The moment you see food trolleys rolling on the aisle, it makes you hungry. You can’t resist the complimentary food on an airline. Can you? Food is one of the most powerful marketing strategies of various airlines. The airplane food served in business classes and economy classes differs for obvious reasons.
Whether it’s your first time on a plane or your first flight with a new airline, you will surely look forward to the in-flight gourmet experience. Airplane meals and airplane beverages, both, are healthy and hygienic to consume most of the time.
It is also often said that airplane meals taste different. Airline foods may taste different in various airlines due to diverse catering services, but there are other reasons too for the different tastes that we have discussed in the article. The unique taste of the food is why most people love airline food.
Even though many of us fly often, we hardly know where the food comes from. If you are curious to know more about airplane food, its catering process, hygiene, and even the history of airplane food, keep on scrolling.
When did airlines start to serve meals on flights?
Many of us are not aware that meal services were not provided on flights initially. Many people also don’t know when the airlines started serving food and beverages to their passengers. The history of serving food on flights is captivating.
Although people don’t know or delve so much into it, food is one of the key decider factors when people choose an airline. So, before we talk about the process and taste of airplane meals, let us first understand how they came on the scene.
History of airline food
- In the year 1919, on 11th October, on a Handley-page flight from Paris to London, pre-packaged three shilling lunch boxes were served to their passengers. It was the first time in the history of airlines when they served a plane meal to their passengers. Serving airline meals worked as the biggest attraction for people. Ever since then, airlines use food to be their marketing tool. They became innovative with their served meals to lure people. Here are some examples
- After serving meals on a flight, in 1936, United Airlines came up with a more exciting idea. However, they went too far to set up a kitchen on-board, and United Airlines became the first airline to serve freshly cooked hot meals to their passengers. In 1950, airlines set a new bar to present a high-class dinner set-up, including tablecloths and silver services.
- On 2nd March 1969, British Airways and Air France introduced exotic airplane meals that included champagne, black truffle, caviar, lobster, etc.
- In the 1970s, airlines prioritized price drops in flight tickets over the quality of the food they serve to their passengers. Meanwhile, certain airlines kept upgrading their menu over the years, they became more innovative with their food items, quality of the ingredients, hygiene, etc. Though everything was going well, providing the best quality food to passengers in a presentable way was a tough competition for airlines.
Moreover, in 2001, a new website named Airline Meals was launched with the aim to gather feedback on airline food. It is an online forum for the passengers where they can discuss the airline servings, attach photos of the food served on board, etc.
Thus, food became a necessary part of airlines, and all the airlines started hiring renowned and best of the best chefs for the outstanding onboard meal served to the passengers.
How is food made on airplanes?
Even though nobody refused to eat on-board and not many passengers care about where it came from, some people do. Many passengers are curious to know the airplane meals’ source and if they make it on-board.
Well, airlines have their airline catering and culinary teams in charge of designing the menu. The catering facilities are responsible for providing airline meals in bulk. Sometimes airlines partner with popular hotels for food, as it also helps in branding.
These facilities are usually located near the airport for easy transportation. The food when transported is stored in the refrigerators and heated before serving in the flights. Airlines have a contract with catering partners that is renewed from time to time if they want to continue with their services.
Three major airlines – American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta have their culinary teams. The head chefs or the heads of their culinary teams decide on the menu for the flight. The food menu on flights may differ depending on the season, region, and cabin class. However, when the menu is designed, it is ensured that only those food items are selected that are not affected due to high altitude and pressure.
The culinary teams of the airlines keep experimenting with different flavors and food items; and based on the feedback, keep them or drop them from the airplane meals list. Most airlines also serve special meals these days, such as Asian vegetarian meals, baby meals, kosher meals, gluten-free meals, bland meals, allergen meals, low salt meals, Muslim meals, seafood meals, and more.
Most airlines and online air ticket booking websites have an online meal booking system, allowing passengers to book an in-flight meal at the time of flight booking.
Why does food taste different on planes?
Whether you love airplane food and drink or not, there is no denying that food tastes a lot different when you have thousands of feet above. When you fly more or less 40,000 feet above the ground, various things limit your sense of smell and taste.
The dry air, low pressure, noise, and lack of humidity in the aircraft are some reasons why food tastes different on a plane. Studies reveal that loud aircraft engine noise can alter the taste of sweet and salty foods. The taste of beverages is also changed in mid-air. For example, tomato juice tastes more flavorful on board.
To deal with this, some airlines use more seasoning, spices, and herbs to make airline meals taste better.
Now that you know quite a bit about airline meals, the next time you fly, you can select carefully. You can also carry your own solid food if it is packed well and is spill-proof. However, do check with your airline. Some carriers even serve multi-course meals. Enjoying delicious airline meals makes the journey even more memorable.