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Old 07-28-2006, 11:53 PM   #1
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Airline Meals

Despite the best intentions of airlines, no one expects airline food to taste as if it had just emerged from the chef's kitchen. The realities of airline catering means that hot meals on commercial flights undergo a punishing odyssey of up to 22 hours from kitchen to plane.

Here is the timeline to bring a typical international premium-class meal to the tray table. I got this from a travel magazine:

24 hours before flight: Preliminary passenger count sent to kitchen facility
22 hours before flight: Initial prep work done and sauces made.
16-14 hrs before flight: Main meal elements are cooked: meat, fish, etc.
13 hours before flight: Cooked food immediately blast-chilled for 2 to 4 hours
10 hours before flight: Food removed from blast chillers and placed into ‘holding box’ or
cold storage room. Food is wrapped, labeled and held here until ready for assembly.
9 hours before flight: Kitchen crew gather everything to assemble dishes according to
specs of airline. Portions are weighed for compliance.
7 hours before flight: Food is arranged on trays or in foil containers for assembly later
in flight
6 hours before flight: Meals placed on carts for loading dock.
3.5 hours before flight: Catering trucks pull up to loading dock, truck and food carts
searched by security.
2.5 hours before flight: Trucks, loaded with food carts and sealed with security tape,
depart for airport terminals.
1.5 hours before flight: Carts loaded onto planes; catering rep takes final temperature
check – the last in a long series of such readings to ensure food doesn’t spoil.

Doesn’t feel so good to know that the airline food you’re eating was prepared at least 22 hours ago, huh. At least it's nice to know they make sure the food is safe to eat.

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Old 07-28-2006, 11:56 PM   #2
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Sorry, I tried to format this so it's easy to read but it didn't work...
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Old 07-29-2006, 12:42 AM   #3
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It's amazing what goes into getting a meal on board!

Personally, I've never expected to get 5-star gourmet quality food while in-flight. Back in the 70's - 80's ... I used to get a decent hot meal on a 2-hour flight ... shorter flights we got hot or cold sandwiches. Heck, these days on domestic flights you're lucky to get a 1.2 oz bag of peanuts and a plastic cup with 4 oz of Coke!

The last time I flew between Denver and DfW ... I stopped at the McDonald's in the airport terminal and got a "carry on" meal ... boy did I get some nasty looks from fellow passengers when I started to chow down after takeoff .....
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Old 07-29-2006, 01:16 AM   #4
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Very interesting chopstix, always wondered how they did that, thanks.

Am just as happy they have discontinued food service on most (?all) domestic flights here.

Like many folks give me 'free' food and I will eat it.

And as I get older I can tell you exactly where those calories go.

Just wish more airports had a semi-decent eateries where one could get some grub before a flight.

Most airports we go through have nothing but fast food joints.

And Michael, don't know why people on your flight were appalled, sounds like a fine idea to me.

Most of the time just want to either sleep or read on a flight. Let me buy a cocktail and am happy.

And they can keep the lousy pretzels, thank you.
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Old 07-29-2006, 03:52 AM   #5
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Probably because they hadn't done the same .
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Old 07-29-2006, 05:30 AM   #6
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You know ive had some AMAZING meals on airplanes..

I fly a lot like over 12 times a year long haul mainly. And I found some airlines to have some great food. Ive flown to Italy which was only a 2 hour or so flight. I got Proscuitto and REAL mozzerella panini

The hot meal Was a really nice chicken dish

i could go on about airline food but i do really enjoy it!
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Old 07-29-2006, 06:26 AM   #7
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My catering company used to supply meals to two NZ airlines and the headaches involved were phenomenal. We would get audited constantly ( all suppliers were) and our meals were weighed, measured, temp probed,etc. We also had to provide swabs from our premises on a regular basis to be lab tested for all the things we dread in a kitchen. Our food was prepared as close to the meal time as possible but we are talking internal flights here, not international. We learnt good sushi skills tho'!!!
No airline provides food in New Zealand these days...
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Old 07-29-2006, 09:12 AM   #8
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Have had memorable meals in first class on CO.
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Old 07-29-2006, 11:13 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chef_Jen
You know ive had some AMAZING meals on airplanes..

I fly a lot like over 12 times a year long haul mainly. And I found some airlines to have some great food. Ive flown to Italy which was only a 2 hour or so flight. I got Proscuitto and REAL mozzerella panini

The hot meal Was a really nice chicken dish

i could go on about airline food but i do really enjoy it!
I have to agree with you on the quality of the meals served on planes. I fly first class when I come to Michigan and always on American Airlines. I have had the most delicious meals you can imagine. They taste and look like they were just made although I know they weren't and they serve them on real plates with real silverware. When I leave Las Vegas I always get an early morning flight and breakfast on American is truly wonderful.
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Old 07-29-2006, 11:37 AM   #10
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Actually, it's not safe to eat all the time - lol!!! But then, what is?

Not to take away from the people who make a major effort to provide good safe meals to airline passengers, but there have actually been quite a few food poisoning incidents in the recent past. Most have been traced to the "holding period" of the food.

That said - since I'd rather eat worms & die than fly (although I've been forced to on occasion) - I doubt I'll ever get food poisoning from airline food - lol!!!!!
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Old 07-29-2006, 12:44 PM   #11
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I've flown first class a couple times, and the food was quite good. Coach class is another story About the only thing that was ok was the roll and the salad. The food tasted like one of those frozen dinners you buy in the grocery store. Breakfast was usually ok.

That was at least 5 or more years ago, and I realize now it's uncommon for airlines to offer food service, unless it's an international flight.
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Old 07-29-2006, 12:58 PM   #12
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I fly about 25 times a year, almost all for business. Generally I'm on Southwest, which is simply the best bus line in the country, and I'm rarely disappointed in their meals -- which consist of bags of peanuts! On longer flights (over 3 hours) they offer boxes of junk food, such as Oreo cookies and cheese goo with crackers -- avoid those!

On longer flights I prefer American, Delta, or United. I believe that all of those have eliminated free meals in coach, and now offer $5 box lunches instead. Those won't kill you, but you're better off picking up something at one of the airport fast-food outlets before you get on the plane. Some people bring their own snacks.

Occasionally I fly business class or first class, using frequent flier miles or making my clients pay. I've found that the food in those classes is usually pretty good, especially on American, considering that it's basically a fancy TV dinner. The best, however, was when we used our miles to fly to Paris and then to Italy on Air France. Of course, with all the free wine, anything would have seemed great.
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Old 07-30-2006, 02:09 PM   #13
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Brother. There isn't a chance in hades that I'm ever going to fly first class. I consider airline food to be just something to interupt the incredible boredom, and break up time between the 2-3 books and 4-5 magazines I read. Even then I've had singed food, and that's when food was relatively good. I haven't flown in a decade, and then it was already ridiculous. One time a hippie lady next to me (yes, I'm that old) shared her grapes and nuts with me. I AM NOT a fussy eater. Maybe the food has gotten better in the past ten years (old dogs, I can't travel because I'm babying my Keiki). But ... I doubt it.
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Old 07-30-2006, 03:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BreezyCooking
Actually, it's not safe to eat all the time - lol!!! But then, what is?

Not to take away from the people who make a major effort to provide good safe meals to airline passengers, but there have actually been quite a few food poisoning incidents in the recent past. Most have been traced to the "holding period" of the food.

That said - since I'd rather eat worms & die than fly (although I've been forced to on occasion) - I doubt I'll ever get food poisoning from airline food - lol!!!!!
Airlines don't provide meals any more--not really even in first on domestic flights so I wonder where the food poisoning came from. You can bring your own food.
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Old 07-30-2006, 03:25 PM   #15
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I saw a program on Food Tv Canada not long ago on how they develop new meals etc for airlines. Very interesting. I flew out of Dulles last month, and went from one long fast food lineup, to another, to another. Never did buy anything.

I've had better meals on VIA 1 ( the train) than I have ever had on an airplane.
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Old 07-30-2006, 04:26 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gretchen
Airlines don't provide meals any more--not really even in first on domestic flights....
That's not accurate. First and business class on all major domestic carriers still include full meals on flights over 1 hour 45 minutes -- breakfast, lunch, or dinner, depending on the time of the flight. The only exceptions I'm aware of are late night flights, and they may include a snack.

In coach, most carriers have eliminated free meals and now offer food for a price. Others offer limited free food, such as snack boxes and maybe a sandwich. And they offer full meal service on international flights (not to Canada).
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Old 07-30-2006, 04:49 PM   #17
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catering hall meals...

I wouldn't be so quick to give airlines such a bad word... When you go to a wedding, the company christmas party, or any catered affair, on or off premise, the exact same thing is happening. Unless you are ordering from a waiter in a restaurant, chances are better than 85% that 100% of the meal was prepped and prepared a day in advance.
Sure, some final work is done day of, but most of the bulk of meal preperation is done in advance. It's the only way possible to work in such quantity.
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Old 07-30-2006, 04:55 PM   #18
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I fly a lot - to mainland Europe and further afield. When I travel long-haul to Australia, I ALWAYS choose to fly Singapore Airlines. Their food is excellent. But that is probably the only airline food I eat. For shorter hops, say to Italy, Spain, Egypt or parts of Greece - I tend to refuse the meals. It's only 3-5 hours anyway!
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Old 07-31-2006, 12:37 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishbel
I fly a lot - to mainland Europe and further afield. When I travel long-haul to Australia, I ALWAYS choose to fly Singapore Airlines. Their food is excellent. But that is probably the only airline food I eat. For shorter hops, say to Italy, Spain, Egypt or parts of Greece - I tend to refuse the meals. It's only 3-5 hours anyway!
Ditto!!! I always fly Singapore airlines to Australia. The food is fantastic, and quite different. I could get to like noodles for breakfast! They manage to always produce fresh tasting interesting food with plenty of spices and flavour. I love their technique for when they are running low on stuff. There are always two choices for meals and when they are getting low on one they say "would you like to try the...." rather than "what would you like?"

I never bother on short hops either. These days you have to pay on many airlines and for a one to three hour flight, it isn't worth it.
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Old 07-31-2006, 02:26 AM   #20
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The chefs for Singapore Airlines are a couple of well-known Aussies as well as an Aussie-based Singaporean. I think it is the only edible food on airlines, Kyles! I flew once at the Chinese New Year and it was also an anniversary for SA... They had invented a wonderful celebratory menu, and gave passengers a copy of the menu, too. It was as good as anything in a restaurant. Excellent service.


PS - They do not pay me for this PR!
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