In-Flight Catering Tips: BizAv Operations to the United States
This is a post by author Jennifer Walton. Jennifer is the Vice President of Client Services 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.; Los Angeles, California; Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; New York, New York; Paris, France; San Francisco, California; San Jose, California; Seattle, Washington; Tampa, Florida; Van Nuys, California; Washington, D.C.; West Palm Beach, Florida; and White Plains, New York. Also, Air Culinaire Worldwide provides in-flight catering services at hundreds of airports around the world via hundreds of catering partners. Jennifer is an expert in all areas of in-flight catering for business aviation and can be contacted at email@example.com.
When operating business aircraft to the U.S., there are key considerations that should be planned for from the in-flight catering perspective. Understanding all regulatory nuances and best practice procedures helps avoid potential issues on arrival in the U.S. and/or when operating within the U.S.
The following is an overview of what you need to know about in-flight catering in the U.S.:
1. International trash considerations
When arriving in the U.S. international trash must be disposed of in accordance with government regulations. Any onboard catering or open food items will be removed from the aircraft and disposed of accordingly. These requirements are strictly enforced across the U.S. and particularly when operating to the Hawaiian Islands. Not all local catering kitchens are certified to deal with international trash. In most cases you’ll need to make special arrangements for international trash disposal, in advance, with your caterer or ground handler/Fixed-Base Operator (FBO).
2. Meal portions sizes are often different
Protein portions for catering in the U.S. are often larger than European-style or Asian-style portions. While a five to six ounce protein portion (145-170 grams) is typical for many countries, U.S. protein portion size is typically eight (225 grams) or more ounces. If you want meal portions to be more European- or Asian-sized, be sure to let your in-flight caterer know in advance.
3. Set expectations with the caterer
While anything is possible in the world of aviation catering, it’s important to communicate clearly, and in detail, exactly what you need. If you want to discuss a menu, how catering should be packaged or presented, or you want to request a meet on arrival in order to discuss the menu in person with your caterer, let your caterer know in advance.
4. Delivery of in-flight catering
Do you want your caterer to deliver your order directly to your aircraft or are you fine with collecting it from the FBO? If you request catering delivered airside by your caterer be aware of applicable Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening procedures and limitations. Be aware that there may be additional charges in having your caterer bring catering orders through security and directly out to your aircraft, due to security and logistical considerations.
5. FBO catering assistance
At most airports in the U.S., the FBOs have refrigeration facilitates onsite, and caterers will deliver directly to the FBO. Most catering will not automatically be put on board by FBO staff. Crew should always request their catering from the FBO, who will make sure that it is placed onboard per the crew instructions.
6. Large aircraft considerations
If you’re operating a wide-body or large aircraft you may want to use a high-loader to handle catering deliveries. In many cases, general aviation (GA) caterers may not have a lift truck, so you should always make advance arrangements for this service by checking with your preferred caterer or ground handler.
7. Containers and packaging
As each GA aircraft galley is different, it’s critical to let your caterer know how you want your catering order packaged and in what size/type of containers, including what is needed for reheating onboard. Standard tins (foils) and trays are sized differently in the U.S. than abroad, so if you have space limitations in the galley, it is important to provide precise guidelines to your caterer.
8. Private vs. commercial caterers
There are very noticeable differences in what you’re able to obtain from a private versus commercial caterer in the U.S. Although outside of the U.S. there is much more crossover with commercial caterers handling private flights, in the U.S. the difference is much more distinct. For smaller private aircraft, you should always start with dedicated private aviation caterers to achieve the highest quality, presentation, and service.
9. Alcohol considerations
Regulations regarding caterers providing alcohol as part of the catering order request can vary from state to state, and even county to county. Be aware that U.S. regulations on alcohol are typically stricter than many other countries. If you know you will need alcohol (including beer and wine) for an upcoming flight leg, be mindful that availability may be restricted – to limited hours or days of the week for purchase and delivery – at many U.S. locations.
10. Other services
International newspapers and publications may be very difficult to get in certain markets, even larger U.S. cities. To deal with such limitations, many in-flight catering companies offer international papers via an on-site printing service. Your caterer will need advance notification and may charge a fee for this service.
11. Order catering well in advance
Particularly if you have a large catering order or a very specific catering request, it’s best to specify your catering requirements well in advance. We recommend giving your caterer at least 48 hours advance notice, particularly if time is needed to procure specialty items. Even if you do not have your full catering requirements yet, or are not sure exactly when you’ll be leaving, it’s a good idea to place at least part of your catering order up front and let your caterer know that additions or changes will be coming soon.
An international operation may go perfectly and without a hitch, but if there’s an issue with a catering order, the trip could be viewed by your passengers as a disappointment. The key is to plan ahead and work closely with your catering providers. Clear and timely communication will avert almost all potential catering issues and help make your trip a success.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance with your next catering request, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.