How Does Airline Catering Work?

How Does Airline Catering Work?

Air travel involves much more than just boarding a plane and reaching your destination; it’s a meticulously orchestrated process with various facets, one of the most critical being airline catering. Behind every inflight meal is a complex system designed to ensure passengers are not only fed but delighted with their dining experience. In this article, we will explore the intricate workings of airline catering processes with a focus on its essential elements.

The Key Stages of Airline Catering

Airline catering involves a series of well-coordinated stages that begin long before passengers step onto the aircraft. These stages encompass menu planning, procurement, food preparation, packaging, and inflight delivery.

Air travel involves much more than just boarding a plane and reaching your destination; it’s a meticulously orchestrated process with various facets, one of the most critical being airline catering. Behind every inflight meal is a complex system designed to ensure passengers are not only fed but delighted with their dining experience. In this article, we will explore the intricate workings of airline catering processes with a focus on its essential elements.

The Key Stages of Airline Catering

Airline catering involves a series of well-coordinated stages that begin long before passengers step onto the aircraft. These stages encompass menu planning, procurement, food preparation, packaging, and inflight delivery.

Menu Planning

Airline catering starts with collaborative efforts between airlines and catering companies to create menus tailored to passenger preferences, dietary restrictions, and cultural considerations. These menus must account for factors like flight duration, destination, and class of service. Inflight catering systems are harnessed by airlines to provide caterers with simple dynamic interfaces to effectively plan menus for a plethora of routes.

These systems allow caterers to take special care when accommodating passengers with dietary restrictions, including vegetarians, vegans, kosher, halal, and gluten-free options. Accurate record-keeping and communication across each facet of menu planning play a pivotal role in ensuring special meal requests are met. For instance, when KLM implemented an inflight catering system in place of existing processes, they witnessed a noticeable drop in human error.

Menu Planning

Airline catering starts with collaborative efforts between airlines and catering companies to create menus tailored to passenger preferences, dietary restrictions, and cultural considerations. These menus must account for factors like flight duration, destination, and class of service. Inflight catering systems are harnessed by airlines to provide caterers with simple dynamic interfaces to effectively plan menus for a plethora of routes.

These systems allow caterers to take special care when accommodating passengers with dietary restrictions, including vegetarians, vegans, kosher, halal, and gluten-free options. Accurate record-keeping and communication across each facet of menu planning play a pivotal role in ensuring special meal requests are met. For instance, when KLM implemented an inflight catering system in place of existing processes, they witnessed a noticeable drop in human error.

Procurement

Catering companies are responsible for sourcing ingredients and products from various suppliers, with a focus on quality, freshness, and compliance with safety standards. Efficient procurement includes inventory management, supplier contracts, and supply chain logistics.

Efficient procurement involves rigorous inventory management. Caterers must monitor stock levels, track ingredient expiration dates, and forecast demand accurately. Dynamic menus with inflight catering systems keep often connect directly to airline reservation systems, enabling incredibly accurate, succinct, forecasting for food provisioning. Negotiating supplier contracts and managing supply chain logistics are essential to minimising costs and waste.

Procurement

Catering companies are responsible for sourcing ingredients and products from various suppliers, with a focus on quality, freshness, and compliance with safety standards. Efficient procurement includes inventory management, supplier contracts, and supply chain logistics.

Efficient procurement involves rigorous inventory management. Caterers must monitor stock levels, track ingredient expiration dates, and forecast demand accurately. Dynamic menus with inflight catering systems keep often connect directly to airline reservation systems, enabling incredibly accurate, succinct, forecasting for food provisioning. Negotiating supplier contracts and managing supply chain logistics are essential to minimising costs and waste.

Food Preparation

Dedicated chefs and kitchen staff in specialised catering facilities prepare the meals according to the airline’s specific requirements. Stringent hygiene standards and rigorous quality control measures ensure food safety and taste.

Stringent hygiene standards are upheld throughout the food preparation process. Regular quality control checks ensure that every dish meets the airline’s exacting standards and safety regulations.

Food Preparation

Dedicated chefs and kitchen staff in specialised catering facilities prepare the meals according to the airline’s specific requirements. Stringent hygiene standards and rigorous quality control measures ensure food safety and taste.

Stringent hygiene standards are upheld throughout the food preparation process. Regular quality control checks ensure that every dish meets the airline’s exacting standards and safety regulations.

Packaging & Assembly

Once meals are prepared, they are portioned, packaged, and labelled for easy identification. Special meals, such as those for passengers with dietary restrictions, are handled separately to prevent cross-contamination.

Special meals, such as those for passengers with allergies or religious dietary restrictions, are handled separately to prevent cross-contamination. These meals are meticulously prepared and packaged to meet specific guidelines.

Packaging & Assembly

Once meals are prepared, they are portioned, packaged, and labelled for easy identification. Special meals, such as those for passengers with dietary restrictions, are handled separately to prevent cross-contamination.

Special meals, such as those for passengers with allergies or religious dietary restrictions, are handled separately to prevent cross-contamination. These meals are meticulously prepared and packaged to meet specific guidelines.

Loading & Delivery

Catering trucks transport the packaged meals to the airport, where they are loaded onto the aircraft. Precise scheduling ensures that meals are ready for in-flight service, whether it’s a short-haul or long-haul flight.

At the airport, airline catering crews load the meals onto the aircraft according to a carefully planned schedule. This task requires coordination to ensure that each flight is provisioned correctly.

The punctual delivery of meals is critical to meet departure schedules. Inflight catering systems are designed to aid both the airline and catering teams at this critical stage. Live menus notify caterers of delays or schedule changes, whilst crews and inflight service departments are transparent on the number of meals and special meals. The dynamic interface supplements every action and check with simple, effective communication.

Loading & Delivery

Catering trucks transport the packaged meals to the airport, where they are loaded onto the aircraft. Precise scheduling ensures that meals are ready for in-flight service, whether it’s a short-haul or long-haul flight.

At the airport, airline catering crews load the meals onto the aircraft according to a carefully planned schedule. This task requires coordination to ensure that each flight is provisioned correctly.

The punctual delivery of meals is critical to meet departure schedules. Inflight catering systems are designed to aid both the airline and catering teams at this critical stage. Live menus notify caterers of delays or schedule changes, whilst crews and inflight service departments are transparent on the number of meals and special meals. The dynamic interface supplements every action and check with simple, effective communication.

Technology has transformed airline catering operations in the modern age, enhancing efficiency and passenger satisfaction. As mentioned throughout this article, inflight catering software such as Promeus provide myriad benefits throughout airline catering processes.

Technology aids in menu planning, ensuring that airlines can adapt to changing passenger preferences and dietary requirements swiftly. It also helps in inventory management, reducing food wastage and costs.

Furthermore, technology enables efficient communication between airlines and catering providers, ensuring that meals are prepared and delivered accurately and on time.

Airline catering is a highly organised system that plays a pivotal role in passengers’ overall flight experience. From the careful planning of menus and procurement of quality ingredients to the precise preparation, packaging, and inflight delivery of meals, every aspect is crucial to ensure passengers are well-fed and content during their journey.

While technology, exemplified by solutions like Promeus, has modernised and improved the inflight catering software, the core principles of quality, safety, and efficiency continue to drive this essential aspect of the aviation industry.

As airlines adapt to evolving passenger expectations, airline catering, coupled with the effective provision of inflight services will remain an integral part of providing a memorable and satisfying journey for travellers around the world.

Technology has transformed airline catering operations in the modern age, enhancing efficiency and passenger satisfaction. As mentioned throughout this article, inflight catering software such as Promeus provide myriad benefits throughout airline catering processes.

Technology aids in menu planning, ensuring that airlines can adapt to changing passenger preferences and dietary requirements swiftly. It also helps in inventory management, reducing food wastage and costs.

Furthermore, technology enables efficient communication between airlines and catering providers, ensuring that meals are prepared and delivered accurately and on time.

Airline catering is a highly organised system that plays a pivotal role in passengers’ overall flight experience. From the careful planning of menus and procurement of quality ingredients to the precise preparation, packaging, and inflight delivery of meals, every aspect is crucial to ensure passengers are well-fed and content during their journey.

While technology, exemplified by solutions like Promeus, has modernised and improved the inflight catering software, the core principles of quality, safety, and efficiency continue to drive this essential aspect of the aviation industry.

As airlines adapt to evolving passenger expectations, airline catering, coupled with the effective provision of inflight services will remain an integral part of providing a memorable and satisfying journey for travellers around the world.

Overcoming the 5 Top Challenges in Airline Catering

You are cruising at 36,000 feet, your stomach rumbles as the flight attendant approaches with your inflight meal. They place it on your tray-table and a delicious smell engulfs your nostrils. You tuck in. But where did this meal come from? How was it prepared? And how was it loaded onto the plane? These are probably not questions you are going to be asking, or even considering as you enjoy your inflight meal; but there are many technicalities that must be performed and analysed to ensure successful inflight service.

Airline catering is not like any other type of catering, it has many more challenges, such as restricted storage space, food safety regulations, short turnaround times and frequent changes to flight schedules, to name a few.

A typical airline will need to load around half a million items per day, operating on a very tight schedule. With so many challenges, the planning and logistics that contribute to the end result are often underestimated.

 

Support and Innovation

To provide the highest standard of passenger service, it is important to implement innovative services and deliver hybrid operational service strategies. This approach enables airlines to provide wider price options on the same flight, to satisfy both passengers who expect a high standard of service and those who want to minimise their expenditure.

 

 

Increase Operational Flexibility

Flexibility is essential in airline catering, and service change requests need to be implemented quickly and seamlessly. Having the flexibility to change the menu in a very short period, from design and planning, to preparation and delivery, is key to providing a range of products and services to passengers.

 

Improve Efficiency

With short turnaround times and rising fuel costs to contend with, improving operational efficiency is essential. Preparation duties prior to departure need to be more efficient without compromising on service quality.

 

Supply Chain Optimisation

Optimising the supply chain is another challenge that must be overcome to provide the highest quality of inflight services whilst regulating costs. Improving consumption forecasting to reduce food waste and reduce stock levels is a top priority for airlines. Having accurate information about stock levels and smart consumption forecasting technology can save airlines a significant amount of money.

 

Real-time and Accurate Data

To reduce delays, airlines and staff need to have accurate, real-time operational data available to enable fast decision-making. Providing airports and airlines with real-time data regarding inflight services, helps to reduce delays that can have a major financial impact for both the airport and airlines.

In order to overcome these challenges, utilising innovative technology that provides data-driven solutions is essential. With so many different processes involved in airline catering services, having a streamlined overview of the relevant information can increase efficiency and prevent delays.

From the ability to intricately manage supply chain activity, to dynamically coordinating inflight service operations, Promeus provides all the tools needed to overcome some of the most challenging hurdles in the industry.

How Effectively Do Airlines Cater Meals?

Like any type of profitable business, airlines must develop the most effective ways to deliver services to generate adequate profits to be able to continue to operate. Many financial decisions must be taken to balance the ability to provide a great passenger experience with keeping costs to a minimum.

To effectively determine the flight ticket prices set, every single cost must be accurately monitored and real-time data should be available to help airlines to set the ticket prices. Airlines who are not using the latest technology will not have the relevant data to enable them to set the pricing correctly or to adapt to spikes in costs quickly enough.

Catering is one of the aspects of airline operation that can lose a lot of money if not managed most efficiently. Every single item of the catering services, even small items such as salt, pepper or napkin are individually priced and taxed. Our Flight Plan module allows for this to be possible. It accounts for each item on a tray as well as the individual tax price depending on the country that it is in and flying to.

Last-minute changes such as cancelled or delayed flights or last-minute passenger bookings make airline catering management more difficult. This is another reason that having a software solution with real-time data is so important. Our Flight bill allows last-minute changes to be made between airline and caterer and keep both up to date.

Along with this our Dynamic invoicing module allows for all anomalies to be detected and then disputed between caterer and airline to ensure that the invoice is accurate.

 

Using software to monitor item costs

Software solutions provide information about how much is being spent on each item and catering service managers can make decisions to switch suppliers to find more cost-effective solutions.

Some in-flight catering software will also enable airline staff to enter complaint data regarding the quality of the catering service, so that necessary improvements can be identified, such as quality issues. Running out of certain items can also be recorded along with the number of requests for the items once they have been sold. This helps to manage meal and stock planning to suit customer demand, rather than simply relying on the amounts that have been historically ordered on previous flights.

Accurately forecasting the right number of meals is an integral part of catering planning, as wasted food will cost money. In the meantime, there will be unhappy, hungry customers who don’t get the meal they wanted may choose a different airline in future. As well as the costs of not getting the meal numbers right, storage on an aircraft is minimal, so only a certain number of meals can usually be stored on some smaller aircraft.

Intelligent in-flight catering management is key to providing an airline catering system that enables effective ticket pricing decisions that will drive the required profit. Our dynamic invoicing allows any anomalies to be detected and disputed with the caterer and our flight bill module allows last-minute changes to be made for a decrease or an increase. Find out more about how Promeus can help your airline to cater meals more efficiently.

Which Airline Do You Think Has the Best Food Quality?

After the major disruption to the travel industry in recent years due to the pandemic, airlines need to be able to offer a higher quality of service compared to their competitors, with the industry still in recovery.

When travellers are choosing between different airlines, they tend to compare costs, flight times and reputation but there has been an increase in travellers who want to enjoy a more luxurious experience on their flight. As a result, providing improved inflight dining options and quality has become a top priority for airlines.

These are the airlines with the best food quality according to customer reviews:

Emirates Airline

Emirates

Emirates has a good reputation for providing high quality food and snacks to passengers and not just in First Class, Economy passengers can enjoy a good selection of meals too. Passengers have complimentary drinks included with a tasty meal such as pizza, grilled chicken or vegetable paella.

Swiss International

 The menu on Swiss International flights includes meals such as beef tenderloin, veal and local cheeses. The First Class dining experience is likened to eating in a gourmet restaurant, with meals accompanies by regional wines.

Air France

 French cuisine is renowned around the world and the Air France catering lives up to the country’s culinary reputation. Top French chefs create the menus for the inflight meals and the presentation of the meals is of a higher standard than most competitor airlines. The menu choice from Paris flights includes the Fauchon gourmet experience, a healthy menu, a traditional menu with local French products and the Fun menu which is a favourite for children’s meals.

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways is famous for the luxury travel experience, with four celebrity chefs creating the prestigious menus, including Nobu Matsuhisa of the famous Nobu fine dining restaurants. The food is already waiting for passengers when they arrive at their seat, so there is no waiting around. Options such as the gourmet vegan menu provide passengers with excellent dining choices.

Etihad Airways

Etihad AirlineEtihad Airways inflight catering includes free beverages on every flight and offers a great range of menu options in Economy, Business and First Class. In Business and First Class, you have the option of what time you want to have your food and you can expect extras such as champagne to accompany your fine dining.

Providing a top dining experience helps airlines to boost their reputation and ensure that passengers want to travel with them again in the future. Lomature catering systems identify areas of the catering experience that can be improved and streamlines logistics so that airlines can focus on creating the highest quality of inflight menus.

 

How Do Airlines Make Meals for Thousands of People?

The process of sourcing ingredients and creating high-quality meals is challenging enough without all the added complications of the logistics involved in preparing meals that are to be served on aeroplanes.

Airline food delivery

There are so many different requirements that must be met, such as ensuring the food is contained in the small tray dimensions that will fit into the trolley, making sure the food arrives during the aeroplane’s turnaround and the food that is to be served hot must be able to be heated by the aircraft ovens. Then there is also the small matter that these meals must be mass-produced for thousands of people each day.

Airline catering services have all these problems to overcome, as well as many more, such as providing meal variety, working around dietary requirements and the fact that people’s taste perception changes when they are in the air. The ingredients to the meals will usually include much more salt than would be used in preparing standard meals, as research shows that around 30% of taste is lost when flying at altitude.

Promeus is a cloud-based system that can assist an airline to complete all these things with ease.

 

How thousands of airline meals can be made

In-flight meals are generally prepared in catering facilities that are on-site or close to the airport, to minimise delivery times and costs. There will be a large catering team with prepared ingredients and preparation instructions to adhere to, so that the process is as quick as possible.

With targets to hit a very short preparation time, another way that the process is made quicker, is by using advanced technology such as high-powered water lasers that cut meals such as cake into precise dimensions.

The meals will usually be prepared within 10 hours of the flight departure, with catering companies expected to prepare the meals as close to the scheduled flight time as they can, factoring in the logistical details. The meals must go through security checks including scanners to ensure that there are no security risks contained in the meals, which also takes up additional time.

Airline meal trayThe number of meals that are needed for the designated aircraft will be transported in refrigerated catering trucks to the airport’s loading area, with delivery staff keeping up to date with any flight delays that occur so that delivery arrangements can be changed.

Once the meals have been loaded onto the aircraft, they are placed in refrigerators prior to the hot meals being reheated in the ovens. Clear and simple instructions will be provided to flight attendants, so they do not have to spend time working out what they need to do.

Catering companies and airlines are continually looking at ways that they can improve the process, such as using new technology like Lomature’s inflight catering management system. This software solution is implemented to help plan the preparation and delivery processes and reduce costs by accurately forecasting the demand for in-flight meals. Find out more about the Lomature services.

 

In-flight Caterers

Check out the Flying Food Group, a global in-flight services caterer who works with the world’s premier airlines based in the United States. They are also using our Promeus system, which enables them to invoice the airlines for their services.

 

 

Catering for Flights – What You Need to Know

In-flight catering can be a complex operation, with numerous variables to consider to ensure a successful outcome. From menu choice to billing there is a range of factors that needs to be considered by both airline and caterer.

One thing within this industry is clear, communication is key!

Whether you are working with local catering sources, your ground handler, or a third-party provider, clear and concise communication will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal: A successful in-flight catering experience for passengers.

Challenges

Catering for commercial airlines is a complex and ever-evolving process. Each airline has its team of culinary professionals responsible for everything from selecting the food and beverages to packing the fight to paying the caterers.

One main challenge of a caterer would be to ensure that the meal is created and packed following strict safety standards, considering food safety.

In addition to this, each item on a food tray for an in-flight meal needs to be priced and charged for. From the main meal, down to the cutlery and condiments, each item has its unique price that an airline is billed for.

Communication is the key!

There is basic information that every caterer needs access to when catering for airlines. This is something that can be accessed from our Promeus cloud-based system. Promeus allows both caterer and airline to access the date and time of the flight, the tail number, meal specifications, special requirements, and passenger/meal count.

With that Promeus can generate invoices on behalf of the airline through the automated workflow. This allows the airline to see what they are required to pay to the caterer. In addition to this, Lomature can manage this for you, ensuring the correct figures from the caterer against provisions made by the airline, saving time and allowing you to cut down on staffing costs.

Product Availability & Last Minutes Changes

In-flight catering

When placing a catering order, it is essential to keep availability in mind. Both airline and caterer must work hand in hand to ensure that they have the resources available to fulfil your catering order adequately.

This connects to the comment made earlier, Promeus can track those changes for you through its automated workflow. For instance, if you fly from England to Dubai, when the plane lands in Dubai it is reprovisioned for the return flight. Promeus can check these details to ensure there are no potential overcharges as it tracks what has been used during the flight and what product quantity and provisioning the flight should be stocked too. Promeus will validate and automatically approve confirmed quantities and allow the caterer to confirm and adjust exceptional airline requests.

Example

If you’ve got an outbound flight that when at full capacity can store 50 water bottles, during their flight they make a sale of 22 bottles. When the flight lands in the destination country the caterer restocks the trollies and states on the Promeus Flight Bill that they provided 30 bottles of water on the flight, leaving an 8-unit discrepancy.

Promeus automatically suspends just the discrepancy allowing the airline billing manager to focus and review it with the caterer, saving them time and money.

Contact Us

Our end-to-end catering system gives your company the ability to streamline your in-flight offering, giving airlines the option to focus on passengers and service.

If you want to know more about what Promeus can do for your airline, get in touch with us here or call +44 (0) 1625 441 553.