Friday, December 30, 2011

The Pride of Portugal

It hardly seems like nearly year ago that I visited the captivating city of Lisbon just a few days before the start of last year's International Travel Catering Association event in Nice. 

The weather was warm and I was happy to escape a long winter that would last until late spring. During my days in the city I visited the TAP Air Portugal's Cateringpor operation and talked with the airline's longtime Chef Consultant Vitor Sobral about his philosophy for airline cuisine over  din of evening diners at Sobral’s Tasca da Esquina  (The Corner Tavern) restaurant in the capital city. 

Chef Vitor Sobral and
TAP head of inflight product
Isabel Alves outside Sobral’s
restaurant Tasca da Esquina
in Lisbon
Now, as the year comes to a close, the airline is again tapping the culinary talent of Portugal. Starting in November, and continuing through the year, TAP Executive Class passengers will have the chance to taste the veal, salt cod and octopus culinary creations of six Portuguese Chefs: Luís Baena, Henrique Sá Pessoa, Ljubomir Stanisic, Leonel Pereira, Marco Gomes and Miguel Castro e Silva.

It's been a year of accolades for TAP and its dining team. Earlier, the airline was recognized by a major travel magazine for its Executive Class selection of domestic wines. 

To find out more about the chefs, the dishes they have created for TAP and the months during that they will be served on board, check their background and menu creations in the online version of the airline's fine inflight magazine, Up. 

-- Rick Lundstrom


Friday, December 9, 2011

Watching the Detective

While he may not be saying all the things the airlines want to hear, Charles Stuart Platkin, aka, the Diet Detective deserves some credit for doggedness in his pursuit of healthy airline food.

Last week, the Detective released the results of his annual survey of airline buy-on-board offerings in economy class for North America. The results have popped up in media around the country.

For both the level of cooperation and menu, our neighbors to the north, Air Canada (I can hear the cheering the the Toronto office of PAX) scored the highest for its Onboard Cafe. He was impressed with the airline’s approach to its food service offering and the information it provides to the passenger about each of the products. The Detective was also impressed with Air Canada's association with Food With a Conscience

In the survey, Platkin breaks down airline offerings piece by piece with calorie counts, best bets for healthy snacking and the amount of exercise needed to burn off each of the meals.

He gives high marks to Virgin America, and a few props to US Airways, while chiding most of the other carriers for one transgression or another.

What I noticed in his extensive research was the amazing variety that can now be found in the carrier’s buy on board offerings. They all serve a few items that could appeal to the health conscious. The choice is there for the buying. For as much research as the Diet Detective undertook, airlines undertake more. Before boarding any of these products, they are thoroughly vetted and focus-grouped.

Airlines also have to deal with something that the Diet Detective and his readers do not – that is waste. Healthy, fresh offerings are an important addition to the menu. They also have a shelf life that must be closely followed.  If they don’t get sold, the airline loses money and the product is wasted. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Flying Food Group's Chicago distinctions

Sue Ling Gin
Flying Food Group found itself in good company recently. The 2011 Crain’s Chicago Business  ranked Sue Ling Gin’s Flying Food Group the second largest minority-owned business in the area.

Flying Food Group is behind MAT Holdings Inc. a diverse group of manufacturing and distribution companies and ahead of television personality Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo, Inc.  

The airline catering and food distribution and supply company posted 2010 revenues of $333 million — an 11 percent increase over 2009. 

The company has 3,300 employees worldwide, providing over 270,000 meals and snacks daily to leading airline and retail customers from its network of 18 U.S. production kitchens, plus one in Shanghai. 

 Flying Food Group is also the Chicago area's third-largest woman owned firm. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Flurry of news

The Christmas holiday season is always a difficult one for people in the news game. 

Sources get harder to find, companies prepare for the next year, with staff taking time off and schedules changed throughout an operation. This year, we also face a long period between the next major event, the Aircraft Interiors Expo and World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo at the end of March.

Even though Hamburg has become a regular stop for the PAX International staff in the past few years, we're looking forward to a March event like no other in the history of the well-established Aircraft Interiors Expo. With the addition of the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services event, visitors can expect to see the largest travel catering trade floor ever on  the European continent. The major caterers have committed to the event, and no doubt will bring interest and a lively setting.This year's catering expo trade floor now sits at more than 4,100 square meters. 

Until then, we'll be stepping up our news coverage. From now, through mid-February, PAX International will be sending out a newsletter weekly instead of our usual two per month. We will be covering our usual topics, from food and beverage service on all transportation modes, to inflight entertainment and connectivity and ancillary revenue.

This change means that news will be arriving in e-mails with more  regularity, making our newsletter -- already a popular source for industry watchers -- even more valuable. Advertising opportunities will place a company's name in front of thousands of readers each week. 

We tried a similar approach in the summer of 2010 and it proved to be popular. We hope you'll join us with your participation and feed back. 

-Rick Lundstrom

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“the feeling of being home….”

Airlines, over the decades, have tried to achieve the elusive goal of home cooking, and Emirates has the same comforting plans, even as it expands in every direction.

Over the next year, more than 30 aircraft will be added to the fleet or delivered to phase out older jets. Emirates made aviation history this week, with an order of 50 777s. It is the largest value order Boeing has ever received.

As Emirates grows to take its place among the world’s largest and most service-oriented of airlines,  those in its food and beverage operations are studying new approaches to their work and looking where past practices have been successful.

Terry Daly (left) and Darren Bott
accepting this year's PAX International
 Readership Award for Emirates. 
On a recent visit to the headquarters, I chatted with Terry Daly the Divisional Senior Vice President of Service Delivery and Darren Bott, the recently appointed Manager Regional Catering Service Delivery at the carrier’s headquarters in Dubai. Bott comes to Emirates from Food Point, the manufacturing subsidiary of Emirates Flight Catering. The trained chef from Australia has also worked for Q Catering during which time he supported the launch of the Qantas Airways' long association with the Rockpool Group and at their manufacturing operation, Snap Fresh.

“What we have done is we have put in place the organization that will manage the next growth phase of Emirates operations around the world,” Daly said. “Because we really have a significant number of aircraft deliveries coming up over the next five to six years.”

The scale-up means that every aspect of the catering operations has to be evaluated to maintain quality and control costs. At this level even small changes carry big ramifications. It has also meant that Daly’s department has to keep a wary eye on competition. While he promised news of important changes in food service in the months and years to come, both men stated that specifics would have to wait until the announcements.

“We’re a great airline, we’ve got some great hardware and great jets,” Bott added  “But it’s really about setting a standard and theme for our cuisine and beverage on board and making sure that where ever we uplift, if you fly onboard Emirates Airline and the aircraft interior was completely white, and you were only served food, you would know you were onboard an Emirates jet.”

Dubai may be an incredible place of growth and business and tourism. But for many people, it’s also home. And Emirates seems to understand the importance of what a taste of home can mean to a passenger who’s been traveling a long time.

-- Rick Lundstrom

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dubai sails on

The aviation industry is gathering for the annual Dubai Air Show the week of November 13 – an important event to be sure.

But two weeks after the companies pack up and leave the Emirate, they’ll be missing the 40th anniversary of the signing of the UAE Constitution.

The already-iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai
A thumbnail history of the UAE -- known previously as the Trucial States in reference to a 19th century truce between the United Kingdom and several Sheikhs -- can be found on the Dubai Air Show website.

One cannot help but wonder if the parties that gathered on that December day in 1971 had any idea what the future had in store for the region.

The UAE seems to be shedding the debt woes and economic downturn that swept through the region a couple months ago. But a casual visitor even back then would have a hard time telling that anything has changed at all. Construction continues apace, the malls are crowded as well has the high-end beach clubs. On the streets, one rarely sees a car more than five years old.

Last week, when a contingency gathered in Dubai for the International Travel Catering Association trade show, gala dinner and the PAX International Readership Awards, talk was not of the past, but mostly of the future.

Darren Bott of Emirates pointed from the window of the airline’s headquarters at the sparkling new terminal for the A380 that was going up before their very eyes. A half hour away, by air, a few visitors had the chance to get an early look at the site of a new airline-catering kitchen that will be taking shape soon in Doha. This month, the Formula 1 race in Abu Dhabi will attract the well heeled to Al Bateen Executive Airport, where a new FBO and airline-catering unit by gategroup will handle the flow.

The business aviation sector is not the only bright spot, however projections of double-digit growth in the next few years would be tough to beat. The Middle East commercial aviation sector should grow at a rate of 3 percent by the end of this year, reports the International Air Transport Association. This would make the region the second fastest growing market in the world, next to Latin America.

“Holding up against potential demand shocks associated with political instability, the region’s carriers grew passenger traffic 8.3 percent compared to a capacity increase of 9 percent in the first seven months of this year,” said IATA.

And though uncertainty abounds, and the rest of the IATA report is far from rosy, a commitment to a high-quality travel experience is always something we can count on from the Middle East.

- Rick Lundstrom

Friday, October 21, 2011

Servair's ‘Fête de la Gastronomie’

This week, we thought we'd include a few pictures from Servair's ‘Fête de la Gastronomie’ held September 23 at Charles de Gaulle and Orly Airports. 

Servair and Aéroports de Paris organized the event which served as a greeting for arriving passengers at the main terminals of the two airports. Servair chefs chatted with arrivals about the techniques of airline catering and offered them samples of traditional French cuisine from various regions. 

"The passengers had the chance to talk to Servair chefs and discovered all the secrets of airline catering: how the seasoning and spices used to prepare in-flight meals differ because our taste buds are altered by the altitude, prohibited and essential ingredients onboard an aircraft, presentation tips and a host of other interesting information about airline catering," said a release from the caterer. 

"Passengers all over the world appreciated to discover airline catering in a different manner, in a spirit of conviviality and sharing."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A pilot's take on airline meals

"Now, after ten years of international flying, mostly to Europe, I've enjoyed more crew meals than I probably should have."

Today, on a great travel website called, a pilot discusses the behind-the-scenes protocols for cockpit crew service on American Airlines. There's some interesting video on galley preparation on a 767 flight from Rio de Janiero, catered by LSG Sky Chefs. 

"Most co-pilots give the choice of meal to the captain," writes AA Pilot Ken Wien. "And the captain often defers back to the co-pilot. It can become comical at times; neither pilot wanting to make what is probably the least important decision of the flight." 

Friday, October 7, 2011

British cuisine invasion

Perhaps a few of our friends across the pond could fill us in a bit about the culinary ambitions of British Airways of late.

The airline seems to be taking a serious look at the food service component and the stories are found regularly as one looks through the media. 

Today, updates BA's ongoing association with Heston Blumenthal and its experiment with umami-rich dishes for First and Business Class. It is part of the airline's Height Cuisine campaign that was introduced at the London Food Festival. 

"Nicoise, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, sauteed salmon and gilt head bream with soy sauce and shitake mushrooms, and asparagus with pea and broad bean dressing and poached hen’s egg." Interesting combinations that were served on the airline starting in June.

There will also be One Expensive Bottle of Wine flying around the British Airways system starting next year.  The will be boarding Grand Siècle by Laurent-Perrier, which retails at a hefty £120. Other high-end wines have been selected exclusively for Asian routes. 

With new aircraft, such as the A380 now filling the sky, and the 787 set to create another standard of airline service, food and beverage can again become a component for a competitive airline.

Friday, September 23, 2011

They're at it again

It was something I hadn't seen in awhile, but toward the middle of this week, a major travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet decided to poll followers of its Twitter account about their experiences with airline meals. 

"Let us know the worst meal you've experiences (sp) on an airplane," it asked. The tweets were still rolling in as the weekend approached. 

I tweeted that it was unfortunate the Lonely Planet didn't get to visit last week's events in Seattle. They would have had a chance to see talented chefs at work on the trade floor of the International Flight Services Association Conference and Exhibition and some of the innovations at companies like Zodiac Aerospace and B/E Aerospace at the Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas, located next door. But if entertainment was more their preference, this year's Airline Passenger Experience Association had a dazzling array of new developments. The IFE segment of the industry is undergoing a fit of development  and the variety of new products now vying for the airline's attention was impressive this time around. 

IFSA's new president, David Loft, was even so bold as to tell us that food and beverage service could be playing an important role of differentiation in years to come. To that, we say: Why Not?

Our friends at Lonely Planet print great travel guides. But they should look around a little if they want to get a complete picture of airline food service. Just last week, we ran across this story about the developments at Asia's Boutique Airline, Bangkok Airways. For the next six months, the airline will be serving up great looking food developed by The Pavillions Phuket (home of the 2007 IFSA Asia-Pacific Conference). 

Combine the talent of chefs anxious to set their creations before an airline passenger, with new galley products that can prepare food in ways that were not imagined 20 years ago, and the development of amazing aircraft like the A380 and 787, and food service could take its place with seating and IFE as the part of the flight a passenger will remember most about their most recent travel experience. Let's hope they don't forget to tweet about it.


On the subject of innovations, I was surprised to learn this past week that the possibility of Airbus's SPICE Galley System finding its way into airline service is anything but certain. I queried Airbus' Vice President of MarketingBob Lange on the subject last week in Seattle.  He made it clear that getting the industry to work with the airframer on moving ahead with SPICE was "proving to be a point of difficulty."

The next six to nine months will be a critical period for the future of SPICE, said Lange. If things don't pan out, he said SPICE may be put "on ice" until Airbus develops another aircraft.

-Rick Lundstrom

Friday, September 16, 2011

Coverage of fall event

The Seattle Post-Intellegencer reporter/blogger  Andrew Cohen found his way into this year's triple event at the city's convention center. 

In addition visiting the usual stops for high-tech bells and whistles, he visited companies at the International Flight Services Association and seemed to enjoy a few of the food service products. What caught his attention was the interesting flavor combinations at the Conway Dressings stand. Latin and Asian fusions and a a vinaigrette made with pomegranate and acai were a few of the notable flavor offerings. 

The TrayVu by Skycast, the inflight entertainment system in a see-through tray was one of the latest in a series of interesting designs creating buzz from a conceptual standpoint. Innovations in in-seat IFE have been shaking up the industry of late. 

Outside the usual gaggle of press that attend the three events, I found little in the way of coverage from the consumer media. Odd that such an event so ripe for visuals and of interest to the general public should get so little in the way of outside media coverage. 

I was surprised when I asked Bob Lange of Airbus Industrie about the acceptance and development of the SPICE Galley system so touted at IFSA and Aircraft Interiors events in the past. It now appears to be fighting for its life among the company's innovations.  In six to nine months, Mr. Lange said the company will make a decision on whether to put the whole SPICE Galley program "on ice" until another Airbus aircraft is developed. 

If anyone has spotted any other coverage of the IFSA/APEX/Interiors event, feel free to share it here.

-Rick Lundstrom

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where to find a good barista

Juarte Skarzauksaite pours for
 judges at last year's WBC.

Readers of PAX International are a traveling lot, and while they are on the move they may need a place to find a good cup of coffee.

SSP this week announced the finalists in their yearly Caffè Ritazza World Barista Championships. Seven out of the nine finalists can be found working in airports from Liverpool to Bangkok.

The nine will have a chance to show their expertise and original creations at company’s yearly competition September 21 at the historic Dickens Inn at St. Katherine’s Docks in London.

At the event, the baristas will be preparing four espressos and four cappuccinos and a signature drink of their own. A tropical mixture by barista Juarte Skarzauksaite at SSP’s Caffè Ritazza at East Midlands Airport was the winner.

“This contest gives the very best of these the opportunity to showcase their craft and compare their performance with the international stars of coffee making,” said Stuart Coombes, international franchise director for Caffè Ritazza.

So where are these stars? Here are the finalists:

·      Marta Twardygrosz from Liverpool Airport, United Kingdom
·      Zaidabi Nakhoul from Dublin Airport
·      Anne Marie Sacksteder from Longeville Services, France
·      Kristsada Kwannaogen from Copenhagen Airport
·      Kajsa Bysell from Stockholm Central Station
·      Christian Roman from Paphos Airport, Cyprus
·      Thomas Pettersson from Oslo Airport
·      Kittipong Chaiyapim from Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok
·      Ashfaq Ahmed from Zurich Airport

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Global Business Travel

A recently released survey by the Global Business Travel Association on the preferences of premium travelers is getting some attention in the news

We alluded to a portion of it in our August 23 newsletter. In it, we see that  travelers are most likely to seek out airlines with the latest in high-tech connectivity and entertainment.  Survey reveals that more than half, 51 percent see inflight wireless Internet as an important feature in business travel and 48 percent value power to the seat. The use of mobile phones for voice and text messaging did not rank as high in importance. 

The GBTA surveyed 1,650 long-haul premium travelers and found distinctly different motivations and approaches to travel among the business travelers in Asia. The survey found them more prone to value high tech perks and food and beverage service. They are also more than four times more likely to use social media when planning a business trip. Only about 10 percent of travelers in the United States will access social media. Asian travelers are also among the most likely to increase their premium travel -- at 42 percent -- in the next 12 months. 

“As we’ve seen the travel industry slowly recover after the Great Recession, the comeback in premium class has been driven primarily by business travel,” said Joe Bates, director of Research, GBTA Foundation. “This study provides a valuable perspective on the profile of the premium traveler and offers insight into the role of corporate travel policy in facilitating effective premium travel.  It is vital for both travel suppliers and travel managers to become better informed about the premium traveler, especially as these travelers have become increasingly important to business travel growth overall.”


AME Info, an excellent source for news from the Middle East is reporting on the good will activities of Gulf Air during the holy period of Ramadan. 

Volunteers from the airline are distributing Iftar snack boxes to several mosques in Manama. The airline sourced the dates and eatables from women's charities in the city as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility program. 

"The real essence of Ramadan is giving and sharing; expressing this spirit is the feedingof others, which is one of the religious traditions of Ramadan," said Gulf Air CEO Samer Majali. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Drinking it in

During this sizzling hot U.S. summer it doesn't take much -- just a lot of humidity -- for a person's thoughts to turn to something cold and refreshing. 

The Food Channel has been following drinks trends. And while surveyors on the television network admittedly did not turn up many surprises, more than a few of our airline readers and their suppliers already know that people are more interested in plain old water than they have been in recent memory.

"Of those who said their beverage habits had changed in the past six months the most frequently mentioned change was “drinking more water.” Seems like a healthy trend." said the story. 

Here's a list of some of the popular drink trends, courtesy of The Food Channel. 

1.  D.I.Y. Flavor— Many of us are taking flavor matters into our own hands.
2.  Parental Discretion Advised— We’re still seeing lots of buzz around beverages and kids.
3.  Iced Coffee Is Scalding Hot— Consumption of this cold caffeinated beverage has heated up.
4.  For Medicinal Purposes Only— There’s certainly no shortage of ways to “drink to your health.”  
5.  Sipping Seasonally and Simply— In much the same way we’re eating local and choosing foods when they’re in season, we’re making a more conscious effort to drink that way, too.
6.  Fast Food Beyond the Fizz—T here are changes happening here, too, with specialty drinks getting as much play as burgers and fries.
7.  Craft Beers: The Buzz Is Back— While overall beer sales are flat these days, sales of craft brews are seeing double-digit increases.
8.  Bourbon Booming —The retro revival of the classic cocktail has hip young consumers bellying up to the bar for whiskey.
9.  Show Biz— While the food generally takes center stage in restaurant exhibitionism, beverages are being offered more starring roles.
10.Drinking Ourselves Thin—We want to enjoy our drinks without drinking in the extra calories.

Friday, August 12, 2011

BA's Olympic Menu

In less than two weeks, British Airways is expected to announce the short list of potential winners of its Olympic Menu competition. Industry watchers should learn what the airline plans to feature in the run-up to the London Games next year. Entries for the competition closed on July 27.

Involved in the competition and preparation is British Airways' new culinary sideman, Heston Blumenthal. The winning chef short list are expected to present the meals August 22 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The dishes will be rolled out for passengers in World Traveller in March of next year and in First and Club World cabins in July.

The competition is garnering a little coverage around the Internet and blogosphere. Bakery products supplier En Route is urging countrymen and women to stay tuned for the announcement. The promotion also gets a mention on the Heathrow Meet & Greet website.

In May, the Guardian ran this story on BA's Olympics sponsorship.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spirit Airlines' Experiment

Spirit Airlines noted the completion of its first year of what it calls its "customer friendly bag policy" this week. 

"Amidst a media frenzy of emotion, the policy has proven to be a highly effective response to the boarding time maelstrom that still affects the rest of the airline industry," said Spirit in a August 4 release noting the anniversary. 

Spirit's policy of charging passengers for large carry-on baggage stowed in the overhead bins has had a number of affects, according to the airline. 
  • Passengers who travel with less baggage save money.
  • Customers who choose to pay to carry on a large bag find space near their seat.
  • The need to check a bag at the jet bridge or on the aircraft has been virtually eliminated. 
  • There has been a sharply reduced rate of injury among passengers and crew. 
Spirit only charges for baggage that needs to be placed in an overhead bin. Passengers are free to place smaller bags under the seat. Medical devices, diaper bags and onboard reading material are also exempt.

An industry watcher would have been reasonable to expect some type of consumer backlash to this policy, but apparently that's not happening. Many passengers who willingly check their baggage appreciate the relief from the hectic boarding process which many readers here, we're sure are quite familiar.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thai and FRoSTA

An interesting cross-cultural exchange recently took place at the Thai Airways Catering unit in Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. 

Mrs. Piamboon Kungvarlvongse, THAI Duty Manager, Personnel Administration and Development Department, recently welcomed the FRoSTA Food Scouts all the way from Frankfurt, for a Thai cooking class.   FRoSTA is a German food producer of quality ready-to-heat deep frozen meals modeled after cuisines around the world.

The country is an important stop for German tourists. Thai Airways estimates that more than 600,000 Germans travel to Thailand each year. In addition, more than 600 German companies operate in Thailand. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ancillary revenue’s importance

A major study done over the last two years on the airline’s ancillary revenue of dozens of airlines shows that 2009 was a breakout year when a la carte programs and commission-based services netted airlines worldwide a revenue stream exceeding US$13.5 billion a 43 percent increase from the previous year.

By the end of 2010 that figure had grown to more that $21.4 billion, nearly double what was raised in 2008.

Those are some of the important findings from Amadeus Review of Ancillary Revenue Results announced at the end of May announced by Amadeus and a Shorewood, WI, company called Ideaworks.

“Many of these airlines are becoming savvy retailers,” says the report. The number of a la carte products and services are increasing and branding and pricing are becoming more sophisticated. Forty-seven airlines disclosed the information for the most recent Amadeus/Ideaworks study.

Offering passengers products and services for sale is, obviously no longer the purview of low cost carriers. The top four airlines participating in the report, United/Continental, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Qantas Airways took in more than US$8.3 billion.

Naturally, services like baggage handling; commissions from hotel and car rental bookings, co-branded credit cards, and loyalty programs produced most of the yearly ancillary revenue. The report, which was released at the end of May, made no specific mention of the amount spent on products within the cabin. Amadeus promises a more comprehensive compilation of ancillary revenue by sometime this summer.

Jay Sorensen, of Ideaworks was one of the people behind this report, and previous ones for Amadeus. He has some ideas for airlines that are looking to increase the amount passenger purchase. Some are bold, such as eliminating complimentary drinks to passengers. As long as the passenger can get a free beverage, the less likely they are to open their wallets for food. Another has been to add a pre-paid option such as the ones in place at several airlines. The latter, he says, still has a ways to go before it is adopted throughout the industry. This, he said would not only raise revenue, but would also allow the airline to better manage galley stock and cut back drastically on waste.

Sorensen also produced some examples of per passenger food and beverage revenue, though figures are still hard to pin down. EasyJet reported a per-passenger spend of €1.98 for food, while Jetstar raised €1.73 and US Airways reported €2.6 per passenger last year.

It’s been 10 years since Michael O’Leary the CEO of Ryannair floated the idea of bundled fees taking the place of airfare. While that is clearly not happening, ancillary revenues have been a bulwark for many airlines against rising fuel prices and have become a permanent part of the operating mix for both low-cost and legacy carriers. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Amenity bag evolution

We're not certain if this is the first time WESSCO International's Anita Gittelson has been called "the godmother of the modern-day amenity kit" but the company's work in matching high-end brands in interesting amenity concepts for airline customers has been a part of the industry for quite a while. 

Anita, along with Robin Padgett of Emirates and several others are featured in this New York Times story on amenity bags. The report details WESSCO's groundbreaking work, teaming Essentiel Elements products with Delta Air Lines. Along with the kits was information on how to purchase some of the Essentiel Elements line of products. The newspaper explores the opportunity of selling first and business class amenity bags in the future. 

“It was a marvelous introduction to the public of a brand that was just starting to move,” and Delta got a commission on the sale, Anita tells the New York Times
Ancillary revenue is, indeed becoming much more important for the airlines. Last year, a Wisconsin company called Ideaworks completed a study with Amadeus which showed that that airlines earned more than US$21.4 billion in ancillary revenue in 2010. More on this in the July/August issue of PAX International

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gulf Air catering and corporate responsibility

Gulf Air, under the direction of former International Travel Catering Association President Samer Majali, is taking steps to reduce its carbon emissions and is modifying some of its catering practices to achieve the goal. 

The carrier cut emissions by 20,000 tons last year. At a presser May 31, Majali laid out a number of objectives and steps in the airline's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy. The airline plans to cut back on weighty catering equipment in its Falcon Gold premium cabin. The second initiative will create some potential business for airline caterers at Gulf Air's destination cities. To cut back on the weight that results in double-catering, the carrier plans single catering on "certain outbound routes."

A full rundown of the airlines CSR program can be found here

Friday, May 27, 2011

Greener bags

A publisher I once worked for used to proudly tote through airports a boxy leather bag that he referred to as a "green bag." I'm not one of those people with a eye for subtle colors, so it very well could have been a shade of green at an earlier point in its life. But then, it just looked battered to me. 

It was obvious to anyone in the aviation industry, a pilots flight bag, sized perfectly for anything a pilot would need. It had pockets for pens, books, and room for thick manuals in ringed binders and instructions that working pilots need. A fully loaded one is said to weigh more than 50 pounds. 

I thought about his green bag when a couple people passed along the recent announcement by Alaska Airlines that it was eliminating pilot manuals. In its place will be a slim iPad with an application called GoodReader. Alaska is the first airline to put the flight manuals on the iPad. 

"When the iPad hit the market, we took one look at it and said this is the perfect fit," said Gary Beck, Alaska Airlines' Vice President of Flight Operations. 
The newest addition to a pilot's flight bag

The iPad will eliminate something like 2.4 million pieces of paper. It will be easier for pilots to carry, and of course save all that that weight that would be boarded on the the aircraft. 

A search on the Internet that took too much time revealed nothing that could link the old pilot's flight  bag to the term "green bag." However, the weight and fuel savings by programs like the one at Alaska Airlines, could now actually earn a pilot's flight bag that reputation. 

-- Rick Lundstrom

Friday, May 20, 2011

Servair helping with nutrition research

Employees from Servair  began their participation last week in a study done by the University of Paris called NutriNet-Santé.

By becoming what the study called “NutriNauts” employees were asked to give researchers information on their health and eating habits. Volunteers can also take part in clinical and biological check-ups “that will help advance public research and aid to better understand the relationship between nutrition and health.”

Recruiting activities took place between May 7 and 15 at Servair units and offices in Paris. Volunteers got the word out through e-mail, intranet news flashes and NutriNaut table napkins at eating spots in the caterer’s Paris facilities.

The NutriNet-Santé study is extensive and claims to be the largest Internet survey in the world focused on understanding the relationship between nutrition, health and exercise. Each year the group sets a goal of getting 500,000 Internet users to to fill them in on their diet, physical activity, weight and height and eating habits. As of May 11, researchers say that they have enrolled 170,000 volunteers.

The study’s French language site can be found here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

On the street

The natural progression of a hot trend or a sign of difficult times and tight money? 

A little of both seems to be the case in a Virginia college's decision to offer a course in operating a street food business

There seems to be no shortage of customers around the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States estimates that 2.5 billion people eat street food each day. The course, at Stratford University  will give students instruction on how to set up a business in a stall, cart or truck. The school offers degrees in Culinary Arts and Hospitality and has with campuses at Tysons Corner,  Richmond,  and Woodbridge, Virginia. It trains students to be bakers and pastry chefs and hotel and restaurant managers

While it seems odd, there's practical reasons for such instruction. Charleen Huebner, the baking and pastry coordinator at the school says a street food business allows entrepreneurs a first step into the culinary business without the cost and risk of opening a bricks-and-mortar restaurant. 

Students also learn how to create menu items that can sell for much less than they would cost in a supermarket or restaurant. The students will also get a crash course on popular ethnic street food from around the world. 

A chef with a few lessons in resourcefulness could be a welcome addition to any kitchen. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The consumers speak

Airlines take note. The recent Consumer Reports findings are out. Passengers like inexpensive, comfortable flights and are becoming rather annoyed with paying fees. They also enjoy a little entertainment,

That appears to be the reason that Southwest Airlines and JetBlue made the top of the satisfaction list. Southwest doesn't charge for checked baggage and JetBlue has a consistently popular live television option. Both the airlines also scored high in seat comfort. Southwest was given high marks for check-in ease and cabin crew service. 

"The pileup of added fees during or after check-in is contributing to many travelers' decisions to fly less, according to the survey. Of the respondents who said they've cut back on flying, 40 percent cited fees as the major reason," said the CNN report on the survey. 

In terms of passenger comfort, there appears to be some relief in sight. At this year's Aircraft Interiors Expo, a number of seat companies showed innovative, lightweight designs, and panelists again discussed the importance of the premium economy product that is taking shape on airlines around the world.  Seating in its various incarnations took two Crystal Cabin Awards. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Riders by the millions, costs in the billions

The major cities of the U.S. heartland, separated by miles of farms and small towns could carry 43 million passengers per year on a high-speed rail system and bring in $2.2 billion in annual user generated revenues, says a report from a group called the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

A recently completed study from the group shows that linking 13 cities with major metropolitan areas – with Chicago as a focal point – could support a four spoke network bringing in Cleveland/Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Minneapolis/St Paul. Trains would operate at 220 miles per hour on dedicated track.

The Association worked with rail equipment producer Siemens, which sponsored the study along with various economic research groups.

"We believe that a high speed rail system will unify the Midwest and solidify its future position as one the world's most powerful economies," said Richard Harnish, executive director, Midwest High Speed Rail Association. "The economic impact of the 220-mph network on the Midwest would be staggering. In the Chicago area alone, it would create thousands of new jobs and business opportunities that will support and enhance the Chicago metropolitan area's global competitiveness."

It’s an attractive prospect: the thought of the Iron Horse again galloping across the heartland. But any such notions need to be tempered with economic realities. Especially in light of the fact that Congress’s appropriation in the Fiscal Year 2010 was cut by $400 million to $2.1 billion the $1 billion appropriation for FY2011 has been eliminated. A system of high-speed trains envisioned by the Association would cost US$83.6 billion.

However, one leg of the four-spoke network, the high-speed rail line from Chicago to St. Louis continues into its second phase. This year, the high-speed rail construction will take place between Elkhart and Dwight in Illinois. 

In his April 15 blog, Harnish said at the annual meeting April 30, the Association will announce “a new initiative to help make the vision of high speed rail a reality.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Austrian Airlines and coffee

A little digging by an intrepid staffer this week reveals that the Air France food truck that toured Manhattan earlier this month wasn't the first airline sponsored venture teamed with the food truck trend that is becoming popular in the United States.

Last summer, Austrian Airlines drove a Cafe-to-Go truck through the streets of Washington D.C. and New York treating visitors to the Viennese coffee culture. This past fall, the airline teamed with Schnitzel & Things handing out free variations on the favorite dishes of Austrians.

Austrian Airlines, in the past has given its passengers award winning service,  including the finest in Viennese coffees, with the help of its longtime association with Austrian caterer Do & Co.

Friday, April 15, 2011

IFSA confirms two speakers

The International Flight Services Association (IFSA) has recently added two more speakers for its Annual Conference and Exhibition September 12-14 in Seattle.

On September 13, the Keynote speaker will be Dr. Victor Gielisse, the associate vice president of business development at the Culinary Institute of America. Chef Gielisse comes with a long list of credentials. He has worked in culinary endeavors in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and South Africa before touching down at the CIA. He has owned an award winning restaurant Actuelle in Dallas and has served as chairman of the American Culinary Federation. He was coach and advisor to the American Culinary Federation Culinary team USA and judged culinary events around the world.

He is the author of Cuisine Actuelle and In Good Taste, A Contemporary Approach to Cooking and Modern Batch Cookery. He has been recognized as one of The 50 New Tastemakers in the United States and was named Best Seafood Chef in America by Restaurant and Business magazine.

In addition to being one of the most important training grounds for restaurant cooks in the country the Culinary Institute of America is a partner with United Airlines. Chef Gielisse worked for several years with United after forming his consulting firm, Culinary Fast Trac and Associates collaborating with the carrier’s former corporate executive chef Eric Kopelow on the carrier’s menu and products.


An airline man will be the Keynote speaker September 14. Simon Talling-Smith, the executive vice president of the Americas for British Airways will bring his extensive commercial and customer service experience to the podium.

When he was based in London, Talling-Smith was in charge of handling the operations of the airline’s 14,000 flight attendants and its catering services. He has also managed British Airways’ brand and products portfolio and was involved in a series of customer service improvement programs and had a hand in developing the company’s website.