An airline meal, airline food, plane food or in-flight meal is a meal served to passengers on board a commercial airliner. These meals are prepared by specialist airline catering services and normally served to passengers using an airline service trolley.
These meals vary widely in quality and quantity across different airline companies and classes of travel. They range from a simple snack or beverage in short-haul economy class to a seven-course gourmet meal in a first class long-haul flight. When ticket prices were regulated in the American domestic market, food was the primary means airlines differentiated themselves.
The first airline meals were served by Handley Page Transport, an airline company founded in 1919, to serve the London–Paris route in October of that year. Passengers could choose from a selection of sandwiches and fruit.
The type of food varies depending upon the airline company and class of travel. Meals may be served on one tray or in multiple courses with no tray and with a tablecloth, metal cutlery, and glassware (generally in first and business classes). Often the food is reflective of the culture of the country the airline is based in.
The airline dinner typically includes meat (most commonly chicken or beef), fish, or pasta; a salad or vegetable; a small bread roll; and a dessert. Condiments (typically salt, pepper, and sugar) are supplied in small sachets or shakers.
Caterers usually produce alternative meals for passengers with restrictive diets. These must usually be ordered at least 24 hours in advance, sometimes when buying the ticket. Some of the more common examples include:
Cultural diets, such as Turkish, French, Italian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Indian style.
Infant and baby meals. Some airlines also offer children’s meals, containing foods that children will enjoy such as baked beans, mini-hamburgers and hot dogs.
Medical diets, including low/high fiber, low fat/cholesterol, diabetic, peanut free, non-lactose, low salt/sodium, low-purine, low-calorie, low-protein, bland (non-spicy) and gluten-free meals.
Religious diets, including kosher, halal, and Hindu, Buddhist and Jain vegetarian.
Vegetarian meals, typically further defined as either lacto-ovo or vegan meals. These meals may follow a particular cuisine such as Asian or western.
For several Islamic airlines (e.g. EgyptAir, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Batik Air, Malindo Air, Gulf Air, Iran Air, Mahan Air, Iran Aseman Airlines, Oman Air, Yemenia, Kuwait Airways, Iraqi Airways, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Libyan Airlines, Afriqiyah Airways, Tunisair, Air Algérie and Turkish Airlines), in accordance with Islamic customs, all classes and dishes on the plane are served a Muslim meal with Halal certification – without pork and alcohol. While Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar are still providing bottles of wine to non-Muslim passengers, the cabin crew does not deliver alcoholic beverages lest to violate Islamic customs, unless those non-Muslim passengers request it. Because Iran and Saudi Arabia apply strict Sharia regulations, those countries’ airlines do not deliver pork or alcoholic beverages, and all airlines flying to or from Iran or Saudi Arabia are prohibited from serving either. However, Garuda Indonesia is still serving alcoholic beverages (whiskey, beer, champagne and wine) to non-Muslim passengers.
In the case the Israeli airlines El Al, Arkia and Israir, all meals served are kosher-certified by Rabbis. Even destinations outside Israel, sky chefs must be supervised by rabbis to make kosher meals and load their planes.
Cutlery and tableware
Before the September 11 attacks in 2001, first class passengers were often provided with full sets of metal cutlery. Afterward, common household items were evaluated more closely for their potential use as weapons on aircraft, and both first class and coach class passengers were restricted to plastic utensils. Some airlines switched from metal to all-plastic or plastic-handled cutlery during the SARS outbreak in 2003, since the SARS virus transfers from person to person easily, and plastic cutlery can be thrown away after use. Many airlines later switched back to metal cutlery. However, Singapore Airlines continue to use metal utensils even in economy class as of 2017.
In May 2010, concerns were raised in Australia and New Zealand over their respective flag carriers, Qantas and Air New Zealand, reusing their plastic cutlery for international flights between 10 and 30 times before replacement. Both airlines cited cost saving, international quarantine, and environmental as the reasons for the choice. Both have also said that the plastic cutlery is commercially washed and sterilized before reuse. Reusing plastic tablewares though is a regular practice among many airliners and food caterers.
For cleanliness, most meals come with a napkin and a moist towelette. First and business class passengers are often provided with hot towels.
During morning flights a cooked breakfast or smaller continental-style may be served. On long haul flights (and short/medium haul flights within Asia) breakfast normally includes an entrée of pancakes or eggs, traditional fried breakfast foods such as sausages and grilled tomatoes, and often muffins or pastries, fruits and breakfast cereal on the side. On shorter flights a continental-style breakfast, generally including a miniature box of breakfast cereal, fruits and either a muffin, pastry, or bagel. Coffee and tea are offered as well, and sometimes hot chocolate.
Meals must generally be prepared on the ground before takeoff. Guillaume de Syon, a history professor at Albright College who wrote about the history of airline meals, said that the higher altitudes alter the taste of the food and the function of the taste buds; according to de Syon the food may taste “dry and flavorless” as a result of the pressurization and passengers, feeling thirsty due to pressurization, many drink alcohol when they ought to drink water. Tests have shown that the perception of saltiness and sweetness drops 30% at high altitudes. The low humidity in airline cabins also dries out the nose which decreases olfactory sensors which are essential for tasting flavor in dishes.
Food safety is paramount in the airline catering industry. A case of mass food poisoning amongst the passengers on an airliner could have disastrous consequences. For example, on February 20, 1992, shrimp tainted with cholera was served on Aerolíneas Argentinas Flight 386. An elderly passenger died and other passengers fell ill. For this reason catering firms and airlines have worked together to provide a set of industry guidelines specific to the needs of airline catering. The World Food Safety Guidelines for Airline Catering is offered free of charge by the International Flight Service Association.
Food and drinks are usually served by dining carts ( trolleys ) that guide the flight attendants through the aisles, except in very small airplanes and in higher classes. For warm dishes, first the food and then in a second round the drink is served; the reason for this is the lack of capacity of the dining car. The drinks are made from bottles or – – more likely beverage cans or cans of place in drink containers decanted and served. The majority of cold drinks comes from beverage cartons (weight savings). For aesthetic reasons In the upper classes, however, it is usually made from bottles.
On the long haul, it is common in the economy class to provide self-service plastic cups between meals and during Galley’s staff break .
Some airlines issue a menu card so that passengers can make their choice in peace.
The quality and selection depends on the airline (quality and country of origin), the duration of the flight and the booking class . On the one hand, in the face of many competitors, the catering has improved in recent years, on the other hand, it has also become ‘plain’, especially on European routes in view of increased price pressure by various low cost airlines. Meals whose quality would be comparable to freshly prepared food in restaurants are not possible in commercial aircraft, since the food is partly 20 hours old. The upper-class passengers receive a completely different ( gourmet ) -feel, both qualitatively and by servingconsiderably different from that of the simple class; in the upper classes, menus can be chosen and it is served in courses.
In the upper classes, the catering is almost always served on porcelain dishes. Beverages are served in glasses or porcelain cups instead of plastic or paper cups. In the first class, main meals are usually served on tablecloths . In the upper classes also a more varied offer than in other classes offered, also there are considerably more snacks .
The extent of the meals depends on the booked transport class and the flight duration. On flights that are too short to serve hot meals, cold-food dishes and, if necessary, small snacks such as snacks are served. B. peanuts, pretzel sticks o. Ä. served. On short distances, which themselves have no time for this, hot and cold drinks are served.
First and Business Class
In the upper classes of airlines of some airlines, the on-board service starts with a glass of champagne or orange juice before departure. After taking off, the flight attendants take orders, and you can choose between several menus of meat, fish or vegetables. You can also choose the cooking time of the steak (eg medium). The wine list is rich, especially in the First, although of course it can not compete with a restaurant on the ground. Each course is served individually, you can order a different wine for each dish.
The type, extent and quality of the food in the tourist class (Economy) depend heavily on the airline and the country of origin. While, for example, the major American companies have curtailed the catering for the Economy Class in recent years with some regard to economy constraints (especially in domestic traffic), in particular some airlines from the Middle East and various Asian countries also offer one in the Economy Class high quality, extensive meal service. The design of the various meals also depends heavily on the country of origin. For airlines from countries where a cooked breakfastis common practice, is also served in economy class often a warm component; otherwise it consists mostly of baked rolls and corresponding toppings, fruits , pastries or the like. The lunch – and dinner are frequently each composed of a small appetizer , a warm main course with small side dishes (for most airlines you can choose between two, with a few from three different entrees choose) and a dessert . On flights to countries with a high proportion of vegetarians (eg India) As a rule, a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian component are offered by default.
If ordered in advance, most companies also offer different special menus instead of ordinary board meals, usually at no extra cost. These include kosher and other menus for people with other special religious dietary requirements, especially vegetarian and vegan food. Also for persons with different food allergies various menus are offered. Many companies also allow the ordering of special dishes for people with special personal preferences, such as: B. a fruit plate instead of a normal menu. Also a children’s menu instead of the usual Bordessens can be ordered with some societies.
Food on board a flight is usually free on full-service Asian airlines and on almost all long-distance flights, while they might cost extra on low-cost airlines or European full-service airline flights. Quality may also fluctuate due to shifts in the economics of the airline industry.
On long-haul international flights in first class and business class, most Asian and European airlines serve gourmet meals, while legacy carriers based in the US tend to serve multicourse meals including a cocktail snack, appetizer, soup, salad, entrée (chicken, beef, fish, or pasta), cheeses with fruit, and ice cream. Some long-haul flights in first and business class offer such delicacies as caviar, champagne, and sorbet (intermezzo).
The cost and availability of meals on US airlines has changed considerably in recent years, as financial pressures have forced some airlines to either begin charging for meals, or abandon them altogether in favor of small snacks, as in the case of Southwest Airlines. Eliminating free pretzels saved Northwest $2 million annually. Nowadays, the main US legacy carriers (American, Delta and United) have discontinued full meal service in economy class on short-haul US domestic and North American flights, while retaining it on most intercontinental routes; and at least one European carrier, Icelandair, follows this policy on intercontinental runs as well.
As of 2016, all 4 major U.S. legacy airlines now offer free snacks on board in economy class. United Airlines re-introduced free snacks in February 2016. Starting in April 2016, American Airlines will fully restore free snacks on all domestic flights in economy class. Free meals will also be available on certain domestic routes. Delta and Southwest have already been offering free snacks for years.
Hawaiian Airlines is the only remaining major US airline that offers complimentary in–flight meals on its domestic flights.
Air China has reported that each domestic flight’s meal requires RMB50 (US$7.30) while international flights require RMB70 (US$10). However, this figure varies from airline to airline, as some have reported costs to be as low as US$3.50. Air China is also minimizing costs by loading only 95% of all meals to reduce leftovers and storing non-perishable foods for emergencies.
In 1958 Pan Am and several European airlines entered into a legal dispute over whether certain airline food sandwiches counted as a “meal”.
Internally, airlines and caterers provide different menu combinations and special menus with international uniform abbreviations:
|AVML||Asian Vegetarian Meal||Asian, vegetarian food with rice (Indian style)|
|BBML||Infant / Baby Meal||Infants food|
|BLML||Bland / Soft Meal||low-spicy , mild food|
|CHML||Child’s meal||kids meal|
|DBML||Diabetic meal||Christmas lunch|
|FFML||Frequent Flyer Meal||personal favorite for regular customers|
|FPML||Fruit Platter (Meal)||fruit plate|
|FSML||Fish meal||Eat fish|
|GFML||Gluten Free Meal||Gluten- free food|
|HFML||High Fiber Meal||high-fiber food|
|HNML||Hindu Meal||Hindu food|
|JNML||Jain Meal||Jainism Vegan food, all fruits and vegetables that do not grow underground|
|KSML||Kosher Meal||kosher food|
|LCML||Low Calorie Meal||low calorie food|
|LFML||Low Cholesterol Meal||low-fat food|
|LPML||Low Protein Meal||low-protein food|
|LSML||Low Sodium Meal||Low sodium (low salt) food|
|MOML||Muslim meal||Muslim food|
|NLML||Non-lactose meal||Milk sugar-free food|
|NSML||No Salt Meal||salt-free food|
|ORML||Oriental Meal||oriental chinese food (chinese style)|
|PRML||Low Purine Meal||purinarmes food|
|RVML||Raw Vegetarian Meal||vegetarian raw food|
|SFML||Sea Food Meal||Fish and seafood|
|SPML||Special Meal||ordered special meal for passengers (eg Jain- Essen)|
|VGML||Vegetarian Meal Non Dairy||vegetarian food without dairy products (vegan)|
|VLML||Vegetarian Meal Lacto Ovo||lactoovovegetarian food (see: vegetarian cuisine )|
|WVML||Western Vegetarian Meal||vegetarian food (European style)|
Source from Wikipedia