By Andrew Chen
Airlines Commit to Improving Post-COVID Catering Options
Over the past few weeks, a number of airlines around the world have made announcements about their onboard catering offerings. From new food and beverage options to the return of inflight chefs, these developments show a commitment from airlines to the passenger experience as the industry recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is starting the new year with updated food and beverage options for premium passengers. Seasonal and regional menu items include a plant-based cheesesteak sandwich for passengers departing from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Spanish tapas like dried beef and aioli potato salad for passengers departing Spain and traditional afternoon tea on flights departing from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
For dessert, Delta is bringing back its dessert cart for those traveling in Delta One, the airline’s widebody business class product. The cart features plated desserts, fruit and cheese plates as well as a build-your-own ice cream sundae option. United Airlines also recently announced the return of its dessert cart for long-haul business passengers. Delta One passengers and those flying on the airline’s short-haul First Class product also have two new dessert options on flights longer than 900 miles: a chocolate chunk and sea salt cookie or a blueberry lemon cheesecake.
Delta One customers on some flights will also be treated to new alcoholic beverages. Firstly, there is a rosé label produced by La Fête Wine Company called La Fête du Rosé. The carrier describes the pink wine as a “perfectly balanced with a silky palate of vibrant strawberry grenadine and currant, ending with remarkable freshness.” Delta’s onboard cocktail partner, Tip Top Proper Cocktails, is also offering an espresso martini as well as a variety of other cocktails throughout the year in a rotating program.
North of the border, Toronto-based Porter Airlines has revealed the details of its updated onboard service offering, with a stated emphasis on partnering with high-quality Canadian brands. Porter offers an all-economy service but has recently announced a revamped onboard product with the introduction of its Embraer E195-E2 jets.
Porter offers beer and wine served in glassware to all passengers as well as a snack basket featuring a variety of options. The airline’s announcement highlights a number of Canadian products and brands. Perhaps most notably, Porter revealed the return of the beloved milk chocolate shortbread from Cookie It Up, which was previously offered on board and in the airline’s lounges until 2017.
While Porter’s network has largely focused on turboprop flights out of Toronto’s small downtown airport, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, it is expanding to Toronto Pearson International Airport with its new Embraer E195-E2 jets. These aircraft will operate new longer routes for the airline, including transcontinental flights to destinations such as Vancouver, British Columbia and Calgary, Alberta.
Food offerings on these flights will be included for passengers traveling on PorterReserve, the airline’s all-inclusive economy class option, and will be available for purchase by other passengers. The airline announced that options will include a selection of Canadian cheese, organic wellness shots, as well as menu options that vary between flights but include a chia smoothie bowl, tropical salmon poke and a seven-layer dip.
Although there has been no formal announcement by the airline, Austrian Airlines appears to be bringing its flying chefs back to the skies. As first reported by One Mile at a Time, the airline has been hiring inflight chefs. The position was cut during the COVID-19 pandemic but it seems like the airline is getting ready to bring them back.
The inflight chef concept is only offered by a few airlines around the world. Onboard chefs are tasked with preparing food for passengers in long-haul first and business class cabins. However, most airline food is pre-cooked before being reheated on the aircraft and food on flights with chefs on board is no different. Onboard chefs generally do not have access to any special equipment and they largely perform roles that could otherwise be performed by flight attendants. That being said, the presence of a dedicated chef can provide the appearance of an elevated dining experience and showcases an airline’s commitment to premium catering.
Austrian Airlines is known for having high-quality catering from DO & CO and the return of inflight chefs shows that the company is focused on delivering a competitive soft product. It appears that the chefs will be returning to long-haul business class cabins this summer.
While many food and beverage announcements focus on premium cabins, Japan Airlines’ latest catering news covers economy and premium economy class dining. The Tokyo-based carrier has recently unveiled its latest menu options for its economy class meal service, known as “RED à table.” RED à table is focused on the theme of “inflight meals for the future” and aims to help the airline achieve a number of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Menu options are changed from time to time and the carrier recently announced its latest offerings.
The current rotation includes two main dishes. The Japanese option is yuzu-flavored steamed rice with chicken and lotus root and the western option is beef stew with carrot rice and omelet. The new side dishes are a chilled minced-shrimp ball with ume plum paste, sweet potato with lemon and okra with mashed tofu and sesame.
It is common for food establishments in Japan to display models of their offerings to potential diners outside the restaurant. Japan Airlines has taken this concept online and provides details and photos of onboard food options for passengers in all cabins on a dedicated section of its website. According to the airline, the latest RED à table menu will be available on most medium-haul and long-haul flights.