taste buds of everyone

Now Trending

There has been a global culinary renaissance when it comes to the in-flight meals, airlines offer. Catering to the guests and offering them superlative experience has taken a brand new dimension with the in-flight meals playing a pivotal part in building that. Gone are the days, when airlines offered frozen fast food; the focus is more inclined towards offering flavorsome food than just functional. There is a conscious effort taken by the airlines to offer sophisticated choices to cater to a wider range of passengers keeping the dietary requirements and nutrition value of the food into consideration. Sunil Bhaskaran, CEO & MD, AirAsia India explains, “India is a country known for its large assortment of cuisines, and while zeroing in on the in-flight meals, we take the meal presentation and selection from all the regions of India considering the acceptance, of the guests onboard. On the frequent review and the feedback from the guests, we change the cuisines accordingly. We have very recently launched the Santan menu, which derives its name from the Malaysian word ‘santan’, meaning coconut milk, which is a commonly used ingredient in Asian cooking, the Santan menu offers a wide selection of delectable vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Asian and international options for everyone, which are served hot. The menu also offers a special kids meal.” The aviation industry is keenly focusing on offering authentic, local cuisines as well as healthy meal options. Singapore Airlines will be taking a new approach in the year ahead with seasonal menus that are prepared in a lighter cuisine style. “For these seasonal menus, the International Culinary Panel chefs will focus on designing dishes that use fresh in-season ingredients to achieve bold flavours and textures. Menus will include appetizer, soup, main course as well as dessert. A lighter cuisine style will be adopted, for example substituting cream and butter with olive oil as the base for soups. The chefs will also explore the use of lighter sauces and alternative starches such as farro, millet, bulgar and freekeh,” avers David Lim, General Manager India – Singapore Airlines.

The elaborate array of dishes being served at the Santan food tasting ev...
The elaborate array of dishes being served at the Santan food tasting ev…

Doing it Right

Airlines follow and maintain utmost standards of presentable appearance, cleanliness, and hygiene to maximize the experience of our guests. Chandreyi B., Social Media Influencer & Blogger, The Moonchasers says, “we have seen genuine efforts in making the food quality better in recent times, with more options in hot meals and better quality desserts, even Starbucks coffee in Premium Economy by Vistara. However to make in flight food more appetising, every full service air carrier (unfortunately there aren’t many in India yet) must consider the global standards and upgrade their offerings. In terms of quality, international airlines like Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Etihad serve tantalising items and regularly introduce season/celebration specific items. Recently Emirates launched a cute and delicious Easter special menu which we found quite innovative.” The idea today is to offer customers a dining experience onboard that they would usually enjoy in the comfort of their homes or when they dine-out with friends and family. “To be able to do that, we try to catch the pulse of the consumer. This is why our catering team regularly visits eating hotspots in major cities (Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, for example) to observe what people prefer to eat – the cuisine or the dishes they like or if there’s a consumption habit in particular that we can analyze to tailor our meal service,” says a spokesperson from Vistara.

Satisfaction First

As airlines do more to make a difference, food is becoming key. At Vistara, we are focused on offering a fine-dining experience in the skies to our customers. From brainstorming sessions with catering partners to food sampling sessions to rotational menus, airlines are doing more. “We try to pre-empt what our customers would like on a flight. For instance, on an early morning Delhi-Mumbai flight, most people travel for work, so we make sure that the meal is light and such that it makes our customers arrive feeling fresh for the rest of the day. Similarly, flights serving dinner usually have customers who’ve had a rushed day, so we make sure that the dinner tray is sumptuous, filling and yet healthy, so our customers don’t have to get back home feeling hungry. Our “Chef-on-Board” service is another unique attribute, whereby uniformed chefs take direct and instant feedback from customers on select flights, which helps them understand customer preferences better and make necessary amendments,” says the Vistara spokesperson. “As a frequent flyer, today I find that airlines are really catering to modern tastes and changing trends of passengers – so many healthier options, focus on fresh ingredients as well as destination specific food to suit passengers. For example, European airlines like AF and Lufthansa have started offering Indian food to their passengers, earlier this was not the case and very often the European food (or meats) served on these carriers, did not appeal to Indian travelers,” says Riaan Jacob George, Editor of Business Traveller India and aviation specialist. So are you ready for a delicious meal in the skies? Well it certainly seems it is all think gourmet and delicious.

This story first appeared in The Tribune dated 21 Sep 2019 here:

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