Essential Onboard Catering Supplies for Flight Attendants – Part 2: Checklists and Emergency Backup Plans

PT 3 M minute read
Essential Onboard Catering Supplies for Flight Attendants – Part 2: Checklists and Emergency Backup Plans

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 article continues from our article last week, titled "Essential Onboard Catering Supplies for Flight Attendants – Part 1: Basic Requirements."

For business aircraft operators, catering is an essential element of any flight mission and one that’s "highly visible" from the passenger perspective. While catering issues and malfunctions are inevitable from time to time, these challenges can usually be addressed and rectified creatively, assuming you have backup plans in place. Best practice is to go over your catering supply checklists on a routine basis.

The following is an overview of what you need to know about catering checklists and backup plans:

1. Have emergency catering backup plans

Best practice is to be prepared for any changes or mishaps. If a catering order is not delivered, or a sauce separates or is otherwise "damaged," it’s important to be able to recover and maintain passenger expectations. If your catering order is short, you may need to "stretch" available catering. If a sauce separates or "breaks," you’ll need to be able to at least try to rescue it. "Aseptically packaged" broths are a great thing to have onboard. They can be used to help rescue or stretch a sauce or even add flavor when used in place of water for heating pasta. Should a catering order not be delivered at an international location, flight attendants should have a plan and the ability to create an emergency meal from scratch with onboard shelf-stable supplies.

2. Consider a catering supply checklist

While "one size fits all" checklists of essential flight attendant catering supplies are not generally available, operators can create their own or seek the assistance of their in-flight caterer. When using a checklist, be sure to keep a list of what you have onboard and replenish items as needed. It is recommended to prepare a fresh ingredient kit for each trip. These kits depend on passenger preferences, meal times, and destination. They may include milk, juice, lemons/limes, fruit, and perhaps certain types of chocolate preferred by passengers. These kits will be used on the flight, so you’ll need to remember to replenish the ingredients as needed.

3. Be mindful of cooling challenges

Keeping your catering cool (36-39°F/ 2-4°C) is important for both food safety and flavor retention. Every aircraft galley is slightly different in space, function, and design for the storage and preparation of food. If you do not have built-in refrigeration, your options include wet or dry ice and gel packs. Gel packs have an advantage over wet ice in that they do not leak melted water and can be reusable. Dry ice is commonly used for items that are to remain frozen. When you use dry ice, it is important to "temper" the food before portioning/heating/consuming to improve heating performance and flavor.

4. Essential catering tips

Always try to request catering as far in advance as possible (this is the "Golden Rule") – particularly if you require specialty items or cuisines. Be flexible when ordering catering at foreign locations as you may not be able to work through an in-flight catering provider. In these cases, best practice is to look at restaurant menus ahead of time to identify popular items, which may be more readily available, fresher, more local, more flavorful, and cheaper at local prices. If you’re traveling during a holiday period, be aware that shops may not be open when you need them. For this reason it’s always best to check local calendars. A great resource is the Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc. Business Aviation Planning Calendar.


The success of any "catering mission" is preparation. Planning ahead, having the right tools, and having a backup plan all add to the success of the trip. Not only does preparation decrease the stress catering can add to any operation, but also it allows you to manage the unexpected as the destinations change from day to day.


If you have any questions about this article or requesting catering for your next trip, contact me at

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