Beverage Services In-flight – Elevate the Passenger Experience

PT 3 M minute read
Beverage Services In-flight – Elevate the Passenger Experience

This is a post by author Roger Leemann. Roger is the senior vice president of Culinary Operations for Air Culinaire Worldwide, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, with kitchens in Aspen, Colorado; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada; London, U.K.; Long Beach, California; New York, New York; Paris, France; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Van Nuys, California; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Washington, D.C. Also, Air Culinaire Worldwide provides in-flight catering services at hundreds of airports around the world via hundreds of catering partners. Roger is an expert on catering menu development and training for business aviation operators and can be contacted at

This is part one of a two-article series on in-flight beverage services.

While in-flight catering pre-planning usually focuses on food selection, it’s important to note that beverage options are also very important considerations in terms of enhancing the overall in-flight experience. Current trends in beverage mixology are all about making beverage options and services just as special as the passenger food experience.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Beverage services enhance the passenger experience

Typical in-flight service aboard a general aviation aircraft begins with a snack and beverage presentation. Depending on the time of day, various beverage options – ranging from juices, coffees, and teas to assorted varieties of alcohol – may be considered. Within these categories are wide ranges of possibilities. There are for example numerous options and variations in tea and coffee services. The goal, in any beverage service, is to enhance the passenger flight experience.

2. Your in-flight caterer can help

In-flight caterers can be an invaluable resource in terms of beverage and food pairings – especially in the realm of wine selection. Spirits are generally similar worldwide and not as crucial to the food service as they’re served separately from main courses. Wines, on the other hand, tend to be more local in nature and are consumed in many cases with entrees. The right wine and beverage selections will significantly elevate the entire passenger flight experience. Don’t let the beverage service be an afterthought.

3. Be creative with beverage garnishes

There are a myriad of garnish options available for in-flight beverages. These range from citrus slices to salt and various herbs. Instead of using regular salt, consider a smoked or black salt (a pure salt from the Hawaiian Islands mixed with charcoal to help digestion). If you’re serving Nouvelle cuisine, be sure that beverages and beverage garnishes match entree presentations. Nouvelle cuisine is characterized by lighter, more delicate dishes, with a greater emphasis on presentation. You’ll also want to consider health and religious restrictions and whether or not your passengers consume alcohol. Non-alcoholic beverage options might include a minted melon juice, watermelon with black pepper, or a smoothie with Greek yogurt.

4. Consider glass types/styles for beverage services

Various types of glasses and cups are typically used with different beverages. While the glasses themselves should be unique, they should also in most cases be clear. This allows the passenger to see the beverage prior to consuming it – adding to the overall impact. A beautifully colored kiwi juice, for example, should always be served in a clear glass to allow the color to stand out. Ice cubes, as opposed to crushed ice, are generally a preferred choice as they allow the passenger to better view and appreciate the beverage.

5. Elevate coffee and tea services

For coffee and tea services, consider the glasses/cups being used, as well as a range of different sweetener options. Instead of buying flavored coffees, consider adding fresh ingredients to unflavored coffees. If a passenger likes vanilla creamer, add a split vanilla bean to the creamer to change the passenger’s experience. If a passenger likes hazelnuts, be sure to have some toasted ones on hand to add to the coffee. You can also create a lighter coffee – that acts more like a tea – and add ginger to it.

6. Pay attention to the details

With a little creativity, an onboard beverage may be customized to passenger tastes. If a passenger likes raspberries, add a couple to their water, along with lemons. If passengers like caramel, add a little chewable caramel to their coffee. You can give someone a simple cinnamon stick with their coffee if they like cinnamon. All of these options enhance the overall beverage experience for the passengers.


Elevating the level and variety of beverage services aboard a flight takes a little creativity and advance planning but offers large payoffs in terms of the overall passenger flying experience.


If you have any questions about this article or beverage options, contact me at

Later, we’ll discuss aviation beverage suggestions while in flight.

Got a question for Roger about this article?