Airline Catering


Airline Catering


Today, airline catering has assumed great importance in air transportation and more often than not, a passenger decides the airline by which to travel based on the food service on-board, as compared to other in-flight facilities. Audio programs, video entertainment, newspapers, and magazines play a secondary role.


Factors Responsible for Meals Served

The factors responsible for meals served are

  • Class of travel – first, executive, economy
  • Duration of flight – short / long flight
  • Time of departure – early morning, morning, mid-day, evening or late night
  • Time of arrival – early morning, morning, mid-day, evening or late night

Different Types of Meals

The different types of meals served on-board are:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Supper
  • High tea
  • Tea / light snacks


Effective Airline Catering

The effectiveness of airline catering depends upon the following:

  • Airline
  • Caterer
  • Passengers

The Catering Process

The catering process is as follows:

  1. Submission of the Catering Request by the Airline:
  • Flight wise
  • Class wise
  • Request wise
  • Quantity wise
  1. Preparation of the catering order at the caterer’s facility
  2. Transporting the catering order
  3. Receiving and handling of the catering order
  4. Receiving of the catering order by the cabin crew
  5. Food handling and presentation by the in-flight crew

Responsibilities of an Airline

The airline’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Ensuring meal preferences of passengers are requested and recorded correctly at the time of booking
  • Ensuring that there is no surplus, bearing in mind cancellations and no-show factors
  • Ensuring that there are no shortages, bearing in mind overbooking profiles and go-how factors.

Instructing caterers correctly about the following:

  • Meal type
  • Special Diets
  • Preparation Specifications
  • Presentation Specifications
  • Handling and Delivery – Aircraft site

Responsibility of the Flight Crew

The responsibilities of the flight crew are as follows:

  • Ensure sanitization of gallery counter top
  • Ensure cleanliness of the gallery at all times
  • Clean hands with sanitized napkin before commencement of service
  • Ensure heated food is not reheated

Serve the correct meal to the passenger, as recorded at the time of booking. It may be a special meal or the passenger may be allergic to some ingredients.

Responsibility of the Airline’s Catering In-Charge

The responsibilities of an Airlines catering in-charge are to inform caterers on:

  • The way food is to be prepared – ingredients, style of cooking and other exact specifications.
  • The way food is to be packed – box, plate or tray
  • The menu for a particular flight –breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, snacks
  • Accessories – cutlery, napkins or moist towels
  • The way food is to be delivered – frozen and hygienic
  • Timely delivery to the aircraft at the right time, in a correct manner and in proper condition


Responsibility of the Passengers

Certain responsibilities, which the passengers must keep in mind, are as follows:

  • Make a meal request
  • Specify the meal type – vegetarian / non – vegetarian
  • State special requirements if any –no eggs or allergic to etc.,
  • State restrictions if any – Diabetic
  • Stick to the preference given on board the aircraft – Do not change from vegetarian to non-vegetarian or vice-versa.


Caterer’s Responsibility

The following are the Caterer’s Responsibility:

  • The caterer shall prepare all the meals and other food items according to the airline’s exact specifications
  • Meals and food supplies shall include varieties according to the menu decided by the airline from time to time
  • The raw materials and ingredients used shall be of the best quality
  • The caterer shall offload food / meal / equipment on to an aircraft immediately on arrival
  • The caterer shall offload food / meal / equipment on to an aircraft and stow them in designated or prescribed aircraft locations.
  • The caterer shall load aerated water / mineral water / dry stores / dry snacks on departure flights.
  • The caterer shall complete the loading of the aircraft within the stipulated time
  • The caterer shall keep an account of the items loaded to / offloaded from the aircraft
  • The caterer shall provide tow hi-lift trucks with operators for transportation of food items and equipment between the aircraft and the caterer’s establishment and vice versa.
  • The caterer shall also provide a van or station wagon to transport equipment or food items
  • The caterer shall also transport food items to the airline’s lounge
  • The caterer shall wash / clean / sterilize / sort out and preset all the equipment as instructed by the airline and follow the gallery loading plan issued from time to time
  • Things should be kept ready for the next departure on a flight by flight basis
  • Quantity specification must be maintained at all times; adequate and dedicated personnel must be assigned to cover every departure and arrival to ensure smooth handling of all flights at all times.


Guidelines for Airline Catering

In tandem with the increasing international and domestic air traffic, the Ministry of Tourism in India has detailed certain guidelines for classification and approval of standalone airline catering units in the country.


A list of the guidelines set by the ministry is as follows:

  1. The catering unit should be located within the proximity of the airport, preferable in an area ear-marked by Airport Authority of India, in a good locality taking into account accessibility, immediate environs, approach, etc.,
  2. It should have valid licenses / certificates of concerned local authorities, police department wherever applicable. No objection certificate from the Fire Service Agency and Health License as applicable.
  3. The facility should be of a reasonable size and dimensions, designed keeping in view Volume and good (Food) Manufacturing Practices such as work flow, where there is no clash of finished products and waste, and basic segregation of raw and processing areas.
  4. It should have basic infrastructure in terms of proper ventilation, lighting, air conditioning, Temperature control in various areas as required, and Air curtain and insect-o-cutters in strategic locations.
  5. It should have sufficient segregated Cold Storage and deep freezers.
  6. It should have treated water supply.
  7. It should have a proper drainage system and Sewage Treatment Plant. It should also have proper arrangements for waster disposal.
  8. It should have segregated staff facilities with toilets, change rooms, etc.,
  9. The work processes should meet Food Safety criteria, preferably the HACCP guidelines issued by International flight Catering Association (IFCA) , as applicable in the local conditions, Practices and / or Records.

Express Catering Vehicle

The express catering vehicle is perfect for all on-airport operations. The design of the vehicle enables it to meet a specific aircraft sill height, as well as a short range of sill heights. The carts can be directly rolled on to the aircraft by adjusting the floor of the cargo container according to the height of the aircraft. To serve a greater range of sill heights, Express Catering Vehicles equipped with scissor lift are used.

Features of an Express Catering Vehicle

  • Aircraft is protected from damage because all contact points are pampered.
  • Loading lift complies with all relevant OSHA regulations
  • Safety lights
  • Industrial- duty foam-filled tires
  • Reflective tape
  • Securing Hardware for catering carts
  • Non-Slip safety surface on a floor surfaces to prevent the possibility of slipping


  • Factors Responsible for meals served
  • Different types of meals
  • Effective Airline Catering
  • The Catering Process
  • Responsibility of an Airline
  • Responsibility of the Flight Crew
  • Responsibility of the Airline’s Catering In-charge
  • Caterer’s Responsibility
  • Guidelines for Airline Catering
  • Express Catering Vehicle