FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Airlines Pursue Innovation in a Post-Pandemic Return to In-Flight Catering

by Katie McElveen

May 3, 2022


April/May 2022

Hot, safe and delicious. According to Michael Henny, managing director, Onboard Services Operations, Delta Air Lines, that’s the goal of the company’s in-flight catering program, which serves meals to thousands of passengers hurtling through the sky each day. And while the COVID- 19 pandemic certainly made getting meals from the kitchen to the tray table even more complicated, Henny chooses to look at the changes wrought by the pandemic as an opportunity. “Bringing things back after COVID was almost like starting with a blank slate,” he said. “We were really able to focus on what customers want, which, conversely, is food that’s exciting but familiar and healthy but indulgent.”

One way Delta provides customers with the experience they desire is by working with local vendors who can help the airline translate regional tastes into something that can be replicated on an airplane. “The next generation of menus will have been created with a lot of experimentation,” noted Henny. “We need to make sure it works within the confines of what we can deliver consistently.”

The airline recently returned to serving coursed meals in Delta One.


Union Square Events, the catering and venue hospitality division of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, which includes New York’s Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern, is one of Delta’s partners to serve restaurant-quality meals to passengers departing from New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. The decade-old partnership got its start when Delta approached Meyers about serving dishes from Blue Smoke, the company’s barbecue restaurant, on certain flights. The resulting partnership proved such a success, before long Delta began rotating menu items from several Union Square restaurants onto its planes.

Today, Union Square Events includes a team dedicated to developing menus for Delta. Brett Romberg, associate director of culinary operations, Union Square Events, said creating menu items that can withstand the kitchen-to-plane gauntlet poses more hurdles than expected. “It’s amazing what you have to think through,” he said. “We created a fabulous short rib dish that we just knew would be a hit; but when we tried to put it in the warming oven on the plane, it was too tall. That hadn’t occurred to us. But now we know.”

Romberg also noted Delta and Union Square Events both put a lot of faith into what flight attendants tell them about passenger responses to specific menu items. “That cumulative view gives us a lot of data, from what looks dried out to what never gets finished,” he explained. “Just yesterday we heard that the blueberries in a breakfast parfait were turning the yogurt a weird shade of grey. We can easily make that adjustment, and passengers will enjoy the dish more.”

Romberg said as passenger tastes evolve, his team adds more global flavors to Delta’s menus, such as a Moroccan chicken stew that just passed all the R&D tests. “There’s a fine line at creating something that sounds a little differ- ent but is still approachable,” he said. “A lot of the dish’s ingredients are familiar, but instead of adding a bunch of salt, we used harissa and other aromatics to mitigate the taste bud changes that occur at altitude.”

Bill Gillen, director of culinary excellence/North American region, LSG Group, which provides airline catering services to dozens of airlines around the world, said he, too, enjoys the challenge of introducing new flavors to customers but wants the dish to delight those who may have grown up eating it as well. “For us, the key is recreating the flavors that make a dish distinct,” he explained. “To make sure everything we serve has an authentic flavor profile, we enlist the expertise of chefs who specialize in specific cuisines.”

Gillen said the realities of in-flight catering — such as long waits between the time an item is cooked and when it is served — forced him to get creative with ways to maintain the integrity of the ingredients. “Fish is always a challenge, so we got the idea of wrapping each fillet in a steamed cabbage leaf before plating it,” he said. “When the dish is served, the flight attendant removes the leaf and discards it. The result is beautifully moist, flavorful fish.” The company also experiments with more plant-based proteins.

LSG will also re-introduce the company’s Choose Your Own Menu program, a casualty of COVID. “Passengers built their own meals with choices for protein, starch and sauce,” Gillen said. “It was very popular.”


Other airlines found ways to bring back pre-COVID programs as well. Austrian Airlines introduced a smaller-scale version of its Flying Coffeehouse, offering coffee classics such as the Melangerie, Viennese iced coffee or a mocha on board and making crispy schnitzel available on select flights.

British Airways features classic British dishes including a traditional roast made with aged British beef and served with Yorkshire pudding, chicken pie with mash, and shepherd’s pie. The menu also features vegetarian options using butternut squash, wild cavolo nero and asparagus grown in Britain.

In February American Airlines re-introduced hot, plated meals in both economy and business classes and will add healthy grain bowls and entrée salads later in the spring. Passenger favorites like short ribs and warmed mixed nuts will also reappear.

Beyond food choices, travelers can look forward to other changes on upcoming flights. Increasingly, passengers make onboard food and beverage purchases using an app on mobile devices; most require a pre-loaded payment method. Pre-order options are also exploding, from British Airways’ Buy Before You Fly menus, which include a selection of food from Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge, to Delta’s First and Business Class Pre-Select menus. “Passengers can choose a regular menu item or one of our limited selections, which is only available as a pre-order,” said Delta’s Henny. “Since we know exactly how many we’ll need for each flight, it gives us a chance to get creative.”

Airlines also look to minimize single-use plastics and other noncompostable materials, which poses even more of a challenge in today’s COVID era. Delta and ANA are switching to cutlery and dishes made from biodegradable materials; in the main cabin, Delta will serve wines in aluminum cans from a sustainable winery. Swiss International Air Lines and Austrian Airlines are exploring programs to reduce food waste by offering unpurchased fresh products for sale at a discounted price on the last flights of the day.

Emirates purchases a number of products from companies that utilize ecologically friendly practices. These include Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio Cantina, Italy’s first olive oil producer to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions; Gate Gourmet Japan, which sources produce from farms less than a mile from its facility; and Amarula, an African company that harvests fruit for its cream liqueur from uncultivated trees and supports both elephant conservation and eco-tourism skill building throughout Africa. The company is also building a vertical farm in Dubai that will provide produce served on flights and in Emirates lounges.

“COVID forced us to forge new relationships, get innovative with technology and rethink how we do almost everything,” said Delta’s Henny. “It’s been an adventure, but it’s made us more nimble.”


FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.


Insta Feed
Jun 30, 2022

London’s Historic Wiltons Celebrates 280th Birthday with Exclusive Dining Experience

First opened in 1742 by George William Wilton, a seller of oysters, shrimp and cockles near Haymarket in London, Wiltons continued drawing diners with its delicious food for more than two centuries. This summer, Wiltons celebrates its 280th birthday and its place as one of London’s most beloved fine-dining establishments with a unique dining experience.

Discover a Journey Filled with Wonder in 2022

ISN’T IT TIME? It's time to treat yourself to the vacation you deserve, and Celebrity Cruises® offers the perfect escapes. With an award-winning fleet of ships that sail to more than 300 destinations around the world, Celebrity will take you almost anywhere you want to go in style. Enjoy stunning staterooms and suites, culinary experiences imagined by Michelin-starred chefs and intuitive service. Celebrity makes sure your vacation is effortless from the start, which is why drinks, WiFi and tips are Always IncludedSM on every sailing.

Jun 30, 2022

New EDITION Reykjavik Offers City’s First Luxury Lodging

Resting on the edge of Reykjavik’s Old Harbour next to the soaring, sparkling glass edifice of Harpa concert hall and conference center, the brand-new Reykjavik EDITION brings a new level of swish lodging to Iceland’s capital city. Steps from Laugavegur — the city’s main shopping street — and an easy walk to a wide selection of museums, restaurants and cafés, the newly opened hotel delivers high on luxury and service in a location ideal for becoming fully engaged in the energy of this spirited capital city.

Jun 30, 2022

OMNIYAT, Dorchester Collection Break Ground on AVA at Palm Jumeirah

Recently, more than 345 million people globally watched OMNIYAT light up the sky for the launch of AVA at Palm Jumeirah, Dorchester Collection, Dubai thanks to more than 500 drones. Now, OMNIYAT will once again illuminate the sky with one light to signify the groundbreaking of AVA at Palm Jumeirah Dorchester Collection, Dubai.

Celebrity Cruises’ Spring Sale

There’s no better time to plan the vacation you’ve been missing. Step aboard with your better half, your friends or the whole family and reconnect, reunite and rejoice with 25 percent off cruise fares for all guests. We’ll also help everyone get there with 25 percent off airfare from 20 major gateways across the country or $100 savings per person on flights from all other gateways when you book your air travel using Flights by Celebrity.*

Jun 29, 2022

Luxurious Getaway at Ocean Casino Resort

Enjoy a relaxing getaway at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City. Whether your visit is for business or leisure, the resort offers a variety of amenities and programming.

eFlyer Deals
Jun 29, 2022

Sip & Savory Offer at Palacio Provincial in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

In time for summer, the recently opened Palacio Provincial hotel in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, launched a new exploration-driven offer. The Sip & Savory Summer offer includes a mixology tour for two adults, a sweet or savory welcome amenity and a hotel-branded gift.

United’s 100 Percent Green Commitment to be Carbon Neutral by 2050

United Airlines remains firmly committed toward sustainability in aviation. The latest development in its eco-conscious goals includes working with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures to commercialize the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) with biotech firm Cemvita Factory. Cemvita looks to develop a revolutionary new way to produce SAF by using carbon dioxide and synthetic microbes. Additionally, United Airlines Ventures (UAV) recently announced an equity investment in Fulcrum, and United has invested more in SAF production than any other airline in the world.

Jun 29, 2022

Monticello NY Opens Art Space Center in Former 1940s Buick Showroom

Monticello, New York, population 6,400, is an old Catskill town in Sullivan County that thrived from the 1950s–70s, with hundreds of country resorts. Although the town lies just a two-hour drive from Manhattan's cultural attractions, Monticello always seemed light years away in terms of cultural ambiance.