6 Common Questions about Ordering In-Flight Catering
This aviation blog post is part of a series on in-flight catering for business aviation and continues from our last post: 6 Considerations for Planning In-Flight Catering Orders Pre-Trip.
The in-flight catering process differs from one location to another. Placing and revising catering orders will normally involve more lead time than at home. Also, costs can be higher than they are at your home base. Be specific about portion size, as this also may differ from what you are accustomed to. Physical airport infrastructure – including a lack of Fixed-Base Operators (FBOs) – often necessitates that catering be delivered directly to the aircraft. For the most successful catering results, it’s best to schedule additional lead time.
1. Should in-flight catering requests be made through your operations department or by the crew directly?
As a general rule, it’s best to have one contact person for all catering needs. Whoever orders the catering should have a good understanding of what it takes to get food on the aircraft and how it will be stored and served. He or she should take into consideration galley and galley equipment limitations. Communication is key: If the operations department is placing the orders, it is critical that the flight crew be kept informed of all changes, and vice versa.
2. Should credit or cash be used for in-flight catering requests?
When flying to new locations, we recommend you call your local in-flight caterers or 3rd-party provider ahead of time. That way, you can determine advance notification requirements, revision and cancellation policies and make payment arrangements. The more specifics known in advance, the better. Also, at some remote locations, caterers may only accept cash or payment directly from an approved source (like a handler or 3rd-party provider). For this reason, it’s best to have catering arranged via credit (through a 3rd-party provider), as it will eliminate the time needed to make payment upon delivery.
3. Should catering be brought from a previous stop?
In some cases, it may be advantageous to bring catering with you from the previous stop. If packaged and stored correctly, this food will usually clear customs. Always check which food items are permitted and which are prohibited before taking them to your next destination. Regulations on accepted food items – particularly produce – vary from country to country.
4. Are there issues to consider in terms of storing catering worldwide?
In North America, catering can be stored at the airport, in FBOs or in other similar buildings. This is often not the case in other parts of the world, where catering is normally delivered directly to the aircraft, and there are often no storage or refrigeration locations. These realities make additional coordination and advance planning necessary.
5. How will holidays and strikes impact in-flight catering orders?
At many locations, holidays are taken very seriously, and everything – including restaurants, caterers and grocery stores – closes. Also, in many countries there are local holidays that may shut down one area but not another. For example, India has many national and local holidays. Independence Day is celebrated throughout India, but the Thiruvalluvar Day is only celebrated in some areas. Depending on the culture, religious holidays and customs can definitely affect availability. If you’re operating to a location during a holiday, plan ahead with pre-packaged options that may be stored onboard the aircraft.
Strikes can affect all aspects of your trip. When advance notice is given, there is time to prepare so as to avoid issues on the day of operations. However, sometimes no notice is given for strikes that are to take place. In such cases, your operation – including your catering delivery – will be affected. For this reason, we recommend always being prepared by having a reserve of snacks or an alternate plan in the event of unexpected strikes.
6. How does in-flight catering pricing differ worldwide?
In-flight catering prices can vary from place to place, with some being much more expensive than others. Of course, standard portions differ at each location, but that might not be reflected in the price. Operators are accustomed to prices at their home base, so they might be surprised when ordering in another country. Catering delivery fees may also significantly impact cost. For example, in many places around the world, catering will normally be delivered directly to your aircraft, and fees can be high. The only exception to this is the U.S., where the fee for delivering catering to an FBO is often minimal.
Successfully navigating the world of international catering is something of an art and a science. There’s often a delicate balance in being both specific and flexible in orchestrating catering worldwide. If you’re going to be specific – for example, about passenger allergies or specific tastes – be sure to communicate effectively. However, if you allow your local caterer to make recommendations – for example, if you ask nothing more specific than “10 hot meals” – you must be flexible. Your catering experience will be more rewarding and successful with appropriate pre-trip planning, flexibility in choosing local cuisine, local ingredients and suggestions from the best chefs available around the world.
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