Air Dolomiti is an Italian regional airline that operates under the Lufthansa Group. The airline focuses on regional connectivity and personalised service. Last year, it flew 2.5 million passengers from its bases in Frankfurt (FRA) and Munich Airport (MUC).
Recently, I had the privilege of being hosted by Air Dolomiti on a business class flight from Frankfurt to Verona. Before my flight, the airline invited me to discover how they create inflight meals for business class passengers.
These passengers play a crucial role in driving an airline’s profitability. While they occupy a smaller percentage of the overall seating capacity, they contribute significantly to an airline’s financial success.
What’s an airline menu presentation?
A menu presentation forms part of the contractual agreement between the airline and its inflight catering partner. All meals are created based on set criteria, such as the weight of protein, vegetables, and even the amount of garnish used. Meals need to be precise and must match the photos and descriptions created by the inflight caterer. This is because the airline can audit the inflight caterer at any given time to ensure that they are receiving what they are paying for and what has been agreed upon.
By maintaining this level of quality control, the airline can provide passengers with a consistent and satisfying dining experience throughout their journey.
The inflight caterer showcases the upcoming meal options for an airline, and the airline staff taste test and select the meals that will be served onboard. Together, the airline and inflight caterer agree on the ingredients used, how the meal should look, and make any changes as required.
The menu creation process for Air Dolomiti’s business class menu begins approximately one month before its launch. This allows the caterer ample time to plan, source ingredients, and experiment with new recipes. The aim is to ensure that the inflight caterer’s food and beverage offerings meet the airline’s standards for quality, taste, and presentation.
The challenges of creating airline food
Creating airline meals presents several challenges. First, there is the issue of limited space and equipment onboard the aircraft, which can restrict the types of ingredients and cooking methods that can be used. Meals must be prepared in advance and then reheated onboard (not the case with Air Dolomiti), which can affect the taste and texture of the food.
Second, airlines must consider the preferences and dietary restrictions of a diverse range of passengers. They need to offer options that cater to different cultural, religious, and dietary requirements while still maintaining a consistent level of quality and taste.
Third, there are logistical challenges in sourcing and delivering fresh ingredients to multiple destinations around the world. Airlines must ensure that the food is safe to consume and meets all health and safety regulations.
Selecting The Meals
During the menu selection process, airline staff sample a variety of dishes and provide feedback on their suitability for passengers. Factors such as the appropriateness of the dish for the time of day, its compatibility with the passenger profile of the routes, and its potential enjoyment by customers are carefully considered.
Through an elimination process, the final selection of dishes is made. This process is akin to watching a reality TV show, but with food! The chosen meals are then shared with the airline’s cabin crew department to ensure they are fully equipped to answer any passenger inquiries regarding the menu.
Air Dolomiti offers winter and summer menus for its business class passengers. Each menu includes different types of meals that are loaded based on the time of day: breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner. The airline introduces four different dishes for each meal type every week, ensuring that frequent flyers won’t get bored with repetitive options.
Business class passengers on Air Dolomiti enjoy complimentary inflight meals and Italian touches such as coffee by Illy. The airline has installed espresso coffee machines, which have received positive feedback from passengers. Additionally, in business class, only Italian red and white wines, as well as prosecco and spumante are served. These wine selections change every three months, with an average of 2,500 bottles of each being served every three months.
Economy class passengers can purchase various items from the onboard SpazioItaliaBar menu. Passengers can expect a taste of Italy, emphasising the quality of the ingredients and a taste of Italy. The airline collaborates with chefs who belong to the JRE association (Jeunes Restaurateurs), with whom the airline has collaborated since the launch of the SpazioItaliaBar.
The airline reaches out to each chef well in advance of the menu going live, requesting proposals for several sandwiches and salads. These proposals are then shortlisted to form the final selection that will be loaded onboard.
Air Dolomiti also prioritises recycling efforts onboard. The crew makes sure that waste collection is separated, with plastic, glass, and cans segregated from general waste. The general waste is incinerated at the airport, while the recyclable items are brought to catering facilities and handled by their catering partners.
The menu presentation not only reflects the airline’s commitment to excellence but also showcases the partnership between the airline and its inflight catering partner. It is a testament to their shared dedication to delivering exceptional inflight meals that meet the highest standards.
A big thanks to Air Dolomiti and their catering partner GIC International Catering at Frankfurt airport for this opportunity!