Which Airlines Have Onboard Chefs?

When traveling in business or first class, the higher ticket price covers several advantages that are not generally reserved for economy class passengers. Perhaps the most obvious aspect is your seat. On longer sectors, it can provide much-needed rest and relaxation in the form of a lie-flat bed. However, the food you are served in this seat also tends to be a step above the economy offering. Some airlines go a step further with an onboard chef, but which ones?

Austrian Airlines Onboard Chef
Austrian Airlines takes pride in its Flying Chefs. Photo: Austrian Airlines

What does an onboard chef do?

Onboard chefs help airlines to take their catering to the next level in several ways. For example, their presence allows certain ingredients to be freshly prepared in the sky. This generally helps to enhance the overall quality of a dish, particularly in an industry that is rather reliant on pre-prepared meals. Of course, these can be very nice too, but freshly prepared aspects are, of course, a welcome bonus. On Austrian Airlines, these can include eggs and steaks.

The presence of an onboard chef also offers greater flexibility. In the case of pre-prepared meals, passengers can generally choose between the dishes as a whole. However, with an onboard chef plating ingredients one at a time, they can chop and change individual components if necessary. For instance, One Mile At A Time reports that Etihad’s onboard chefs had a pantry of ingredients from which they can prepare bespoke dishes.

Turkish Airlines Onboard Chef
Turkish Airlines aims to “transform your journey into a feast” with its onboard chefs. Photo: Turkish Airlines

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Which airlines have them?

But where can you find these airborne culinary masters? Even before the pandemic forced airlines to make catering cuts (more on that shortly), onboard chefs were only present at a handful of airlines. According to superadrianme.com, these were as follows:

Reduced catering options in the pandemic

During the last year, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has left almost no corner of the airline industry unaffected. Onboard catering has not been immune from its impacts, with many carriers reducing their onboard catering services as a result.

Etihad, Airbus A380, Retirement
Etihad recently removed its onboard chefs as part of catering cuts. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

These reductions have been intended to minimize the spread of coronavirus by reducing contact between passengers and crew. This has generally seen carriers elect to serve pre-packaged meals, even in business and first class.

Of course, the use of such catering eliminates the need for an onboard chef. For example, Etihad subsequently announced last October that it would be removing this role. Onboard chefs were not especially common throughout the industry before the pandemic. However, they offered a nice touch of personalization to the catering onboard the carriers that did feature them. Here’s to hoping full-scale catering can return soon.

Have you ever been served food prepared by an onboard chef? If so, what was the airline and meal in question? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!