In-flight Catering for the 2012 London Olympic Games

PT 4 M minute read

This business aviation blog post is part of a series on planning for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

With sufficient notice, UK-based in-flight caterers can source just about any food request needed for your business aviation flight. A wide range of options are available within this multi-cultural region. In preparation for the upcoming Olympics period, local in-flight caterers are boosting capacity and deploying assorted ‘forward operating bases’ to handle anticipated spikes in demand.

1. Demand for in-flight catering will soar during 2012 Olympic Games period

In-fight catering demand, particularly throughout southern England, will increase over the period of the Olympic and Paralympics Games. The busiest time will likely be following closing ceremonies, when aircraft will be trying to exit the country en masse over a 24-36 hour period.

2. In-flight caterers are preparing to accommodate surge in requests

Many in-flight caterers will operate 24/7 over this period with additional stocks of cabin supplies and catering ingredients on reserve. Temporary catering staging outlets are being put in place close to London area aircraft repositioning airports to improve delivery times, enhance short notice capabilities and provide higher levels of service.

3. Special menus will be available

Some in-flight caterers are creating special menu items to provide operators additional options and shorter notice catering capabilities. Many of these menus will be available online. UK in-flight caterers have the ability to fulfill just about any operator catering request given sufficient notice. But it’s important to be as specific as possible in terms of catering requests and to provide detail on packaging (bulk or individually packaged items), type of onboard reheating device (oven or microwave) and notification of special food requirements or allergy considerations.

4. Operators can help improve the overall catering experience

The earlier a catering request is submitted, the better. Ideally, orders should be submitted at least 24 hours in advance, but caterers will do what they can to accommodate last-minute requests. Some specialty items may be difficult to source, so it’s best to have some degree of flexibility in substitutions. Avoid last-minute changes if possible to avoid additional charges. Catering is normally delivered to the aircraft one to two hours prior to departure. If there’s a departure delay, drivers will normally wait for the crew as it’s not common practice to leave catering at FBOs. Catering in the UK is typically delivered to aircraft rather than ground handler or fixed base operator’s (FBO’s) holding areas. Most in-flight caterers operate refrigerated vehicles, with ramp access authorization, to deliver planeside.

5. Understand limitations of catering directly from hotels

While some flight attendants and crews like to source food directly from hotels, there are cautions to keep in mind. Only accredited suppliers (major in-flight caterers) are authorized to deliver catering planeside, so your hotel-sourced catering will need to go through security screening. This may be problematic if there are any liquids over 100 ml in volume. You’ll also have to consider how to keep food safely chilled and be sure that packaging is correct for aircraft-galley specifications.

6. Consider minimum time frames when requesting and revising catering requests

Some in-flight caterers will be able to provide complete catering orders within 1-3 hours’ notice, but this will depend on where the caterer is and where the aircraft is located. When revising a catering order, it’s best to provide at least 2-3 hours’ notice. Orders are often assembled about six hours prior to delivery, with more delicate items, such as bread and desserts, prepared three hours or so prior. If a catering order is cancelled, you may incur cancellation fees. Check with your in-flight caterer or 3rd-party provider for clarification.

7. Be aware of all delivery possibilities

Consider having catering delivered prior to repositioning to pick up passengers when parked at alternate airports. For example, having catering delivered to a location such as Northampton (EGBK), where you may have parked the aircraft, will save time and money on the ground when picking up passengers at Luton (EGGW) or Stansted (EGSS). Be aware that during the Games period, demand for dry and wet ice will be greater as a result of increased catering activity and warm summer temperatures. Dry ice is popular for longer term refrigeration needs, but is not kept on hand by all in-flight caterers.

8. Be specific but also flexible in catering requests

For very specific items, or ingredients such as California wines or black caviar, submit requests as early as possible, as they may be difficult to source. Consider alternative ingredients and menus to take advantage of the freshest and most available local ingredients. It’s often best practice to keep catering orders simple while focusing on highest quality ingredients. For a 1.5 hour flight, consider something simple, such as a Caesar salad with grilled chicken, beef, or shrimp, as opposed to more complicated dishes like soufflé or cherries flambé. Local specialties, including assorted curry dishes, can be very popular choices in the London area.


Plan early to simplify the catering phase of your operation from the Olympics. For best results, work with your 3rd-party provider or in-flight caterer early. Be specific on what you require, but flexible enough with last minute requests or specific items that may be difficult to source to avoid unnecessary catering complications.


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