Foodies In The Skies – Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow

Foodie In The Skies - Culinary Excellence

Experience The Skies is serious about food. We believe part of the overall passenger travel experience surrounds the culinary or lack thereof adventures they go through on the daily basis. As such, we created a new series called Foodies In The Skies to create a dialogue.

Foodies In The Skies

Foodie In The Skies - History
Foodie In The Skies – History – Infographic created by Experience The Skies (All Rights Reserved)

The first recorded history of an airline meal was in 1919 on board a two hour Handley-Page Transport (merged with others overtime and formed British Airways) ‘s flight from London to Paris. Pre-packaged lunch boxes consisted of sandwiches and fruits were sold at three shillings each.

In 1936, United Airlines was credited for being the first airline in the world for installing on board kitchens for cooking and plating meals.

In the 1950s, as Pan American World Airways expanded with the jet age, it started a golden era of travelling where food became one of  focal points of the travel experience.

1964 August stainless steel gravy in 707 F roast cart
1964 August stainless steel gravy in 707 F roast cart – Image credit to website Everything Pan Am (All Rights Reserved)

The introduction of the Concorde service in 1969 brought a new level of opulence to the culinary journey. Luxury items such as lobster, caviar, foie gras played prominent roles in the dishes offered on board. Although the Concorde is no longer in service, the food experience survived in many First Class cabins today.

In the 1970s, Southwest Airlines started the discount airline model by offering a lower price in exchange of food offerings on board. In 1973, renowned French chef Raymond Oliver was recruited to create a new menu. This began a new branch of science which offered a new twist on how passengers’ taste buds react to different food items.

In the 1990s, Singapore Airlines became popular by being the first to offer the Cook The Book option. This provides first and business class passengers the flexibility to order main dishes in advance of their flights. Lobster thermidor became an instant hit with flyers around the world.

Foodie In The Skies - History
Foodie In The Skies – History – Infographic created by Experience The Skies (All Rights Reserved)

In the 2000s, with the September 11, 2001 tragedy, airlines began to reduce domestic flight free meals in economy class. This was replaced by buy on board options which had mixed reviews from passengers.

2013 is the year where worldwide airlines rolled out enhanced economy meals for international travels (refer to our coverage here).

Sample Austrian Airlines Enhanced Economy Meals
Sample Austrian Airlines Enhanced Economy Meals – Image credit to Austrian Airlines (All Rights Reserved)

While the concept of using celebrity chefs to create food menus is not a new idea, its popularity took off in 2014 as a way for airlines to differentiate themselves. Dishes that highlights cultural accents were introduced. SWISS Air Lines International and Air France are two airlines that pushed the envelope by offering a pop up restaurant concept (refer to the news here) and rotational dishes from Michelin starred chefs (refer to our coverage here).

So far in 2015, technology enabled airlines to offer passengers more options for order food in advance. British Airways (link) was the first to extend the ordering system to World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) passengers. Qantas Airways (link) beat that by offering it to all passengers in 2015.  The Australia based airline provides incentive for flyers to book early by offering an additional choice.

Many airlines like Austrian Airlines and Etihad Airways now have dedicated chefs on board to cater to premium customers’ needs.

Etihad Airways First Class - Chef
Etihad Airways First Class – Chef – Image credit to Etihad Airways (All Rights Reserved)

Future – Food Revolution?

As passengers become more health conscious, they began to be more vocal over the food being served on board. Websites like (link) and Diet Detective (link) provides more information for passenger to choose more wisely.

Airlines are pressed into looking at ways to offer better chances on board without breaking the bank. All Nippon Airways, for example, lists calories in its menus to better inform passengers. Items like quinoa and Greek yogurt are being featured more often in breakfasts and salads.

Technology will play a role as quick feedback could lead to a faster menu item changes.

We would love to hear from all the foodies around the world on their loves and hates of airline food. All improvement ideas and feedback will be passed along to airlines. You can make a difference.

Which airline do you think has the best food?

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