First Class Meals On An Aircraft: What It Costs And What It Means For Airlines
Flying specifically outside North America and Europe often means delicious meals and great service. A dish in economy class tends to cost the airline between €5 and €9, business class between €15 and €30 and for first class many times more. It means Michelin-star food and vintage champagne: airlines are pulling out all the stops to cater to their first-class passengers’ tastes, as they seek a larger slice of the highly profitable market.
“Business class has become the main battleground for all companies because the market in this very profitable sector is highly competitive and the clients very demanding,” said Bertrand Mouly-Aigrot, aviation expert at Archery strategy consulting.
In an interview with AFP Airline aviation experts say the airline food market is worth a tasty €10 billion with a wide discrepancy between the various classes of travel.
Singapore Airlines touts itself as “the only company to offer the world’s two most prestigious champagnes: Dom Perignon and Krug Grande Cuvee”.
The airline spends around €18.4 million every year just on champagne and wine, with catering amounting to 5.5 per cent of its total costs.
And with companies scrambling to stand out from the crowd with the extravagance of their menu, they are hiring top chefs to create tasty morsels.
But serving haute cuisine to highly international and demanding diners at 30,000 feet brings its own challenges.
The chefs have to create a menu without certain ingredients — raw fish is banned for example and cabbage and beans ill-advised given the close proximity and confined environment of the cabin.
Cultural niceties also have to be taken into account and not just the well-known aversions to pork: rabbit, for example, is considered delicious in France but seen as bad luck in certain religions — not what you want when flying.
Additionally, tastebuds act differently at altitude and the cabin air is very dry, which also affects how the food tastes.
Chefs find themselves having to add flavor enhancers to compensate.
The challenges don’t stop there. Getting the timing and balance of flavours right for a Michelin-star dish is hard enough on the ground, never mind when having to reheat the food at altitude.
At the main Paris airport, Charles de Gaulle, thousands of sous-chefs whip up the food, dress the plate, then chill and store the meals that are served around the clock on planes around the world.
When just a few seconds of overheating can destroy a meal, chefs are so obsessed with the delicate issue of reheating their creations properly that they often train the stewards and air hostesses themselves.
And with so many different nationalities on board, when it comes to the menu, variety is the spice of life.