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Airline Catering... How Much Does It Really Cost?  
User currently offlineFlybyguy From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 1801 posts, RR: 1
Posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 14688 times:

I was just thinking about this after reading CVG2LGA's thread that even F is experiencing meal cuts. Does it really cost that much per passenger for a tiny tray with a hot meal on it? Especially since airlines have the clout to buy in bulk and negotiate least-cost contracts with aviation caterers.

I think the lack of meals especially annoys me because the airlines have been adding fuel surcharges anyway with little public backlash, however, it seems that no airline has attempted to raise ticket prices in an attempt to bring service items back to flights. Would a $20 surcharge per passenger be enough to provide a decent meal? Would it really be so bad to pay a little more to get a clean plane and a hot meal? Some of the more expensive boxed "meals" cost about $12 out of pocket (probably substantially less to airlines that buy bulk). If $20 is the difference between staying home and flying, then maybe those are the customers airlines shouldn't attempt to retain.

I think an even better idea is the possibility that passengers have the option to see the menu and pay for their meal during their booking. That way we don't have to fumble around for change or wonder when we are going to get our next meal once we arrive at the airport. I mean, some of us might not have enough time between flights during the busy hours to pick up something at an airport restaurants... but the risk of having to deal with a 5+ hour flight with nothing but soda, coffee, and over-salted, fatty salami, cheese and cracker boxed snacks seems a little too much to bear... at least for me.


"Are you a pretender... or a thoroughbred?!" - Professor Matt Miller
45 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineDavidlc3 From United States of America, joined Jun 2007, 341 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 14571 times:

Caterers have really screwed themselves over the years with outrageous charges that make providing food onboard very un-realestic. There is a charge for every movement - just approaching the a/c with a high lift truck will cost around $125 for a narrowbody - and that is before one cube of ice is put onboard.

For meals there are charges for each piece of cutlery, each napkin, each tray to be washed, stored, prepped and loaded. In the end the cost of the food is only a fraction of the total cost of catering...


User currently offlineMEA-707 From Netherlands, joined Nov 1999, 4325 posts, RR: 36
Reply 2, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 14530 times:



Quoting Davidlc3 (Reply 1):
Caterers have really screwed themselves over the years with outrageous charges that make providing food onboard very un-realestic

You really wonder sometimes if things would be much more efficient and cheaper on a small scale. Let the flight attendants pick up some sandwiches and drinks at a Subway near the airport, that sort of thinking.



nobody has ever died from hard work, but why take the risk?
User currently offlineDavidlc3 From United States of America, joined Jun 2007, 341 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 14496 times:



Quoting MEA-707 (Reply 2):
Let the flight attendants pick up some sandwiches and drinks at a Subway near the airport, that sort of thinking.

Valujet used to issue a liquor kit to the F/As and they had to carry it with them wherever they went!


User currently offlineASFlyer From United States of America, joined May 2005, 1170 posts, RR: 3
Reply 4, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 14493 times:



Quoting MEA-707 (Reply 2):
You really wonder sometimes if things would be much more efficient and cheaper on a small scale. Let the flight attendants pick up some sandwiches and drinks at a Subway near the airport, that sort of thinking

or here's an idea - how about the passengers picking up their own sandwiches at Subway on the way to the airport? Flying is no longer a luxury experience, and prices reflect that. airplanes are for transporation, not fine dining. The days of wine and roses are gone.


User currently offlineLH4116 From Sweden, joined Aug 2007, 1712 posts, RR: 14
Reply 5, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 14431 times:



Quoting Davidlc3 (Reply 1):
For meals there are charges for each piece of cutlery, each napkin, each tray to be washed, stored, prepped and loaded. In the end the cost of the food is only a fraction of the total cost of catering...

EI and JK for example offer you to buy a meal tray for 8€, if no one bought the tray of food they still have to be washed, stored, etc...
Personally i hate to pick up my wallet when flying, so paying an extra 20$ seems like a nice deal for both the pax and airline.

Quoting ASFlyer (Reply 4):
Flying is no longer a luxury experience, and prices reflect that. airplanes are for transpiration, not fine dining. The days of wine and roses are gone.

I agree with you on that flying no longer is a luxury, but that doesn't mean that it should have to starve. Even tough many people complain about the airline food, they still expect to get some food on their tray table.
I remember back in the 90s when you got a warm meal on KLM even on a 1h 40m flight, they even had pre-landing snacks consisting of a snickers ice cream.



SAS Plus is Business Class made faux!
User currently offlineN202PA From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1562 posts, RR: 3
Reply 6, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 14420 times:



Quoting MEA-707 (Reply 2):
You really wonder sometimes if things would be much more efficient and cheaper on a small scale. Let the flight attendants pick up some sandwiches and drinks at a Subway near the airport, that sort of thinking.

And when people on board get sick because the food was bad or was not properly climate controlled, who gets sued? It isn't going to be Subway - it'll be the airline.


User currently offlineLVHGEL From Puerto Rico, joined Apr 2007, 213 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 14321 times:

I wonder, I'd flown a lot since the 60's, in all classes and I always welcomed the food, more for the time-killer capacity than for the quality, it must be remembered that the food (or drink) we consume on a cruising airliner taste different than that same food (or drink) on land, (Cheffs tend to increase the condiment on airliner's food to compensate), altitude, pressurisation and humidity alters the way we taste food .
This being said I heard Mr. Quique Cruz in his radio program in W-UNO 630, and who was for a long time AA General Manager in Puerto Rico, that he always hoped AA stopped serving food and not because costs, but because the constant complaints by the passengers about the quality of the food.
The only thing I take issue is that now there is not control on the type of food brought aboard by the passengers, Haggis anyone? or may be Cod Fish or Octopuss salad?.

Disclaimer: I like Haggis (traditional recipe or deep fried) and Cod Fish Salad, but in a well ventilated environment.


User currently offlineASFlyer From United States of America, joined May 2005, 1170 posts, RR: 3
Reply 8, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 14224 times:



Quoting LH4116 (Reply 5):
I agree with you on that flying no longer is a luxury, but that doesn't mean that it should have to starve. Even tough many people complain about the airline food, they still expect to get some food on their tray table.
I remember back in the 90s when you got a warm meal on KLM even on a 1h 40m flight, they even had pre-landing snacks consisting of a snickers ice cream.

I don't think people should starve either. I think the airlines should sell food on board, that way those that want food can pay for it and those that don't want food don't have to pay for it. I think this is more fair then adding cost for all passengers when all passengers don't necessarily want that service. Air travel has turned in to an ala carte experience. The price of your ticket covers a seat from point a to point b. All extras are for sale and you can purchase what you want. It's different then the days of free food on all flights but not necessarily a bad thing.


User currently offlineDavescj From United States of America, joined Jun 2007, 2306 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 14226 times:



Quoting LH4116 (Reply 5):
Personally i hate to pick up my wallet when flying, so paying an extra 20$ seems like a nice deal for both the pax and airline.

I agree.

As to Subway, I was on a CO Express flight, yes the dreaded RJ, and the food was Subway sandwich -- right down to the Subway paper, so they were paying for advertising as CO was offering "Subway" products, no?

Again, I can only say -- go on CO. Food is still offered. It isn't going to make you go WOW in Y, but it is decent, free, and you get the whole can of Coke.

Dave



Can I have a mojito on this flight?
User currently offlineLH4116 From Sweden, joined Aug 2007, 1712 posts, RR: 14
Reply 10, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 14111 times:



Quoting ASFlyer (Reply 8):
I think the airlines should sell food on board, that way those that want food can pay for it and those that don't want food don't have to pay for it

Well it does make sense, but what about those who aren't carrying money but still want food?
And what about people who are in need of a special meal? Are there any Kosher or non-lactose meals on the BOB menu? Getting a meal for free is the same as buying a meal, the choice is the same.

Paying for food on a LCC makes sense but paying for food on a FFC is completely unacceptable in Europe IMO.
I like the in-flight service concept on airlines in the US, for me a drink and a bag of nuts is just enough.
On the other hand, thank God that we have airlines like AF & OS that still provide proper meals to their pax.



SAS Plus is Business Class made faux!
User currently offlineRFields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 11, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 14072 times:



Quoting MEA-707 (Reply 2):
You really wonder sometimes if things would be much more efficient and cheaper on a small scale. Let the flight attendants pick up some sandwiches and drinks at a Subway near the airport, that sort of thinking.

Reminds me of the day last summer my SWA aircraft got into St Louis a little early, and the person off the plane behind me was the captain - with a list of crew orders to pick up at the pizza place, and their money.

I said something about cuts on food hurting even the crew, and he said "I've been with Southwest for 22 years - we always have to buy our food - at least this route has a fairly decent option."


User currently offlineJettaKnight From United States of America, joined Feb 2007, 195 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 14032 times:

Quoting N202PA (Reply 6):
And when people on board get sick because the food was bad or was not properly climate controlled, who gets sued? It isn't going to be Subway - it'll be the airline.

This is America - of course Subway will get sued, along with the airline, the supplier of the mayo that went bad, and the manufacturer of the car the FA used to transport the food.  

One thing that our corporate legal department has drummed into us is that people don't necessarily sue the most logical party - they look for the one with the deepest pockets.

[Edited 2008-05-14 13:49:17]

User currently offlineDavidlc3 From United States of America, joined Jun 2007, 341 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 15 hours ago) and read 13819 times:

Even the BoB is a good option if done correctly like DL is currently doing and AA is, yet again, failing at....

What I have yet to see is an airline that will allow me to order a meal when I book my ticket and pay for the whole lot at once...

When we first launched BoB the #1 reason pax gave for NOT buying a meal on board was not knowing of availability - the overwhelming majority would have purchased if they could have pre-reserved it...


User currently offlineRFields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 14, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 15 hours ago) and read 13819 times:

Well, deepest pockets leaves Subway, the airline and the automobile industry out... So Heinz gets stuck with the tab !!

User currently online2175301 From United States of America, joined May 2007, 1062 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 13727 times:

Fly Midwest and buy their offered food.... You will not be disappointed.

Oh, and they give you hot chocolate chip cookies too (as part of the ticket).

Too bad my food allergies prevent me from indulging. But, its the best looking and best smelling airline food I've seen in a long time.

So, at least one airline is doing real food.

The best care in the air. It shows, and I fly them whenever I have a reasonable choice (even if they cost an extra few $$).


User currently offlineDocLightning From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 19608 posts, RR: 58
Reply 16, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 13708 times:



Quoting LH4116 (Reply 5):
I agree with you on that flying no longer is a luxury, but that doesn't mean that it should have to starve. Even tough many people complain about the airline food, they still expect to get some food on their tray table.

Hold on a sec. In coach, I agree, I don't expect much. However, flying F or J class is a luxury. And if I'm paying absurd fares on a transcon flight for first-class service, you'd better give me a meal and it had better be good because I'm paying through the nose for it!


User currently offline474218 From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 6340 posts, RR: 9
Reply 17, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 13677 times:

The article below provides the following cost of airline catering:

1992 = $6.22 per passenger

2000 = $4.91 per passenger

2008 = $2.22 per passenger

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06328/740513-37.stm


User currently offlineLufthansa From Christmas Island, joined May 1999, 3213 posts, RR: 10
Reply 18, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 13619 times:



Quoting DocLightning (Reply 16):

Hold on a sec. In coach, I agree, I don't expect much. However, flying F or J class is a luxury. And if I'm paying absurd fares on a transcon flight for first-class service, you'd better give me a meal and it had better be good because I'm paying through the nose for it!

Yes. If you go to any annual report, and see the total catering charge, and divide it by the total number of passengers you'll get some idea.

Now its a little deceiving when you do this for American carriers because most of that money is being spent on international flights, but even so, it does give you some idea of just how little is spent on the actual food.

I looked at this concept years ago. There are ways around this. For example. One or two kitchens at hubs from varies airlines can cook all the food... snap freeze the hot meals, which then can be shipped as needed. If half trays where used instead of full trays, even aircraft with small galley's can be double catered. What this means is that most of the expense outside the hub can be avoided...and at the hub, the airline can cut costs by taking over some of these activities themselves. Most college, hotel, and convention centers easy have the equipment.
If you cook things like chicken curries, or pastas, these things are very cheap. They can be snap frozen, and the cost is only a few dollars per pax if you include drinks, bread rolls and maybe even a chocolate. Al foil containers just need heating on board. Lunch is even easier because you can do away with the trays entirely.

What they then need to do is set up their own security and airside transport of the food. I'm not sure what the regulations are in the USA for doing this, but it can be done in other countries. The point would be to avoid the high cost of the catering companies charging $100 for a bag of ice and this kind of crap. There's plenty of companies both small and large that you could subcontract the dinners out to.... its just getting them to the aircraft that is the problem.

For long haul it's not an option, for for short haul hub and spoke type flights, its easily doable.

Looking at the figures quoted above though, even with the high charges, if they just spent $10 per passenger can you imagine just how amazing the product would be! Restaurant standard, easy!


User currently offlineYXD172 From Canada, joined Feb 2008, 449 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 13581 times:



Quoting Davidlc3 (Reply 13):

What I have yet to see is an airline that will allow me to order a meal when I book my ticket and pay for the whole lot at once...

Air Canada does this. As an option during booking economy you can buy a sandwich and snack voucher to use onboard. I believe this is printed onto your boarding pass. It's good for one sandwich (subway-like, usually quite good) and one snack (chips, chocolate, etc.) The even have a link to the menu when purchasing.

I doubt it will be long before this is introduced in the US, if it isn't already.

Jon



Radial engines don't leak oil, they are just marking their territory!
User currently offlineAznMadSci From United States of America, joined Dec 2007, 3662 posts, RR: 5
Reply 20, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 12 hours ago) and read 13508 times:



Quoting Davescj (Reply 9):
As to Subway, I was on a CO Express flight, yes the dreaded RJ, and the food was Subway sandwich -- right down to the Subway paper, so they were paying for advertising as CO was offering "Subway" products, no?

Are you talking about the tiny football-shaped turkey sandwiches? If so, those aren't from Subway, but from CO's Chelsea catering with a sticker promoting Jenny-O turkey, which by the way are rather tasty!  yummy 

Quoting JettaKnight (Reply 12):
This is America - of course Subway will get sued, along with the airline, the supplier of the mayo that went bad, and the manufacturer of the car the FA used to transport the food.

You also forgot the companies that made his/her shampoo and toothpaste as well!  duck 

Quoting Davidlc3 (Reply 13):
What I have yet to see is an airline that will allow me to order a meal when I book my ticket and pay for the whole lot at once...

Kinda like book-and-pay the chef. That does sound interesting. I do wonder how they would cater to someone who booked and paid, but did not want it and demanded money back.  scratchchin 



The journey of life is not based on the accomplishments, but the experience.
User currently offlinePlanenutzTB From United States of America, joined Sep 2005, 256 posts, RR: 1
Reply 21, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 12 hours ago) and read 13455 times:



Quoting Lufthansa (Reply 18):
The article below provides the following cost of airline catering:

1992 = $6.22 per passenger

2000 = $4.91 per passenger

2008 = $2.22 per passenger

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06328/740513-37.stm

I'm in the food service industry and have been a FF the last 15 years. This information seems pretty accurate based on my experience. Realize food cost and labor have increased 2008 vs. 1992. If you adjust the 2008 per passenger $2.22 for inflation to compare accurately with 1992, the airlines are really only spending about $1.40 per passenger vs. the $6.62 in 1992. Basically the $1.40 is a soft drink and a bag of peanuts.



I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.
User currently offlineFlyboyseven From Canada, joined Feb 2007, 904 posts, RR: 1
Reply 22, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 13376 times:

I was recently on a 35 minute flight that got service 3, yes three times. Granted, there were no hot meals, but it was impressive to say the least. The first was juice boxes, there were 3 or 4 choices, then came things like rice crispy squares and cookies and stuff, then there was a basket of my favorite hard candies. I was very impressed, considering the length of the flight, and that the other airline on the route doesnt even have a flight attendant. I had flown YVR-MEX about a month earlier and only got service twice. We got a meal and a full can of pop. I think that I would rather pay a bit extra and get treated well than have to buy everything extra.

Graham



As long as the number of take-offs equals the number of landings...you're doing fine.
User currently offlineSAN787 From United States of America, joined Jun 2007, 616 posts, RR: 1
Reply 23, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 13358 times:



Quoting Flybyguy (Thread starter):

So true! Once VX grows, I'd like to see them adopt this model. Charge more up front and receive great food/service without digging in your pocket on the flight.

In the meantime, thank Jared for $5 footlongs.  goodvibes 



those who don't get carried away should be.
User currently offlineChinook747 From Canada, joined Mar 2007, 126 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 13346 times:



Quoting Flybyguy (Thread starter):
I think an even better idea is the possibility that passengers have the option to see the menu and pay for their meal during their booking

Air Canada actually already offers this option to pre-pay for food at time of booking and they provide a discount for pre-paying for food. You can go on their website and see the selection that will be offered on a route. When you print your boarding pass it indicates that you have pre-purchased your food...really simple actually and I take advantage of it all the time. I am paying for what I will actually use.


25 Lufthansa : How about dividing economy class into 2 cabins. One can be 'full service' for those who pay say an extra $10 on top of their ticket, and the other can
26 PagoFlyer : We're like everybody else, we will Never buy a meal...we'll maybe take a meal with us...
27 Ptharris : Sheese... and God forbid that when I pay $$$ for that tight seat, they let me keep that can of Coke. (excluding CO) My wife and I were talking tonigh
28 Mashimaro1 : I actually did work experience at Gate Gourmet in Sydney last year and asked the very same question as we were driving out to "dispatch an aircraft" (
29 Lightsaber : And what's your point? I have no problem with the for profit catering model. Exactly. The insurance and cleaning costs are more than the food costs b
30 Joemugg : I agree with the standard example to that of regular non-flight food catering. The bulk of the expense goes to everything else but the food. Also, I a
31 JoeCanuck : Even on a flight of less than 40 minutes from DOH - AUD, you get drinks and a nice sandwich. Full service takes 25 minutes. Every flight I've taken in
32 Davidlc3 : My point is that Valujet did not board a liquor kit - they issued it to the F/A in the crew room and s/he had to carry it with them - physically carr
33 IRelayer : Wow. Tell us how you really feel. -IR
34 REALDEAL : the biggest cost of catering is the time it takes to get it onboard, especially now more than ever time is money !!!!!
35 Pe@rson : Don't forget that selling in-flight refreshments is potentially a major source of ancillary revenue - and ancillary revenue is very often fundamental
36 LH4116 : Well, i assume that SAS have already did that. The only bad thing about Economy Extra is that it costs just as much as a business class ticket. It si
37 GoMEA : True. People outside the US should not forget that smaller airports in Europe don't have fantastic restaurants/outlets in the airports and so having
38 AAJFKSJUBKLYN : Anyone wonder why the catering companies that "suffered" when airlines dropped food service, didn't make a big stink...They basically provide ALL THE
39 MD-90 : Delta had Skydeli and American had it as well.
40 FlyingClrs727 : Maybe that's why CO has an advantage by owning its own catering company.
41 Yellowtail : They have to charge for the movement..all goes into insurance if they damage the aircraft....and lets not forget airport rent for the caterer is very
42 AAJFKSJUBKLYN : Unlike American who unloaded theirs (Sky Chefs), CO has and continues making it profit center by aquiring other outlets to sell their products. Good
43 CRJ900 : Will it be more expensive or cheaper to stock up the galleys for several flights, so that they can have everything delivered at one base? For instance
44 Davescj : The second time I had the turkey sandwich, was as you describe (the Jenny O turkey sticker). And it was as good as Subway. But the first time I had t
45 FlyingClrs727 : Not only would they be giving up revenue seats, but they would be lifting the weight of the food off the ground to cruising altitude several times be
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