What Goes Into Developing A Menu For 36,000 Feet?

The Simple Flying team spent last night watching British Airways’ new documentary. Have you ever wondered what goes into catering in the air? Entitled British Airways 24/7: Access All Areas, the documentary, the airline sheds some light on catering at 36,000 feet.

British Airways, Do&Co, Airline Catering
British Airways let camera crews see inside the process of creating an onboard menu. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

An awful lot of work goes into airline catering. Whatever the airline, everything from logistics to the way food tastes at altitude has to be considered. For a large airline like British Airways, it clearly pays to partner with a third party catering company. British Airways partners with Do&Co to provide its catering services.

Tastes change at altitude

Umami, or the savory taste, is the focus for Do&Co as it can really bring out flavors at altitude. Tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs, and spices are especially important as passengers’ ability to taste can be cut by up to 30% by the cabin atmosphere. British Airways provided us with a clip about the Importance of umami:

Video: British Airways

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Tastes can seriously change at altitude. Due to the atmospheric conditions at 36,000 feet, tastes can be reduced by up to 30%. The British Airways documentary states that this is due to the lower atmospheric pressure, in addition to the noises of flying.

British Airways, Do&Co, Airline Catering
Tastes change significantly at 36,000 feet. Photo: British Airways

 

How are dishes created?

British Airways has a wide range of dishes available onboard its aircraft. Of course, these vary between the different cabins. One would expect a different caliber of food between World Traveller and First. However, the airline also varies its menus depending on the route being served.

The documentary looks at how two new dishes are created for the premium economy cabin on the route to Hong Kong. The whole story starts at Do&Co’s Vienna headquarters. Here, chef Mark Tazzioli works on creating new recipes on the ground. The recipes are then created at Do&Co’s London Heathrow depot, where each meal is prepared to the recipe produced in Vienna.

British Airways, Do&Co, Airline Catering
All of the food is prepared from scratch in DO&Co’s Heathrow kitchen. Photo: British Airways

Finished onboard

While the meals are cooked on the ground, they are then heated by the crew whilst the aircraft is cruising. When the meal has been heated, it is placed on a tray and handed to the passenger.

All that is left to do is for the passenger to enjoy the meal at 36,000ft. That is, unless the passenger is flying in the short-haul economy cabin. In Euro Traveller, passengers are able to purchase food from a buy on board Marks and Spencer’s menu. In the documentary, British Airways CEO, Alex Cruz, says that the airline wasn’t expecting the popularity of the new buy onboard menu.

Have you tried British Airways’ Do&Co catering? What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

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