As a follow-up article to our discussion on 6 Reasons Why Airline Food Does Not Create a Positive Food Experience, let’s examine the many challenges the airline industry has regarding food service, and how to overcome those challenges in favor of creating positive food experiences.
What are the challenges (and potential solutions) facing the airline industry in order to create positive food experiences?
Food Safety and Freshness
On our recent flights to and from Europe, the food was pretty good. The food quality wasn’t the greatest, but it certainly wasn’t a frozen dinner you may find in some grocery stores. It didn’t seem like it was some majorly processed TV dinner. It seemed like it had some catering aspect to it in terms of the freshness (not a lot of preservatives).
Perhaps those in the airline industry can facilitate better quality food for those seated in economy (coach) seating, and a better environment that could create a positive food experience.
Airlines could expand the food service frequently offered in first and business classes to those in economy seating.
Many airlines have designated chefs in charge of meal planning and those who facilitate food operations. With the many food service vendors that exist today, airlines can negotiate reasonable prices for the ingredients, cooking facilities, and other needed equipment.
Airlines could offer catering (sponsored by different restaurants).
The airline industry could give passengers their choice of a couple of different items, and served those items on disposable servingware. They would need to do the packaging a little bit different (perhaps similar to meal kit delivery services).
The airline industry offers many catered and otherwise gourmet food services on first class and business class flights, as well as some economy class international flights. They generally factor these meals into the price of the plane ticket. With the majority of passengers flying in economy (coach) seating, the large number of passengers often makes food service challenging.
Airlines could offer dessert only.
They could offer different desserts each day or each week (pies, bars, crisps). It’s hard to mess up dessert. They could offer special desserts for various holidays or special events. Timing would definitely be a factor here, though. Would anyone really want dessert after waking up from a redeye flight, for example?
Space & Time
Space on the plane for any food items is a big issue. In most planes, the food and beverage area is typically not much larger than a small linen closet. With the advent of recycling, airlines also need to allocate additional space for those materials. However, it may be just as easy to store healthy, delicious food as it is to store processed food.
Time for food is also a factor. Many domestic flights (and some international flights) are so short that the airlines barely have enough time to serve beverages, let alone any type of meal. However, in-flight dining coordinators of many airlines already schedule different meals and snacks depending on the time of day and length of the flight. The airline industry could expand those options to accommodate all flight classes.
On our trip to Europe, the flight itself was very uncomfortable. Our minds focused more on being uncomfortable than on the food itself. We were a little curious about what food they might give us, however. It’s not like the food was anything great, but the environment did not facilitate sitting back and focusing on the food.
While many airlines have increased the roominess of their seating, they still have a long way to go. Because of the overall environment of the airplanes, that in many respects negates any positive food experience you may otherwise have had. The cramped space, the time needed to really enjoy a meal, etc., all factor into the food experience equation.
Considering everything the airline industry has to do to get food on the plane, it is very challenging for them to create positive food experiences for their passengers. They must package the food conveniently and safely, they must heat it up before serving, etc.
There are so many different things the airline industry has to do regarding the food that it is often not economically viable for them to create positive food experiences for every passenger. As airlines continue to understand the needs of their customers and improve upon these factors, however, they can come closer to creating positive food experiences.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What do you feel the airline industry could do to create positive food experiences?