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With the holidays just around the corner, we asked some of the airlines flying in and out of Vietnam how they manage their kitchens in the skies.

 

How do you plan your menus?

“We tailor our menu depending on the end destination. It’s changed each month and features a wide variety of dishes — we try to include everything. However, we tend to avoid food like souffles and deep dishes as they don’t deliver that same experience when reheated. It’s important to balance great dining with food that travels well.” — Emirates

 

 

Cuisine on board an emirates airline flight

 

“A meal presentation is conducted in-house to fine tune the menu before our meals are offered onboard our flights. We refresh our menu offerings regularly, and when we receive feedback that certain dishes are well-received, we take this into consideration and feature them again on future flights.” — Singapore Airlines 

 

Chef Jean Sulpice, one of the chef's creating food for Air France

 

How do you manage complaints about food?

“There will always be differences in taste with people having different preferences. Our menus offer different choices, such as the “Tradition”, “Ocean”, “Italia”, “Le Norte Selection” and “Jean Imbert” meal options, and they can be ordered from 90 days to 24 hours before the flight’s departure.” — Air France

 

“The team classifies complaints under more specific categories like hygiene, preparation, substitution, standards, etc. The team then investigates and asks for an explanation regarding the matter. A database keeps track of caterers’ performances that helps us avoid the same problem happening again.” — Philippine Airlines 

 

What considerations do you have to take into account when serving food in pressurised environments?

“Altitude can have an impact, however, modern fleets like ours are more advanced than older ones. Even so, we have to think carefully about which flavours work well. We find that dishes rich in tomato work well, as certain savoury tastes don’t appear to be impacted by altitude.” — Emirates

 

How do you offset the impact that your in-flight food service has on the environment?

“We take the weight of our tableware into consideration to reduce our impact on the environment. We’re committed to eco-design of our tableware, reducing the weight of materials is associated with a cut in CO2 emissions by one third.” — Air France

 

“We serve over 100 million meals annually across our network, so we place great emphasis on simple, healthy dishes that use fresh and sustainable ingredients. We work closely with suppliers. For example, the olive oil we use onboard is from a carbon neutral producer in Italy and a catering partner in Japan that offers a farm-to-table experience where freshly-picked vegetables are sourced from within a one-kilometre radius from their facility.” — Emirates

 

Singapore Airlines mixes traditional Singaporean cuisine with international fare

 

“In October this year, we affirmed our commitment to sustainability with the launch of our From Farm to Plane initiative. This initiative promotes environmental sustainability and supports local farming communities with the use of local produce whenever possible.” — Singapore Airlines

 

How do your food options differ between long-haul and short-haul flights?

“Food choices solely depend on the flight’s origin or route. The flying time determines the number of meal services a flight has. Given onboard constraints but with the priority of providing the best possible dining experience, our team came up with a Dine at Your Leisure programme for business class passengers flying haul, which gives passengers the freedom to choose what food items they want served first.” — Philippine Airlines

 

What are the different touches between each service level tier on your airline?

“In-flight meals are planned according to the route, duration of the flight, the type of customers onboard, and the time of departure and arrival. Short-haul flights within France are traditional French dishes created by leading French chefs.” — Air France

 

“In first class, passengers can order a la carte multi-course meals created by top international chefs. The order can be placed at any time during the flight. The meals are served with the finest Royal Doulton china dinnerware and exclusive Robert Welch cutlery, with linen napkins and tablecloths.” — Emirates 

 

“Our economy class passengers are offered a choice of two or three meal options. Premium economy class passengers have the option to select a main course from the premium economy Book The Cook service at least 24 hours before departure complete with a selection of wines and champagne. Whether it is for religious, dietary or allergy reasons, we also offer a variety of special meals for customers to select before their flights. — Singapore Airlines

 

A dish created for Air France by chef Guy Martin

 

How do you manage customer behaviour in-flight? For example, in economy, space is tight. Is it fine for a passenger to recline during the meal service?

“The ability to recline a seat is something that all customers value, but we ensure each passenger travelling in the economy cabin is sitting upright during the meal service.” — Air France

 

“How a passenger behaves in-flight is of no one’s control. The best thing that the team can do is provide a heart-warming Filipino travel experience to all passengers. During the meal service, the crew are tasked with politely asking passengers to straighten their seat for the convenience of passengers seated behind them.” — Philippine Airlines 

 

How long does it take for your food to get onboard before it’s served?

“Preparation for hot items starts 48 hours prior to departure, while with cold items it’s 24 hours. The food items are cold-soaked for at least two hours before delivery to the aircraft. They are then delivered to the aircraft two hours before its departure.” — Philippine Airlines

 

What does the future look like for economy passengers in terms of food service with your airline?

“We are seeing a bigger focus on, and expectation of, healthier options. Increasingly we are focusing on simple, well-cooked dishes that emphasise fresh core ingredients of the highest quality. Given the cosmopolitan customer base with our airline, there is a focus on offering more regional and seasonal options.” — Emirates

 

“Giving our goal of becoming a five-star airline, we strive to deliver a five-star quality menu and food service. We are always looking to strengthen the quality of food offered whether it’s in business class or economy.” — Philippine Airlines. 

 

Matt Cowan

Managing Editor of Word Vietnam. Destined to be a dairy farmer until he accepted a spur of the moment job offer in Japan in 1998. After making it big in Japan, he now finds himself wrangling stories in Vietnam instead of cows in Australia. Matt has been living in Saigon since 2010.

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