Eat Is On
food and wine service is getting tastier, more varied and
more personalised. Reema Sisodia finds out why...
way to a mans heart is through his stomach. This little
bit of advice is being taken very seriously by airlines, only
they dont restrict themselves to men. Customer is king
and keeping his/her culinary senses satiated is clearly priority
number one in this day and age of shrinking markets, thanks
to 9/11 and all that.
Menus are being designed, selected and prepared with both
eyes firmly fixed on the customers tastes. The traveller
of today, it has been realised, no longer accepts what is
dished out. He knows what he wants and nothing less than the
best will do.
Deep Singhania, director-business development, Middle East
and Far East Asia, Tata Infotech Ltd, is one such customer.
He says, In-flight services are crucial to a frequent
flyer. The business travellers itinerary is stressful
and demanding. It is imperative that his flight be a pleasant
experience and he gets the best on board. In-flight services
therefore are vital to building loyalty. Exceptional service
while flying business class is not unique; it is the quality
of what is provided to the economy class passenger that determines
the standard of in-flight services.
Some airlines have a team of wine tasters to adhere to
standards of excellence
the best will do
Airlines are leaving no stone unturned to offer that something
extra to keep the customer flying with them. Every item in
the menu invariably has three ingredients professionalism,
planning and presentation.
food and wine on board is designed after consultations with
culinary experts. Often a panel of celebrity chefs are roped
in when airlines draft menus and specialties. Client demand
and requirement is analysed and a customised fare is then
offered. Says Robert Stainoch, country manager, Austrian Airlines
- India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives, The chef who
has won the maximum awards in Austria has been appointed by
us to plan the menu and select the wines. The F&B department
is left to his discretion. The focus on the Indian route is
definitely on Indians with the highest care and consideration
being given to the Indian palate.
Airlines is another case in point. Their international menus
are created in consultation with an exclusive panel of celebrity
chefs from across the globe which includes Sheila Lukins,
Sam Choy, Martin Yan, Mary Sue Miliken and Susan Feniger.
They have also partnered with the Culinary Institute Of America
and Heart Smart International to prepare selections that are
nutritious and delicious. They have also tie-ups with some
of the leading wine brands of the world.
A spokesperson from United said, In-flight services
play a very important role in customer satisfaction and nothing
takes the edge off an hectic day like a well prepared meal
served on fine porcelain. Along with careful planning with
professional inputs, presentation is another important aspect.
We constantly innovate and upgrade the crockery and cutlery
and redesign the table. The idea is to offer the perfect cuisine
experience on board.
to fine wine
Wine plays about as important a part as food in the perfect
cuisine experience. No wonder that the effort put in by airlines
to select their wines is almost as extensive.
In 1996, China Airlines formed a wine team to select the wines
to be served on flight. Connoisseurs, appointed by the airlines,
tasted and selected a wide variety of fine wine from across
continents, with the final tasting held in Taipei.
take the case of South African Airlines. Rich
Mkhondo, South African Airlines, executive manager, corporate
communications, says, We offer a variety of wine selections
chosen at our annual South African Airways wine tasting and
selection process. A panel of world renowned wine tasters
is responsible for the selection. Every effort is made to
ensure that we meet our passengers expectations and
needs. Extensive research is undertaken on the basis of customer
feedback. Our service providers have to adhere to strict standards
The creative menu
The food might be good, the wine might be the best but airlines
still have to cope with that elusive thing called catering
to individual tastes. Consequently, creativity and adaptability
have become key factors whilst designing and providing menus.
Malaysian Airlines is offering ‘Satay’, a Malaysian delicacy,
on board all flights for its business class passengers
menus as per route specifications and catering to diverse
needs of passengers are aspects which can be neglected only
at the peril of seeing your customer fly with somebody else.
example, Air Mauritius has introduced Jain meals on their
Indian sector to cater to a specific clientele. Or take Air
Frances strategy to meet the diverse expectations and
needs of passengers. Their subsidiary Servair has chefs from
France, Japan, China, Korea, India, etc. to provide regional
Jean-Louis Calmettes, general manager, Air France -India,
Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, says, There
are also units dedicated to preparing specific catering services
(business aviation, official flights, charter meals, kosher
or vegetarian meals). Over 50,000 meal-trays are prepared
each day as per hundreds of different menus designed to satisfy
the cultural and religious requirements of all our international
Depending on passenger requests, the offering of airlines
range from Hindu meal to baby and infant meal to non lactose
meal, diabetic meal, high-fibre meal... the list is endless.
Swiss Air offers about 17 different types of meals, while
Cathay Pacific has over 20 varieties of special meals.
Pacific has over 20 varieties of special meals
everything into account
Apart from designing menus based on broad parameters such
as passenger tastes and preferences, factors such as passenger
profile, their food habits, the duration of the flight, the
popularity of the local dishes and even the climate is taken
into account when the menu is designed.
Welcome drinks and salads served are often based on the climate.
For example, China Airlines serves coolers such as nimbu pani,
khas sharbat and mango drinks during summers.
are also changed as per seasons. Most airlines have four menus,
one for every three months of the year starting spring, summer,
autumn and winter. Says an official from Japan Airlines, Repetition
of the menu is just not acceptable. Every new season must
have a new menu on board on every sector of our airlines.
are also changed as per seasons. Most airlines have four
menus, one for every three months of the year starting
spring, summer, autumn and winter
speciality to superspeciality
In a situation where everybody is offering more, what do airlines
do? They offer something different.
Cathay Pacific recently tied-up with a top bracket Hong-Kong
based Chinese restaurant to provide a selection of specialised
dishes to passengers on all class on most flights from Hong
Kong till the end of January 2003. Quince Chong, Cathay Pacifics
general manager, in-flight service, said, We are offering
our passengers an all-new food experience on board. Our airline
has also won two top international awards for in-flight wines.
We always try to provide something extra like offering hot
pot rice and special Chinese soup for passengers in the first
class cabins of flights to and from North America. Similarly,
Malaysian Airlines is offering Satay, a Malaysian
delicacy, on board all flights for its business class passengers.
Mauritius gives special Vanilla flavoured Mauritian tea and
Green Island Mauritian white rum on board. Japanese beer Asahi
and Kirin are offered on Japan Airlines.
In the case of South African Airways, in its new Airbus fleet,
passengers will be able to eat whenever and whatever they
prefer in an a la carte fashion. These aircraft
will be designed with modern galleys and equipment make food
preparation and service easy and as per requirements of passengers.
China Airlines has designed special menus for the Indian sector.
For flights from Taipei to New Delhi and the connecting destinations
in US, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand and Australia,
the airline has placed an Indian chef in Taipei to ensure
the same levels of quality.
El Al has tied up with a number of quality Israeli food producers
and companies. It recently entered a new cooperative tie-up
with the Sheep & Goat Breeders Association and the El
Al Chef Ltd. catering company due to which business class
passengers on most El Al flights will be provided with gourmet
goat and sheep cheeses as part of their breakfast menu, along
with soft cheeses and yogurt.
passenger - satiated and flying high
The money and effort that airlines put into their food and
wines is well spent, if the comments of frequent flyers is
anything to go by.
Thomas, managing director, BMG Crescendo (India) Ltd, says,
Airlines that offer a right blend of Asian hospitality
and western professionalism tend to be rated high on the popularity
Catering to tastes and needs, like providing Indian cuisine
on the Indian route connections, works. Ashank Desai, managing
director, Mastek Ltd, says, I definitely look upon the
availability of Indian meals on board as a bonus while flying
on international airlines.
And so long as the fare is right the passenger will fly with
the airline. Abraham Thomas, managing director, IBM India
Limited, says, I have my own preferences of menus while
flying. Light meals and a lot of fresh fruits is what fits
my bill just right. The culinary fare on some select airlines
suit my palette which naturally predisposes me toward that
specific airline. And, that is the final word of most
online, served on air
From September 5, 2002, Singapore Airlines has launched
a new menu for its Book the Cook service. The exclusive
advance in-flight meal ordering service which allows
passengers to pre-select the dish of their choice from
specially designed menus is the perfect case in point
of in-flight food and wine service exclusivity at its
In the service, orders can be placed online at www.
singaporeair.com. (for tickets booked online), by telephone
or fax, at least 24 hours before the flight departure
The in-flight meal ordering service is the only service
of its kind in air travel today. First introduced in
1998, the service is available to all First and Raffles
Book the Cook meals are available on all flights out
of Singapore, (except on those to Kuala Lumpur and Penang)
and on flights from Amsterdam, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong
Kong, Kaoshiung, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New
York, Newark, San Francisco, Sydney, Taipei and Tokyo.
Amsterdam and Dubai offered Book the Cook menus for
the first time on September 5, 2002.
The new fare has several dishes that were created with
the help of SIAs International Culinary Panel.
We have changed more than 50 per cent of the Book
the Cook dishes as requested by our passengers. In fact,
the newly introduced Thai and Japanese dishes, and generally
a lighter cuisine are top choices on passengers
list, said Eddie Ong, Vice President, In-flight
Services. New to the menu are Japanese and Thai dishes
such as Kyo-Kaiseki and Thai Green Curry Fish Balls
Stuffed with Prawns. These are available on all First
Class flights departing from Singapore. In addition,
there is also a wide selection of specialities such
as Lobster Thermidor, Roast Rack of Lamb, Seared Salmon
Escalope, Chicken Curry Peranakan Style and Chicken