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Being special in the skies: food + flying

on February 10, 2017

By: Sadia Kashif, Sensational Taste Tour Guide

Who doesn’t like the idea of being looked after and being served by beautiful maidens as if you’re in heaven? You can’t help but feel special!

As soon as the flight takes off and the passengers settle down in the plane, more or less all of the passengers wait to be served by ideally slim, stunning faces with dark lipsticks and nicely styled up-do hair. Sometimes I feel that food is the only reason why we travel or as if the air travel is actually a food tour people love to have.

It’s certainly not a bad idea to start a food-tour airline and get a fleet of A380s or 777s that take you around the globe to serve you food from a particular part of the world you’re flying towards. Or maybe someone could open an air-restaurant to be our next dinner venue!

As a child, while flying through domestic airlines, I always loved the idea of getting a special meal followed by a gift of puzzles or coloured pencils.

While talking to some of the fellow passengers during my latest overseas travel, I came to a conclusion that most of us are more interested in what are we going to eat during the flight than any other thing else.

This is why the airlines do a lot of research for their in-flight meals. They hire people, they change menus, they invest a lot of money, and they sit and discuss ideas to entertain people according to their ages, food preferences and the class they are flying in.

Here are some fun facts I came across through some research and my questions to airline employees in Dubai, Thailand and Pakistan.

  • Food on the flight often reflects the culture and the country of the airline, however, the airport that it’s flying from could affect the taste, richness and ingredients, as the food is locally prepared at the airports. For example, Emirates, Qatar and Etihad have their own Middle Eastern food themes on continental flights,  but if their planes are flying from Japan or Thailand, this could effect the taste.
  • Food is the primary factor that increases or decreases your ticket prices. This is why food in the economy and business class varies. American Airlines saves $40,000 a year by removing a single olive from each serve of their in-flight salad. A single olive might not make any difference to us, but for the airline, it could mean huge savings.
  • It might not be true, but many researchers believe that the “made fresh” stickers are there to mock you as almost all the airlines serve food 10 hours before you eat and heat the food before they serve. Delayed or cancelled flights have always been annoying for us, but if a flight is delayed, food is the biggest headache for the airline as half of the frozen food needs replacement from the catering department or goes to waste, affecting the budget of the flight. If the delay is announced early, the airline finds a replacement flight or the food preparation is held off. If the food prep is already finished, the food is frozen.
  • For the safety and security of the flight and passengers, many of the airlines serve different food to the pilot and co-pilot, to avoid them both getting sick at the same time by the same food.
  • Planes generally don’t have microwaves. Our little plane food tray goes straight in the old convection oven that pushes hot air on to the food, making it a “freshly made” aromatic serving.
  • Research shows that people drink a lot of tomato juice on flights because it actually tastes better at higher altitudes! Tests have shown that the perception of saltiness or sweetness drops 30% at high altitudes; this impacts how in-flight meals are cooked. Chefs must take into account that sweet things taste less sweet and salty things taste less salty when you’re flying.
  • After 9/11, airlines switched from metal cutlery to the plastic kind, to avoid cutlery being used as a weapon. Some airlines have since switched back to metal cutlery.
  • There are some scary examples of horrible in-flight food, showing negligence of the people preparing the food. For example, Air Canada and Delta Airlines had reports of needles in some of their sandwiches. Jet Airways was reported to have a dead lizard in some of their meals. American Airlines allegedly served broken glass pieces in their meals. Air India reportedly served cockroaches with their meals, and so on. Yikes!
  • But coming back to the positive side, kids are the happiest of all the passengers. During my latest flight with Emirates, my son was served fries, nuggets, crispy chicken, noodles and all the things he loves. And to top it all of, he got to visit to the cockpit to meet the pilot, which was always his dream.
 Whatever the facts and figures really are, many people will agree that food is the best part of our flights. We love to be served by beautiful hostesses in perfectly ironed dresses and hairdos.

And we all love the idea of “being special” in the skies.

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