A Peek Inside an Airline Catering Facility Will Change Your Mind About Airplane Food
Qatar Airways Catering Company reportedly prepares 200,000 meals comprised of all fresh ingredients each week
Airplane food gets an undeserved bad rap. Yeah, I said it.
Not because I think airplane food is good. In fact, I’ve historically been pretty outspoken about my distaste for plane cuisine, though I’m still able to recognize that there are other variables at play — the most pertinent of which is that, per a study conducted in 2010, due to low air pressure and a handful of other variables, the average person’s sensitivity to sweet and salty food is actually reduced by 30% while in flight. It’s why airplane food often tastes bland or in other cases — because some caterers will add up to 30% more sugar or salt to a meal to compensate — it can actually be too salty, or too sweet.
Rather, it’s just how much work those caterers have to do to get that food in front of you that deserves a second look. And travel writer Ramsey Qubein, who recently visited Qatar Airways Catering Company, has documented exactly that.
Considered to be the world’s largest airline catering facilities, Qatar Airways Catering Company works around the clock to prepare somewhere in the vicinity of 200,000 meals per week. Even more impressive is that they use all fresh ingredients, and almost all of the meals are made from scratch.
“The Qatar Airways’ catering facility uses as much fresh produce as possible. What the kitchen receives in the morning will be sliced, diced, baked, and served by the same evening,” Qubein wrote. “Each day, the facility uses more than 165,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables, going through 22,000 pounds of potatoes alone. The airline is the largest buyer of butter, eggplants, potatoes, and onions in all of Qatar. Each vegetable must be washed, sanitized, peeled, chopped, and sliced by hand.”
And that’s not exclusively for business class, either. An estimated 50,000 salads are prepared for economy passengers alone every day.
Another finding from Qubein? You’ve likely, at some point, been left wanting after being presented with a lack of options, the likes of which usually include chicken, beef or pasta. But according to Qubein, there are an estimated 4,000 special meals made per day, and they’re distributed according to years of data sets. So if you’re only getting chicken, beef or pasta, it’s likely because the passengers who have traveled that particular route before you have gravitated towards those three options in particular.
It’s all part of a process that Qubein claims that the company has down to a science. Portions are perfectly measured, packaged and sealed (at a rate of 37 hot meals per minute, nonetheless) and then delivered to the planes. Of course, this is specific to Qatar Airways — one of the most consistently well-reviewed airlines on earth — so results may vary if you fly elsewhere. Still, while it may not do much to enhance the taste, the added context may keep you from scoffing quite as loudly the next time you peel back the cellophane on a hot meal in economy.
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