Airline Food

A Brief History of Airline Food

Airlines rely on more than just colorful magazine ads to draw in customers. Many still use food as a marketing tool to sway customers choosing between airlines. If you have an appetite (pun intended) for historical tidbits, you’ll enjoy this timeline of airline food.

Feast your eyes (#sorrynotsorry) on the brief history of how airline food has changed since it debuted nearly a 100 years ago.

1919: Handley-Page Limited was the first airline to serve cold meals in flights from London to Paris. The lunch boxes were pre-packed and cost around three shillings each.

1928: Lufthansa’s 15-seat Flying Dining Car served passengers the first in-flight hot meals. Travelers going from Berlin to Paris enjoyed warm food which arrived on the plane in insulated carriers.

1936: The first functional onboard kitchens were inaugurated in United Airlines flights. The carrier provided all passengers with mid-air comfort in the form of entrées of their choice.

The 1950s: High-class diners were enticed with the introduction of refined eating on an airplane. Tablecloths and silverware service became a differentiating factor for airlines who provided it.

1969: High-quality, luxury cuisine such as caviar, lobster, and foie gras was offered by British Airways and Air France.

1973: Chef Raymond Oliver, owner and chef of one of France’s greatest restaurants, Le Grand Véfour, re-evaluated the food menu of French airline Union de Transports Aériens.

1987: American Airlines chief executive, Robert Crandall, cut back on a single olive served with every salad to first class passengers, reportedly saving $40,000.

2001: The website, airlinemeals.net, began its journey of archiving aviation history by collecting over 40,000 images of airline food from 700+ airlines. The forum not only allowed passengers to discuss plane food, but also to post images of their in-flight suppers.

2011: British celebrity chef, Heston Marc Blumenthal’s (chef for three-star Michelin restaurant Fat Duck) involvement became a huge feature of British Airways’ marketing. In the same year, Carlo Cracco (two-star Michelin chef) partnered with Singapore Airlines.

2012: Another food milestone was achieved by Japan Airlines when they served “Finger Lickin’ Good” KFC to passengers during the holidays.

2013: Customers were provided the option of choosing each part of their in-flight meal by AS Air Baltic. This innovative food ordering system could be availed when they booked their seats.

2014: Currently topping Forbes 2019 List of World’s Best Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways partnered with Michelin-starred restaurant Tosca to tingle the taste buds of onboard passengers with fine Italian cuisine.

2017: A blog about the hassle of pouring the too-fizzy drink Diet Coke—written by a flight attendant—made international headlines.

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