Providing Meals for Passengers on Board Short Summary

What is airline catering? Airline catering is a business that provides food service at a remote site, specifically airline companies. It involves providing meals for passengers on board an aircraft as well as for restaurants situated at airport terminals. Modern airports have a variety of food and beverage outlets to cater to the increasing number of air passengers. Catering to passengers en route is normally contracted out to a flight catering unit of a reputed hotel or to a catering contractor or to the catering unit operated by the airline itself as an independent entity.


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  • As early as 1914, Zeppelin airships already served their passengers champagne with their in-flight meal and in the 1920s they introduced flying dining rooms with chefs preparing hot meals.
  • August 1919 – first regular passenger service by an airplane travelling between England and France. The two-hour flight served game and cream teas but was refused by passengers en route to England because of turbulence.
  • October 1919 – KLM Flight from London to Paris; first appearance of pre-packed airline meals. 1930 – American Boeing Air Transport (a forerunner of United Airlines) recruited eight nurses as flight attendants, and therefore, became the first airline to employ stewardesses.

Nurses were employed because airplanes at this time had unpressurised cabins and flew at relatively low altitudes. This meant that the flights were frequently bumpy, and along with the lower levels of oxygen at altitude, resulted in many passengers feeling unwell and vomiting.

One estimate suggests that at least one in four passengers were physically sick. 1933 – The Marriott group contract caterers saw a gap in the market and decided to serve food from one of their ‘Hot Shoppes’ to passengers queued up for flights out of an adjacent airport. * 1934 – Qantas and Imperial Airways combined their operations to fly passengers across continents in short trips from Croydon near London to Brisbane (some 12,7000 miles) in about twelve and a half days. They served hot meals from insulated containers (hayboxes) to keep food hot. In the same year, Pan Am introduced the S-42 on its route from Miami to Buenos Aires.

The airline set a precedent by installing facilities for heating food in-flight on long over-water journeys. As aircraft design improved, so did the meals served. Here are some developments done in some airlines: 1936 – The DC3 was designed with a galley to enable hot meals to be served to passengers, thus replacing sandwiches and tea or coffee. 1938 – Imperial Airways were the first to set up what today might be called a ‘catering centre’, food having become an essential part of the total service that an airline passenger was now coming to expect.

The early trend was for airlines to develop their own catering systems with their own catering facilities at all major stations, especially their hub airports. The introduction of the Boeing 707 jet aircraft in 1957 saw significant developments in flight kitchens and services on board. 1966 – BOAC began to consider the problems of catering on the new, much larger Boeing 747, an aircraft with double aisles and capable of carrying over 400 passengers.

Cabin services and aircraft catering sections of BOAC together with the interior engineers, realised a whole new concept of galley design, loading and passenger service would be essential (Bruce, 2001). Due to the large quantity of meals that needed to be produced, the food became simpler. 1969 – When Boeing 747 re-introduced its double-decker airline servic, a new concept in galley design was developed that resulted in galleys being installed in the belly of the aircraft adjacent to the baggage and freight holds (known as ‘lower lobe’ galleys).

Along with the design of galleys, a great deal of improvement was also made in the design of the ancillary equipment, such as bars, trolleys, water boilers, and so on. Food Safety and Hygiene Food safety must always be given great importance in the airline catering industry because life up among the clouds is more dangerous and a lot more delicate than life on the ground. Any moment, there could be little worse than a severe case of mass food poisoning amongst the passengers on an airliner, and issues like this are hard to resolve if you are far away from any medical institution.

When designing a meal service for a passenger flight it must be kept in mind that the passengers have no other sources of food except what the airline is offering – they cannot buy a meal elsewhere when stuck in the air. Accordingly, the food must be palatable to almost everyone onboard. Any particular strong spice is likely to be disliked by some percentage of the passengers, who will make their dislike well known if there is no other option available. Chili, mustard and coriander (cilantro) are all herbs and spices that airlines avoid for this very reason.

Further, onions lead to bad breath, and in the confines of economy class (coach) this is not usually welcomed by the people close by. Fibrous vegetables lead to flatulence – again very unpleasant in the small aluminum tube of an airliner. This is why most western airline meals consist of a large serve of protein (chicken, steak or fish), a small green salad (usually without onions and more tomato and cucumber than lettuce), some potatoes (carbohydrates), and a dessert (cake or pudding). None of these items causes’ bad breath, flatulence, or intense dislike to most palates. Technical crew meals

Food safety with technical crew meals (pilots and flight engineers) is even stricter than for passengers. Many foodstuffs are banned completely from technical crew meals, including all egg products and often any dairy that has not been ultra heat treated. The meals supplied are labeled in advance with the position of the crew member for who they are intended and no technical crew member will eat any of the same products as his colleague – this is to ensure that each pilot eats a completely different meal to the other so as to minimize the risk of all pilots onboard taking ill.

IFSA The International Flight Services Association (IFSA) is the organization committed to providing customers and the traveling public with safe, quality airline food. This group makes sure that the food served on airplanes is crafted in catering kitchens that operate with more stringent safety processes than those in many restaurants and fast-food establishments. The state-of-the-art standards followed voluntarily by airline caterers were first developed by NASA, whose guidelines are stringent and in some instances actually exceed other state or federal health requirements.

Airline catering companies take their commitment to food safety very seriously and go the extra mile to ensure passenger health. As a result, food is prepared under the strictest controls. More than 700 million meals are prepared in airline catering kitchens each year. A hundred-plus kitchens nationwide undergo regular, unannounced inspections by federal, state and local health authorities. The facilities are also monitored by airline auditors and other quality assurance experts. Additionally, the FDA is empowered to take a range of enforcement actions if facilities are out of compliance — including shutdowns.

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Providing Meals for Passengers on Board Short Summary. (2019, May 02). Retrieved from