Saturday, May 10, 2014

What happens to the airline food you don’t consume

Have you ever wondered what happens to unused/unconsumed food on airlines as sometimes nearly-full food trays go back into the food carts? Would airlines distribute it to the poor?

“Unfortunately we can’t do that,'' says Jane Zdrojewski, Operations Manager, Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC), near the Dubai airport.

Because if the food has spoiled or become contaminated, it would be too much of a risk to take. “But what we will use are unopened biscuits which have not been in contact with the passengers and kept in storage. These we give to the the staff in the canteen.”

As we move through the sprawling facility with four huge kitchens, where about 135,000 meals are prepared daily, there are naturally questions on the breakage of the equipment pieces made of glass or porcelain. In flights in the Japanese sector, for example, lots of porcelain tea pots would be used.

Zdrojewski explains that a lot of old porcelain that once served Emirates passengers in Business and First Class is now at the bottom of the Jebal Ali sea.

In a single expression of horror all of us ask if that would not be promoting pollution. “Oh no,” says the startled woman, adding, “it’s an environmental initiative from our side. We are helping grow oysters. This sea was all sand and as marine research from New Zealand said porcelain on seabed helps oysters to propagate, we’ve taken this initiative.”

She also gives us some interesting info on the manner in which wine is procured by major airlines. Naturally all leading wine companies would like to give an exposure of their product to customers, particular in the premier classes. So airlines get many labels from different wine makers at “for much less than you’d pay in supermarkets overseas, but its only a certain percentage of their wine stock”, she adds.

With this “rationing” it becomes imperative for airlines to keep changing their wine list, as what is available on board has to match the list.

Executive Chef at EKFC Ravi Nage, in charge of the menus for the Indian sub-continent region, explains that costing of passenger meals is carefully worked out… as well as the actual weight… the meals on Emirates flights cost from 50 – 200 AED depending on the class of travel. As space is limited, particularly in Economy, there is constant effort to see how the size of the tray, which has to carry a meal with 280 gm, can be reduced. But then passengers tend to be testy when it comes to food, not only on taste but also the quantity.

Zdrojewski points out how recently when the size of the tray in Economy in long-haul flights was reduced, some passengers thought they were being shortchanged and getting less. “But what they are getting is exactly the same. What we have taken away is the empty space. You get your appetisers, cheese, and everything else just as earlier.”

India is an important sector for the carrier, which has five daily flights out of Mumbai, four from Delhi, three each from Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore and two from Kochi. It also operates services from Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.

“India is a very important sector for us. Just from one Indian city – Mumbai – last year we flew 170,000 economy passengers in just one direction,” adds Nage.

The writer was on Dubai on an invitation from Emirates