Airline Food Suggestions to Avoid Food Waste (and make customers happier!)

Heard on a recent flight ...

Stewardess ...

“Chicken or Pasta?” (oddly enough not chicken or beef this time!) 
Passenger ... 
“Which is nicest?”
Stewardess ...
“I like them both, well … not really, of course, its airline food”!

We are home from Tortola (and I am missing my friends already – yes you lot!) and I apologise for having posted nothing at all for five weeks, which is mostly due to having very limited internet and partly due to being out enjoying myself all the time! Sorry!

It was a long trip home; up at 7 am Tuesday, car, 2 hours in airport (of course), flight to St. Maarten, flight to St. Kitts, flight to Antigua (island hopping is nowhere near as romantic as it sounds, believe me), 5 hours in Antigua airport, 8 hours or so across Atlantic, train to Reading, hour wait, train to Tiverton, bus to Plymouth, hour and a half wait in unheated waiting room, train to St. Austell, car home (thanks to good neighbour Bill) at about 7 pm Wednesday. Allowing for time difference this is about 32 hours. We went to bed as soon as we got in the door and slept till almost noon, nearly 16 hours.

That’s enough of “poor me” – I had a wonderful, wonderful time and have put lots of pics on my Pinterest board, “My bit” of the Caribbean.

Ideas to Improve Airline Food

In my experience, always travelling economy, food on planes has never been good but it seems to be getting worse!  Watching fellow travelers at mealtimes they all look disappointed to say the least and few people eat much.  As a result there is a lot of food wasted.

“Dinner” was a choice of a small amount (luckily!) of very overcooked pasta with bits of tomato sauce clinging to it, a spoonful of lettuce, ¼ of a large tomato and a very cold bread roll with just about enough butter for half of it. 

I realise that catering for hundreds of people in the confines of an airplane is not easy and I think, especially considering the amount of this food that is thrown away, that a whole new approach is needed.

The problems, as I see it are …

~   On long haul flights meals have to be heated from scratch in surely less than ideal conditions. I have frequently served meals for 200+ people and even with plenty of working space and no turbulence it’s quite a job!
~   A tight food budget, which seems to be getting tighter.  I don’t know the figures but it has been suggested that the budget is $5 per person!
~   A wide range of diners with all sorts of preferences and needs such as vegetarians, vegans, Muslim, Jewish, Rastafarian and other dietary requirements, people with allergies, gluten or lactose intolerant chaps, super tasters (like my real man) who can’t abide strong flavours, people on various diets such as Atkins (is that still popular?) 5:2, Dukan, Paleo etc. and, of course, Fussy Buggers.
~   Travelers who are already a bit grumpy, maybe feeling unwell and with suppressed or changed taste buds which is apparently one of the side effects of reduced air pressure and humidity.

Sometimes an airline will say that they are taking advice from one famous chef or another to improve their meals but it doesn't seem to work, at least not in economy. 

I am not famous (*** yet but maybe getting there - see below!) but if I was in charge I don’t think I would try to emulate a proper meal be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. Instead I would offer a selection of easy to serve choices which, if it would make life easier, could be selected at the time of booking. My suggestions include …

Breakfast – just whole fruits and/or yogurt, these are both best served cold and come in their own containers, in the case of fruit its own natural wrapper. How about a sachet of granola which can be sprinkled on or stirred into the yogurt? Perhaps add a portion of honey or maple syrup. But if none of this works just a granola bar would be good.

Lunch/Dinner – bearing in mind that airline food has always been a huge compromise why not admit this and just go for a sarnie? I know some people complain that they will go soggy but Marks and Spencer seem to have got over this problem, maybe consult them! I also wonder if a pork pie would be out of the question! Crisps or similar are an ideal and easily served accompaniment and a salad is also possible as this is also best served cold. Desserts can be fruit again or biscuits, chocolate bars etc. None of which need any preparation or any serving dishes.

Afternoon Tea – it may be because I live in Cornwall but a cream tea seems a good idea here. Two scones, a container of jam (which you spread onto the scone first), a container of clotted cream (dollop this on top of the jam) et voila as we say in the Duchy. Other ideas include any number of simple cakes (nothing too fancy - the carrot cake dessert following the aforementioned pasta was served upside down so that the thin smear of frosting on it was stuck to the plastic container); fruit loaf for instance with a butter pat or two or maybe something along the lines of a Viennese whirl, Eccles cake, chocky brownie, muffin or even a French Fancy!!!

As I say these are compromises and in no way replace a full meal but then nor does the food airlines serve now and at least my suggestions might be enjoyable.  Perhaps unopened packs of crisps, biscuits etc. could be served again but, if for some Health and Safety reason, this is not allowed the staff could eat them thus avoiding unnecessary food waste!

Until these superb suggestions are adopted by the airlines it might be an idea to either bring your own food or at least to carry a little seasoning in your hand luggage. Salt and pepper, or course, plus maybe sauces or dressings of your choice, see here for a few salad dressing suggestions. IMPORTANT - Of course these accoutrements must all be in containers of less than 100ml all of which must be in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag, which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm. They must all fit comfortably inside the bag so it can be sealed and the bag must not be knotted or tied at the top. You are limited to 1 plastic bag per person and you must show the bag at the airport security point. All well worth it for a good dinner!

*** In Other News

I have been mentioned in today's copy of The Independent in an article entitled ... 

"This one's for me; Chefs and food bloggers reveal their favourite solo suppers"

To read the rest of the feature (which includes Claudia Roden so you can see the sort of company I keep!) - read it online.

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Wendy Percival said...

I have to request a gluten-free meal when I fly and I'm usually quite happy with my food. (But then, I'll eat anything. I've always been a bit of a dustbin!)

cumbrian said...

I think they do well, serving 300 plus people with very limited resources, and trying to please 90% of their passengers 90% of the time whilst keeping smiling despite the whinges of your fussy buggers.

Of course (I believe) if you travel First Class the food gets a lot better.

We haven't done long haul for 2 years, and the European no-frills airlines don't win any prizes for catering, so we tend to take our own snacks; a sandwich, crisps, biscuits, fruit.

Sue said...

I think your suggestions are brilliant, now write to the bloody airlines and tell them!! (Richard Branson might be the one most willing to listen.)

Of course your suggestions are also lightweight foods and without the need for oven on the planes this makes planes even more light and room for a couple more seats perhaps and therefore more profit (or at the very least it would mean more space in the kitchen area for the cabin crew to work).

And if folk want something hot cup a soups or noodle type meals would be enough to quench that desire surely.

Nice to have you back and you seem to have missed the very worst of the weather - so it was a very well timed break :-)

Kate said...

I'm another 'take your own' person - that pasta looked comparatively appetizing compared to some of the things I've been served. Ergh...