You go to peel the plastic wrap from your flimsy meal tray and your fingers get covered in slime masquerading as marinara. Turns out it’s not plastic film at all, just the oily film on your congealed dinner.
Welcome to the world of economy in-flight meals.
Now, thanks to customer satisfaction assessments and attentive research, major airlines are making mealtimes more appetizing.
Even the term, "airplane food" is infused with negative connotations. This month sees several major airlines fortifying the in-flight culinary experience.
Starting November 25, Qantas' international economy passengers are in for a treat. The Aussie carrier just unveiled destination-inspired fare, like smoked beef sliders to North America and a full English brekky to the UK.
Four options are now being offered rather than two, meals are now 50% larger, (which until now may not have been perceived as a good thing) and service is speedier. They’ve also ditched the daunting tray, making way for more palatable presentations.
Qantas spent a year creating the new menus, which also include items like honey roasted chicken and sweet potato, Greek yogurt with granola and ice cream bars. Food and drink experts researched dining trends, employed local producers and spoke to customers, including via Facebook and Twitter. Trial runs indicated customer satisfaction nearly doubled, setting new records and likely influencing other carriers to improve their in-flight dining options.
Air France–KLM Group is also savouring the fruits of its successful economy meal re-brands. Passengers are willing to pay extra for upscale a la carte options, which include traditional French cuisine, Mediterranean flavours, Indonesian choices, even Japanese sushi. Air France also adds seasonal offerings by famous LeNotre restaurant to this list.
Air Berlin, Czech Airlines and Brazil’s airline TAM are also remaining competitive by serving better food choices to economy customers.
Economy fliers on British Airways let out a collective “Jolly good!” when the airline recently began serving up traditional English fish and chips.
Of course, if you’re still not pleased with your fare, you can always let Sir Richard Branson know. The business magnate and Virgin Airlines founder phoned a customer who was displeased with his in-flight meal and had sent Sir Richard an expressive complaint letter.
Airlines have gone to great lengths to find out how to please palates, and much of their findings are largely obtained through social media efforts. Social platforms act as effective conduits between company and consumer. Carriers can tap into public opinion by asking questions, for instance Japan’s All Nippon Airlines (ANA) now features menu items that were liked among its Facebook community. Of course, much of this feedback is unsolicited, like Tweets expressing dissatisfaction about an airline’s food, but presents great opportunities for companies to reach out, remedy and resolve.
On the subject of ANA, the carrier recently perked up its business class menus. Michelin was rolled out, and we’re not talking about the plane tires, but a Michelin-star chef.
Master Chef and famed restaurateur Joachim Splichal has created a new-in-flight menu for business class passengers departing LAX. Splicahl is known for his innovative and sophisticated interpretations of French cuisine and menus will be in accordance with this and changed seasonally. Starting December 1, ANA menus will offer options like beef with chanterelle mushrooms and almond grouper with cranberry beans. This launch follows similar Master Chef partnerships for flights out of China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.
With this trend of improved economy meals on the rise, more airlines are sure to beef up their gastronomic choices.
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