Not every food works at 30,000 feet! Winning customers’ heart through luscious in-flight food

Published: May 16, 2019 4:18:03 PM

Gone are the days when in-flight meals only offered one or two choices of food along with an option of beverage. Today, from exotic meal options to the finest of wines, in-flight dining now rival star-rated restaurants with top chefs hired for a well-rounded meal in the skies.

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By Moran Birger

An undisputed constant across market and time is that a consumer rules the growth of any industry. Today, businesses are evolving their operations to support progressing customer needs through multiple channels. There is a need to understand every customer’s needs and evolve to usher in necessary changes in service offerings and delivery. Customer satisfaction is as prominent in the airline and travel industry as for any other industry; travelers need flexibility and value emotional fulfillment of travel over mere mechanical transportation. The key, therefore, lies in responding and being adaptive to the dynamic environment.

Plenty has changed in air travel since the 1930s. Mobility is no longer the only criteria for customers to choose an airline, but the overall experience is of crucial importance. Every moment from booking to arriving at their final destination counts and needs to be thought through. Gone are the days when in-flight meals only offered a choice of sandwiches and biscuits along with an option of beverage. Today, in-flight catering is integral to the flying experience. From exotic meal options to the finest of wines, in-flight dining now rival star-rated restaurants with top chefs hired for a well-rounded meal in the skies.

Back in the 1920s, customers would bring home-cooked food on board. This changed in the late 50s when air travel became glamorous with cabin crew serving elaborate multi-course meals complete with silver cutlery. Over time air travel became more accessible and airlines revamped the catering services.

With a changing landscape, airlines are pushing the boundaries of innovation introducing customized offerings in keeping with emerging travel trends. Airlines have tailored their service offerings based on flight length and market served. Similarly, there have been large investments to upgrade catering options to offer more quality than quantity as per customer demands.

A study revealed an important factor that all airlines bear in mind while curating in-flight menus, is that travelers lose about 30% of their taste sensations at high altitudes. Therefore, it’s important to consider that not all food and ingredients will work at 30,000 feet.

So, how do chefs combat this? British Airways conducted in-depth research to identify methods to improve the flavors of the food served on flights. They began to use ingredients high in umami, a savory flavor known as the ‘fifth taste’, which is found naturally in foods like seaweed, tomatoes, mackerel, and Parmesan cheese, and seems to work well in the skies. This was not just limited to food, as it also involved the way food was being served to our customers – we launched a holistic approach to inflight dining, that found favor with the public.

The airline has also made considerable investments across its cabins as an initiative to meet the needs of the travelers upgrading cabin’s furnishing, service, and dining. The upgrade will add variants of food choices with improved recipes and signature dishes. These combine current food trends and good quality ingredients to offer customers a variety of options, giving due importance to a good meal for customers and to make sure they are offered a memorable experience.

As the famous saying goes, “Good food is good mood,” we believe that a perfect food extravaganza magnifies the joy and the essence of the journey for any traveler.

(The author is Acting Head of Sales for the Asia Pacific and the Middle East, British Airways. Views expressed are personal.)

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