In Conversation

“Taking you there with care”

Andrew Robinson, head of onboard services at Eurostar, explains how passenger and crew safety are at the forefront of Eurostar’s post-COVID onboard service

Casting my mind back, everything happened rather suddenly. We initially started noticing customers not travelling as much from the beginning of March, and from there it was a very steep downward spiral.

We took the decision for the safety of crew and our passengers to take the catering off the train slightly before we reduced the service entirely. Removing our onboard service enabled us to regroup, review and look at the situation. Over the next few months we looked at how we could reintegrate the service that our customers had come to love and expect, in a safe and secure manner.

Even now we continuously look and review our operations and look at the science to enable us to offer something that is absolutely safe and secure and underpins our safety strategy which we call “taking you there with care”.

Crew safety

All crew now go through a comprehensive briefing and retraining process to ensure that they’re fully aware of the risks, how to protect themselves, and are aware of the symptoms. We encourage frequent sanitising of hands and social distancing onboard as much as practical. We also make sure that when they are operating in a restricted area of the galley, they are still maintaining their distance and are wearing face masks (or visors) and gloves.

What underpins this is the additional cleaning that we’ve launched – every train is now deep cleaned before it enters service. We’ve identified high touchpoint areas like door handles and bar counters, and also now have additional cleaners that travel onboard, cleaning throughout the journey. It may not be on every single train, but it is on the majority of our peak services when we anticipate a higher volume of customers.

Minimising touchpoints

We’ve reviewed how we can deliver the Business Premier and Standard Premier service that we’re known for. All food is now served in its packaging for the customer to remove themselves, so they can have confidence that no one else has manipulated their food since it left the kitchen. We’ve redesigned the labels to make it clear to the passenger what they’re receiving.

With Café Metropole we have some pre-departure emails and also announcements advising customers of the five-person limit. It’s no longer a place to dwell and eat, it’s for take-out only. We encourage contactless payment, but that’s not something we can mandate by law.

The menus will soon be on a digital platform accessible through a QR code, which will remove the need for physical menus onboard – a move which will also help us hit some sustainability goals long-term. However, we carried out some research regarding our magazine offering and found that our passengers prefer these to be physical rather than digital. Instead of removing these, we are encouraging passengers to either take them home or leave them out for us to recycle after use.

In all the research that we’ve been doing over the past few months, one thing that comes out is that customers trust us. It’s important that we continue to maintain that trust – everything we do is done to make sure that when our customers return, they feel safe and secure.

eurostar.com

Meaningful change

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is not only one of the world’s oldest airlines; it is also one of the most forward-thinking. Today, despite the global uncertainty created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and widespread cost-cutting initiatives across the industry, innovation remains as important as ever to the carrier.

Within the Transformation Office sits the Radical Innovation Team, which is responsible for orchestrating the KLM innovation ecosystem, co-creating innovation strategy, and accelerating innovation projects that focus on the most strategically important topics for the business.

“You don’t do innovation at the head office, on the eighth floor, behind your laptop; you do it where the operation is and with the people who are working there,” KLM’s Arlette van der Veer, Project Manager Radical Innovation, explains to FTE. “We have a lot of innovative colleagues throughout the company – they are scattered throughout all the different divisions and departments.”

Innovation ecosystem methodology

Much of the innovation that is happening within the airline is driven by three methods – agile lean, design thinking and scrum – but the innovation ecosystem itself helps to ensure that innovation is not carried out in siloes, under the radar of other teams or departments. “Innovation ecosystem methodology is really the glue to make a coherent visualisation of all the innovation present, of all the technologies and skills available, and then you can orchestrate it and a lot of good things happen from it. If you’re good at knowledge sharing the chances of making the right product and the right innovation becomes much larger… An innovation ecosystem shows you where the technology is, where the innovation hubs are, and it shows where you can work together.”

One example of how the development of an organisation-wide innovation ecosystem is delivering valuable results can be found in the field of additive manufacturing. Van der Veer explains: “Within engineering and maintenance, additive manufacturing started within Engine Services. However, it also started in Component Services, but these people didn’t cooperate with each other and they weren’t aware of the fact that they were working with the same technology. So, an innovation ecosystem shows the synergies possible between colleagues, between departments, on topics and innovation projects.”

When the Radical Innovation Team realised that there was no additive manufacturing vision in place across Engineering & Maintenance, action was quickly taken. They hosted additive manufacturing vision workshops per department, which created a lot of data and a long wish list. This information was then consolidated and the team organised a workshop for the key management in Engineering & Maintenance. As the management already knew the wishes of each of the departments, within just three hours they agreed upon an additive manufacturing vision for the whole of KLM Engineering & Maintenance. In addition, they identified that they needed to prioritise one thing above all else; building 3D design capability within the business.

Since then, a series of projects have been successfully completed, perhaps most notably the implementation of a circular additive manufacturing process which uses recycled plastic bottles from KLM flights to ultimately create and print tools for aircraft maintenance. This is just one example but similar success stories exist across various departments.

Combining strategy and innovation

The Radical Innovation Team is able to help deliver truly meaningful innovation thanks in part to the structure that it sits within. The Strategy Office is also within the Transformation Office. “The nice thing is they are my direct colleagues,” says van der Veer. “On paper we are two separate teams, but we work a lot together, because you see that some strategy questions or choices you make are fuelled by technological breakthroughs or innovations that you want to implement… We make sure that our innovations are aligned with the strategy team.”

Not all airlines – nor airports, for that matter – see the holistic value of innovation in the way that KLM does. In fact, some have reduced their innovation budgets as part of recent cost-cutting measures. In van der Veer’s opinion, there is far more to innovation than spending money on seemingly futuristic projects.

“I think there is only one solution and that’s really focusing on knowledge sharing,” she tells FTE. “People think that to be able to invest in innovation you need money. Of course, you need money if you need technology developments, but when times get tough that’s not the only option you have… knowledge is also very, very valuable.”

Alongside the design thinking innovation programme with the University of Technology of Delft, KLM is partnering with the Technical University of Twente to address a shortage of data scientists within the organisation. “We are going to kick-off a programme in October with key cargo colleagues looking to co-create a minimum viable product on a data algorithm we’re looking at for cargo customers,” van der Veer explains. “We have all the industry knowledge, the only thing we lack is the actual data scientists who will build the algorithm and that’s why we’re cooperating with universities. They have students who are lacking in international experience who cannot currently do any internships, who cannot graduate at companies, and so this is what we’re doing right now.”

Overcoming legacy systems and mindsets

Of course, the global backdrop does look bleaker than anyone expected at the start of the year, but van der Veer hopes the industry can take some valuable lessons from the COVID-19 crisis. Increased diversity – covering everything from the gender balance and new ways of thinking, to ethnicity and the number of universities closely aligned with the sector – is on her own wish list, as is a desire to see the industry embrace much-needed change.

“I think that with all crises, it really lays bare the weak points of a company or an industry,” she says. “The weak points in our industry are the legacy systems and legacy mindsets that are hampering innovation. The industry has a very clear purpose – we are here to take people and cargo safely from A to B. Everything else is secondary. If it’s not safe then we can just stop.

“However, most of these rules and mindsets were created 50 years ago. Then we didn’t have the technological advancements that we have now, we didn’t have the computer programmes or quantum computing that we have now, we didn’t have forecasting models or 3D programmes that allow us to test ideas virtually first, but we’re still dealing with the mindset that was created 50 years ago. I hope that because of the crisis, we are going to change our mindset. However, what is never going to change is that it continuously has to be completely safe – that is always the number one thing. In 2020, we can test and we can experiment with new technologies while being safe and that is the big difference. I hope that we, as an industry, become more agile in testing and experimenting in the transformation that this industry really wants.”

While the overall state of the air transport sector in one, two or five years’ time cannot be accurately predicted today, one thing that is certain is that KLM will continue to place its faith in innovation as it continues to search for new ways to optimise efficiency and deliver improvements across the business.


This article was originally published by Future Travel Experience

Time to rethink

International sustainability consultancy Sancroft, works with some of the world’s leading companies to improve their environment, ethical and social impact. It has developed a report examining the ‘skyrocketing’ plastics compliance costs – up 800% per tonne, in the last three years alone – and identified key drivers to eco change. Here, Sancroft’s senior consultant Dom de Ville highlights how this new operating environment calls for organisations to rethink their business model….

We have all sat on aircraft and seen our rubbish being collected by the cabin crew as they pass down the aisles with bags – but it is what happens to it next which concerns me. Airlines have mixed practice on recycling. Sometimes there will be separate bags for food waste and recyclables, but usually just one bag for everything. The fast turnaround on flights and variable facilities at airports means that packaging is not recycled as much as it could and should be.

Whilst Covid-19 may mean that the industry’s focus is elsewhere right now, the issue of managing the waste stream is one of the biggest challenges for airlines. It is not the biggest, but eventually it will return, and environmentally-savvy passengers will demand it.

For those companies that supply food and drink to international airlines, this is a huge opportunity to create a unique selling point around zero waste (supported by 100% recyclable packaging) and is actually a way cutting costs too.

Any airline, or organisation in their supply chain, that is not aware of new and forthcoming requirements for the removal of unnecessary material and an insistence on the necessity of recycling needs to know these are really important, and that they need to act now.

Looking at the UK, the Plastics Tax coming into force in 2022 will see businesses whose products have less than 30% recyclable material being charged £200 per tonne.

The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) will force producers and users of packaging to pay the full net cost of collecting, reprocessing and recycling packaging to local authorities.

Also on the rise are Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) charges, the fees that companies must pay towards the collection and disposal of plastic packaging waste they put on the market.

The EU’s announcement that it is to introduce a €800 a tonne levy on plastic waste from January 2021 as part of the bloc’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund agreement is another sure-fire sign of what is to come elsewhere.

The ambition for the airline industry as a whole must be to move towards zero-waste, dealing with its own waste effectively and holding its supply chain to account on good practice, avoiding huge associated costs as a result.

Put simply, the financial burden is too high for airlines to continue the way they have been.

The new operating environment calls for industry, globally, to rethink its model from one that sees plastic packaging as a basic cost of doing business, much like paying your monthly gas bill, to one that understands the fundamental changes that need to be made to the business for it to thrive sustainability and profitably.

As we begin to define our modified business models, we cannot afford to forget the key issues that define us.

Envisioning the ‘next normal’

Werner Kimmeringer, is managing partner and head of culinary practice at Yates +. Here he shares his thinking on the ‘next normal’ for inflight catering…

The world is still struggling with the harsh realities of the pandemic. Entire countries and cities have been locked down, the aviation sector has been brought to a standstill and social distancing has become mandatory. The issue facing airlines is how to minimize close face-to-face contact which lies at the heart of social distancing. Achieving this in the economy cabin is challenging.

On the positive side, we are blessed with good air filtration – 12 to 15 cabin air changes per hour and air filtered through a HEPA filtration system. But on the negative side, the risk of transmission via objects, such as dishes, doorknobs, pillows and blankets or surfaces, such as armrests and air nozzles, remains problematic.

This is known as fomite transmission and many eminent epidemiologists are warning about the potential risks in the airline setting. One suggesting travellers: “Bring your own snacks rather than risk fomite transmission from the crew; do anything that reduces interaction between you and the crew and you and the guest next to you in economy is a plus; wipe the air nozzle with a sanitizing towelette before adjusting.” IATA has recommended no F&B service on high risk routes, minimal service on medium risk routes and normal service on low risk routes. ICAO, on the other hand, has recommended that airlines not provide any F&B service.

So what should airlines do? Nearly all airlines are planning to offer some limited F&B. Like the variance between the IATA and ICAO advice, there are major differences between the planned offerings of various airlines. Some intend to provide almost nothing on short sectors and a cold box on long – in all classes. Other airlines are planning to offer a bag or amenity pack with snacks and juice on short sectors and a substantial single-dish hot meal on economy long.

At Yates+ our F&B practice has looked at this challenge from every angle. We have focused on three factors: Reducing interaction between crew and customers; Minimising face-to-face contact as far as possible; Making masks compulsory for all guests to help reduce the risk of neighbour-to-neighbour transfer.

We conclude that on short sectors, for F&B Economy, sustainable amenity packs offered to guests as they step onboard make sense. They can contain a tetra pack water, tetra pack juice, snacks, sanitising wipes and a spare mask. Likewise for medium and long sector Economy, sustainable amenity packs along with, at the appropriate time, a hot meal service with a choice of two dishes. Guests could choose their dish via app, through which crew can see the guest’s name and choice on a screen on their cart. This will enable an element of sociability as the PPE, mask and visor protected crew can use the guest’s name and repeat the dish selection when passing the small tray to the window seat even. The tray should be an underplate size to minimise potential fomite transfer and present a smaller surface for the guest to have to sanitise. No other items need be on the tray except the sealed cutlery pack in sterile wrap. The hot meal can be substantial, up to 300gm. It should also be sealed and display a food safety and hygiene procedures certification. A beverage should be offered with the main dish – water, fruit juice, beer or wine. Again, economy customers choose and request this via their app.

It is still incumbent on all airlines to up the ante on environmentally-friendly practices. The Cpet main dishes and other single-use plastic bowls can all be replaced by zero plastic Limestone dishes. These are of similar appearance and the same weight but at a lower cost than plastic. It is time to change for the good of the planet.

There are 20,000 inflight items delivered to a widebody long-haul aircraft for every flight. Items such as food, beverage, soft furnishings, and catering equipment.We need to satisfy our guests and cabin crew that each item has gone through rigorous processes to guarantee it is COVID-19 free. It is our responsibility, and opportunity, now to make changes to outdated practices.

Let’s re-design the onboard inflight service to be more practical, maintain the same high-quality F&B standards but presented in a simpler easier format. And let’s offload a lot of that redundant equipment.

infinitelives.com;
yatesandpartners.com

A time to change

Greater attention to sustainability issues could bring a positive legacy of change from the COVID-19 pandemic, says Marc Warde

COVID-19 has changed all our lives. We cannot escape it at the moment, masks and sanitisers are everywhere. We shop differently, we socialise differently, when we say: “How are you?” these days it is not a flippant courtesy, we really mean it. In these times we have seen the best and worst of people but I believe overall good has triumphed.

It has been a painful, emotional time and for many of us, including myself, this whole thing has woken consciousness. I now genuinely want to make meaningful sustainability choices in my life, within my business, profession and lifestyle. I think if more of us could do that, then collectively it would make a real difference.

Over the lockdown period I have been studying for my MSC in Food Science and Innovation. Latter modules have been about sustainability and the real statistics I am having to retain in my head, unquestionably show that something has to give and changes must be made. Burying our heads in the sand and ignoring these sustainability issues alienates young from old and that is not a good legacy to leave our children and future generations.

A few weeks ago, I did an interview with Julie Baxter, editor of Onboard Hospitality in her: “One Big Question” series. I have really enjoyed watching these videos and extremely glad be part of it, even if mine was recorded pre-barbers re-opening in the UK and I looked like a hairy yeti! There is a positive energy in these interviews which I appreciate greatly. By looking for the positives, we all feel more positive, and now I hope we can act positively and collectively, as airlines begin to fly again.

I believe key will be a system where we select our meals before we fly, ie when we book our ticket. From a sustainability point of view it makes sense. Pre-order is possible. The software to meet the logistic challenges already exists, with it comes data and accuracy of loading, as well as the assurance that passengers will get what they want. Pre-ordering is something I am used to, as I order a special meal that way. From a sustainability point of view it has to be better in the long run.

Yes caterers may resist getting paid for loading less food, but surely they too appreciate the benefits. Less load, means less weight, which means less fuel. It would be a huge and important start to going green. In time the one-upmanship that exists around each airline will surely be measured in sustainability, not solely on who has the biggest menu.

Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and never has that statement be truer and more needed than now.

In praise of small and medium enterprises….

Linus A.E. Knobel is managing director at Bangkok Air Catering. Here he explains how he is evolving his business and urges support for SMEs as key drivers in the rebuilding of the travel sector…

We have faced unprecedented challenges over the past few months and our top priorities have been the health and safety – not only of our employees, but also of our whole community.

The impact on our working lives has been powerful, and it continues. Directly or indirectly, almost all of our business depends on tourism or the travel industry. So we could easily have wallowed in gloom. Instead, to quote the well-worn adage, we are seeking opportunity in the crisis.

We’re not exactly tearing up the rule book. Our commitment to delivering the ultimate in quality and service will never change. But we have torn several pages out of the book and written new rules.

Over 20% of the Thai economy depends on tourism, and the figure is much higher for our businesses – over 90% in the case of Bangkok Air Catering.

We have state-of-the-art kitchens, among the very best in the region, with superbly trained people who are experienced in serving an international clientele. We are expert in Arabic, Asian and European cuisines. We have long maintained HACCP/GMP standards, being certified as fully Halal & Kosher compliant.

So we are making the most of these attributes with a new venture in value-added products for export. We’ll continue to attract business from overseas – but according to a new model. Our initial focus will be Middle Eastern countries, China, and eventually Hong Kong, starting with the halal-accredited production of Thai meals and snacks for export. This is just the opening salvo in plans that are well advanced, so please expect further announcements soon.

Meanwhile, our food production concern, Gourmet Primo, and our Gourmet House group of restaurants have refocused their operations toward food delivery and take-out. We’ve enjoyed the challenge of providing fine cuisine at affordable prices to people who are self-isolating or working from home. We’ve also expanded our online platforms massively.

And it’s been a golden – if unexpected! – opportunity to accelerate our professional development program. We have radically reviewed our SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), too. This has also involved our fourth unit, Gourmet House Culinary Care, which serves leading hospitals. I remind my colleagues on a daily basis that we’re staying fit and getting ready for a great start as soon as COVID-19 recedes.

Bangkok is beginning to recover its familiar personality. The malls are coming alive again, and the streets are losing their recent resemblance to a ghost town. It’s tempting to imagine that the former reality of a vibrant, prosperous city will soon be fully restored. Sadly, such a positive outcome isn’t guaranteed. Businesses supported by large corporations remain viable, for the most part, but the story is different for SMEs. Some of the smallest concerns have already gone under, and even medium-sized enterprises are threatened. Yet they provide vital energy to the economy – and the character – of Bangkok, not to mention the country at large.

I feel strongly that all of us, individuals and companies, need to come together at this time in support of independent businesses. The contribution of SMEs to recovery is vital and it cannot be over-estimated.

Gina Emrich, American Airlines, talks equality and accessibility…

Gina Emrich, senior manager, customer experience and accessibility for American Airlines, spends her time focusing on the customer experience strategy for passengers who travel with any type of disability. Speaking to Reed Exhibitions for a series of articles celebrating women in aviation, here she reveals what she loves most about the industry.

I’ve been working in aviation since 1987 when I joined American Airlines. My dad is a pilot and I got my private pilot’s license when I was in college. American Airlines was recruiting on my campus and a friend signed me up to interview because he knew I loved aviation.

I love the opportunity aviation gives us to bring people together – connecting them and doing things to make their experience better. Every day is different, everything that happens in the world affects the aviation industry.

As a woman in this industry it can be difficult to find fellow women leaders who have multiple children and juggle both their family and their career so the challenge has been finding that community and building more support in the workplace for balancing those priorities. On and off through the years, I’ve seen peers and leaders who don’t always respect women. However, most typically improve their attitude if you are confident and capable.

The most important thing is to have a balanced set of leaders who bring diverse viewpoints to decision making and company direction. If there are not enough women in senior leadership positions who are managing families, decisions can be one dimensional – focusing only on the operation or financial success and not enough on the wellbeing of employees or the experience of our customers.

The benefit of having women in leadership positions is that we bring a very different perspective than men so more balanced decisions can be made. I feel like I’ve been able to have an impact on the company by building tools for our employees and products for our customers that they need and want. I also focus time and energy on my team so that they are developed and fulfilled at work, which improves their quality of life. You need flexibility and humility.

My favourite part of my career is the positive impact I’ve had on the people on my team. Developing skills, mentoring, and supporting people in their career, which in turn supports them in their personal life, is very rewarding. My advice is always: Whatever you do, do it well.

During my time in the industry, technology has made both the employee and the customer experience so much better – electronic ticketing and boarding passes, online booking, and mobile apps are some examples. But I would still like to see a greater focus on the customer, particularly on those who travel with a disability. Improve the experience for them and you’ll improve it for everyone.

Helping the ‘hangry’ free-from traveller

Free-from chef and coeliac, Marc Warde, has been shocked to see how airlines have turned their backs on free-from travellers with dietary needs during the pandemic and calls on buyers to urgently focus on special meal options post-COVID-19

Airlines are beginning to fly again and although I am sure it will be a slow start, that will certainly be welcomed for so many keen to reunite with loved ones and tired of Zoom or skype.

It is welcome news for caterers too even if many airlines are initially only offering more simple food and beverage solutions across all cabins in a bid to reduce crew interactions. Meals and snacks are being presented in just one box and there is minimal choice, which may well be a good interim solution in many cases, but for those of us needing a special meal it seems to mean ‘forget it, you need BYO (bring your own!)’

To me this is an abuse of the passenger. Of course, we completely understand that many airlines and caterers have staff on furlough or have made people redundant, so perhaps special meals have taken rather a back seat in the grand scheme of things.

However, airports don’t cater well for those with allergies and jumping on a long flight with just a bag of free-from Twiglets in your hand is not on and is only going to make this group of passengers hungry and angry – hangry. A hangry free-from person is not one you want to bump into, let alone share a long flight..and I speak from personal experience.

And it is not good enough in terms of customer service either. Solutions are available. At Libero Special Meals (www.liberospecialmeals.com) we have a range of solutions, as of course do others. Snacks or a sandwich or a complete picnic box of free-from dreams, a simple hot meal to a gourmet platter – all special meal types are caterered for including diabetic meals which are also all sugar-free and ketogenic, so suit those following a Keto diet too.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, special meals don’t have to be dull and boring. Our vegan burger with dirty fries is simple and ‘on trend’ and meets multiple special meal codes: It is a gluten-free bun with kimchi Korean slaw, beet, sweet potato and chickpea burger, relish and vegan cheese. Couple that with the roasted root fries with toppings like guacamole, salsa and vegan cheese and you can a whole group of special diet passengers can get really down and dirty, for a guaranteed smile.

Wrapped treats and breads are readily available too through partners such as Skinny Genie and Dr Schar, so please lets not forget these passengers. COVID-19 has put health and wellbeing at the heart of all our lives, in the new normal, it must be at the heart of what we offer the passenger as they begin to come back onboard. There may be challenges for catering but these special meals passengers, still need to eat.

liberospecialmeals.com | barefoodtravels.com

How tech can tackle post-COVID-19 challenges

Gabriela Micu-Motroc, of Retail inMotion, discusses how technology can make the difference as airlines restart inflight service…

Our main target right now is to support the safe return to flying for both crew and passengers whilst also ensuring customers can experience the necessities and luxuries of the inflight experience. To achieve this we have developed and deployed a number of key technologies, which inherently support the minimisation of crew engagement with passengers at all stages of the journey.

Pre-Select/Pre-Order solutions, for example, enable passengers to select their preferred meal (Pre-Select) and purchase food/beverage and duty-free items (Pre-Order) in advance of their flight. The solution can be seamlessly embedded within the airline’s flight booking and check-in processes, as well as being delivered through a standalone e-commerce platform that’s fully branded to the airline requirements. Passengers pay by credit card or our proprietary payment gateway (vPay), which then passes the transactions directly to the chosen payment acquirer of the airline.

Once confirmed, the order is sent electronically to the logistics operation of the airline. Our bar packing module (vPack), ensures every order is packed, labelled and loaded correctly for the flight, ensuring an optimal passenger experience as well as reducing interaction time between crew and passengers inflight. The crew can use their mobile device to view the pre-orders on an interactive seatmap, together with any specific passenger information.

An extension to this are Order2Seat services using onboard wifi and integration with the IFE provider. Passenger can browse, select and pay for products and services directly from their own device with minimal cabin crew interaction whether it is from the food and beverage menu onboard or products from a third party. The airline has full control and visibility of the retail experience onboard and when the passenger places an order, an automatic notification is delivered to the crew mobile device for delivery only.

During the pandemic, contactless payments have become the cornerstone of a safe and convenient retail experience and inflight, as payment technologies have advanced, we have evolved our VPay solution to accept all payment types. All the hardware and software needed is fully contactless enabled, so this too helps passengers feel confident while helping airlines to control and manage transaction limits, fraud management and refund processes, as needed, in a contactless way too.

As transactions are completed onboard, the details can be automatically saved to the passenger’s records and are immediately accessible after the flight. This also supports the move to a paperless cabin with its environmental benefits, and makes the sales process more efficient so more passengers can be served, quicker.

The top priority now as we look to aviation recovery, must be to support fast implementation of tech solutions, and our efforts are focused on exactly that to support the safe return to flying for both crew and passengers, while safeguarding and enhancing the passenger experience onboard.

A woman’s way

Melissa Raudebaugh is general manager onboard services, fleet and galley planning at Delta Air Lines, leading the team responsible for defining and developing new products in the cabin. Speaking to Reed Exhibitions for a series of articles celebrating women in aviation Raudebaugh says she is keen to see more women in the sector and heads up Delta’s women’s organisation – SHE.

I’ve been at Delta Air Lines for 22 years. I majored in mechanical engineering and then started at Delta as an engineer in propulsion engineering – writing repairs for Pratt & Whitney JT8Dengines. Now, I love the customer aspect. People love to travel and getting to their chosen destinations is such a big part of that. I love trying to find new ways to separate Delta from other airlines by enhancing our customer experience.

I work with more women now than ever now but there were very few women in engineering in college – very few women in propulsion engineering. Everyone was extremely nice, but I did have to deal with people assuming that I didn’t know how many engines were on a particular aircraft! You have to have a good attitude, realise no harm was meant and continue to show you’re just as smart as the male engineers.

I think most companies have realised the value that a diverse workforce brings. Especially in the industry we’re in – the travel industry includes people of every gender, race and culture. I am President of Delta’s women’s organisation – SHE. This offers a great opportunity to positively impact women at Delta and I am always looking for how we can close the gender gap, and make further strides toward pay parity, for example.

To survive in the aviation industry women need perseverance and passion. I think the biggest obstacle is a work/life balance. It sounds clichéd but is so true. My husband is very supportive of my career but there are things that just tend to fall to me with raising kids, and it’s primarily because I want to be there.

My career highlight to date was probably introducing successful products that are impactful to the customers and employees. Most recently we launched the new international main cabin service at Delta and being part of the team that made that happen was special.

The aviation industry has really come a long way in the past decade. We’ve figured out how to avoid the big downturns and run the airlines to avoid them. I think sustainability is next. Regulations and costs drive some of the hurdles we need to overcome, with a focus on issues such as single-use plastics and fuel.

The most significant development I have seen during my career is the introduction of flatbed seats… they’re just the most comfortable! And I would put inflight entertainment up there at the top too as it has really helped enhance the customer experience. Long-haul flights are so much more enjoyable with your favourite movie!

If I could change one thing in the industry it would be the costs. Aircraft are so expensive, as is the cost of modifying them. The industry could be much nimbler if we were able to modify aircraft more quickly and inexpensively.

The new normal for eating habits

David Griffiths, head of insight at Fethr and vp content at Black Swan, studies online conversations and offers some valuable insights on the future of inflight food and beverage based on a 900m+ passenger-conversation dataset…

For many of us, the return to normality is likely feeling glacially slow, if not for the torture of the endless quarantine adverts or the ever-present uncertainty this pandemic is sowing, then just for the crushing monotony of being at home for 9 weeks. Our data suggests passengers are feeling the same. There’s a fervent desire to get back in the air, we even saw a 51% growth in those who identify as immune compromised sharing this inclination. Food & beverage is a battleground that shares many of the same drivers as safety and sanitation, and will likely be one of the parts of the air travel experience that changes the most as we take to the skies again.

Food safety concerns have been an important conversation amongst passengers for several years, with some airlines doing exceptionally, others not so well, and many barely registering from forgettable services and experiences. Not today. As with all things, this horrible pandemic has shone a spotlight on this area. In the past few weeks we’ve seen a 210% growth in volume around general concerns, and a 203% growth in people discussing the safety measures that should be put in place. I’ll cut a long story short, overwhelmingly passengers see a need for change, illustrated by a number of datapoints, not least the 229% growth in conversations where people reference previous transgressions or bad experiences they’ve had with their airlines or airports.

Many of these concerns are driven by the idea of the trolley service and the fact that the cabin crew could inadvertently pass the virus through the plane as they give out drinks and food. Passengers understand that transmission would be difficult for airlines to control once the inflight service starts in its current state (e.g.: a virus could easily spread from passenger to the cabin crew’s gloves, and then onto all trays and drinks etc.). This anxiety has driven a 227% increase in passenger focus on the airlines, airport and crew handling of food and the procedures they have in place. Expect to see eagle-eyed passengers performing spot inspections on the trolley as it rolls through the aisles, and far less people willing to take something from it as we’ve registered an 87% decline in willingness to use inflight services in their current form.

This is going to change inflight and pre-flight rituals in the airport significantly. Some aspects will change drastically in the first few months and then return to more normalcy, while others will be permanent. We’ve seen an 80% growth in passenger conversations talking about picking up their food before they board to limit the chance of a contact infection inflight – even knowing that they’ll likely be able to pick up a packaged meal on some carriers. Restaurants in terminals that can’t open for dining could still make a good trade providing take away meals for passengers to eat in the terminal or take on the plane. Airlines that have the ability should push their pre-ordering options. Many passengers don’t even know these exist.
It won’t only be the delivery method that changes in the short term.

Everything from the ingredient provenance to cooking processes will come into focus. Attention to the finer details of these things is going to need to extend beyond just the wants of First Class, Business, Premium and more engaged economy passengers that fly frequently with you. Passenger loyalty is up for grabs, maybe more than ever, and food & beverage is a good touchpoint to rebuild confidence from – or an easy one to lose if we get it wrong.

fethr.aero/blog

Vietnam begins to rebuild

Chef Happy K, Keerthi Hapugasdeniya, now general manager inflight services at SASCO in Vietnam, opened SASCO’s new inflight catering kitchen just before the COVID-19 crisis hit. Here he tells us how Vietnam has ridden out the disease and is now ready to rebuild its tourism business…

It has been a dramatic few months for sure. Having worked flat out to open the new SASCO kitchen in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and the excitement of our first client menus taking flight with Bamboo Airways, suddenly the world change with global problems of COVID-19.

Vietnam took strong action very quickly and everyone complied with government restrictions and rules at once, determined to do everything possible to prevent spread. It worked. Vietnam has had under 327 cases (as of May 27) and recorded no deaths, and this week normal activities have really begun to resume.

I have been based in Vietnam throughout the crisis and it has been truly amazing. The people are so resilient and so determined. At the new kitchen we were determined to stay open. We had achieved full HACCP and halal accreditation and wanted to stay operational so we would be ready to react instantly once airlines needed us again. It was a challenge, we had to rethink and reinvent what were doing while not supplying airline meals, but the staff were so committed and came to work even when they were told there was little or nothing for them to do.

We very quickly launched a new retail, ready-meal range, sold online, and have been supplying meals for airport workers. We have targeted the many aviation people not currently working and business travellers currently working from home. They know the value of meals produced from inflight kitchens and have really welcomed the initiative. SASCO’s owners are local business leaders which has helped us connect with other businesses and find new markets.

There are still no international travellers coming to Vietnam but domestic flights have restarted and domestic travellers are travelling a lot and spending on food and beverage. Bamboo’s flights have restarted and are flying pretty full. They estimate their schedule will be back to 60% in the coming weeks and it feels great to be back delivering meals for them.

Caterers will definitely have to rethink what they offer post-COVID. Of course airlines are struggling financially at the moment and need cost-effective, simplified solutions – for Bamboo we have put the focus on a new local menu prepared with local ingredients, and those have gone down very well. We all have to get back to basics, think from the ground floor up and rebuild what we offer over time. If we give airlines new ideas and new ways to deliver great service, hospitality will be part of the post-COVID solution.

The SASCO kitchen and the inflight service centre is design to take any industry challenges and fulfil the needs of the market whatever they may be. We had to change our mind-set but have seen that when people aren’t flying, they still need to eat! We found a way to stay open until aviation reopened again and now we can’t wait to serve more flights and additional airlines.

Spreading kindness

Mark Rowland, chief executive of Mental Health Awareness Week, believes a little kindness will go a long way in the current crisis…

Recently as I waited in a socially distanced queue outside the supermarket as the rain started to fall. One of the staff noticed we were getting wet. He scurried away to find a pile of umbrellas, carefully disinfected the handles and passed them out with a smile. To my surprise, my eyes started to well up. At a time when I felt alone, I suddenly felt connected.

If I asked you the last time you gave or experienced kindness, you would tell me stories of when you felt moved, protected, held, seen, loved. This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May) in the UK is focusing on the power and potential of kindness. We think it could be the most important week we’ve hosted, not least because our own research shows that protecting our mental health is going to be central to us coping with and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic – with the psychological and social impacts likely to outlast the physical symptoms of the virus.

We have chosen kindness because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity. It is a cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health. Wisdom from every culture across history recognises that kindness is something that all human beings need to experience and practise to be fully alive.

Kindness is defined by doing something towards yourself and others, motivated by genuine desire to make a positive difference. We know from the research that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected. The research shows that kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging. It helps reduce stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens friendships. Kindness to ourselves can prevent shame from corroding our sense of identity and help boost our self-esteem. Kindness can even improve feelings of confidence and optimism.

But kindness is an intrinsically risky endeavour. It can risk us looking foolish or being taken advantage of, which is why we sometimes retreat. To receive or to give kindness is an act of courage. We want to use Mental Health Awareness Week to support each other to take that brave step and harness the benefits for both giver and receiver.

We have a once in a generation opportunity not only during but also following this pandemic for a reset and re-think about what kind of society we want to emerge from this crisis. We know that one act of kindness can lead to many more. This is the type of community action that we need to inspire others as we discover our connection to each other and extend kindness to ourselves.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, we are asking you to do three things:
– Reflect on an act of kindness. Share your stories and pictures (with permission) of kindness during the week using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
– Use our resources in your family, school, workplace and community to join with thousands in practising acts of kindness to yourself and others during the week
– Share your ideas on how you think we could build a kinder society that would support our mental health using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

mentalhealth.org.uk

 

Eco priorities in the face of COVID-19

Sustainability champion, Ariane van Mancius of NOW NEW NEXT, questions what the COVID-19 crisis means for environmental priorities…

Over the last two years I have dug deep into the issues of sustainable food and packaging looking at how we could change from a linear to a circular economy, and more clearly see the hidden impact of our system and become really sustainable.

And then there was COVID-19… my 20th ITCA and WTCE were, for the first time, not taking place and not because of climate change, as I had predicted might happen, but because of a pandemic outbreak, a virus called COVID-19/Corona.

This virus has literally brought our systems to a halt and almost all aircraft worldwide are grounded.

At NOW NEW NEXT we do a lot of scenario planning and trend forecasting, and my community of trends friends have gathered and shared all the information they have on how COVID-19 will affect the future. We’ve been looking at the impacts of self-distancing, online grocery shopping, the growth in local initiatives, pre-packed foods and the burning of trillions of disposable gloves, caps and other hospital gear – now infected hospital litter.

The big questions we’ve been considering in these uncertain time are: Do the virus and climate change have anything in common? Will Single Use Plastics (SUP) regulations be postponed? Will, under the pressure of hygiene imperatives, the ban on plastics disappear?

The Global Risks Report 2020, presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, discussed the risks the world would be facing in the coming year. It stressed the need for a multi-stakeholder approach in addressing the world’s challenges. It looked at the likelihood of an infectious disease and while it did not seem a big risk in the near future, the impact was indeed recognised as potentially significant.

Now we are seeing the impact first hand and the importance of nature and our environment has unexpectedly come to the fore. Viruses are part of our natural ecosystem and if the ecosystem is out of balance they clearly have more chance to take hold. Deforrestation in the Congo is widely believed to have caused bats to fly into the city where Ebola broke out.

We can doubtless stop this coronavirus in time, and will likely have a vaccine soon but continued climate change will ultimately be irreversible without action.

Luckily out of this virus crisis the single winner is nature – benefitting from the ‘quarantine of consumerism’, and going forward we will need products and solutions that support a new recognition of the enviromental impacts of our actions and activities.

Customer experience – the new marketing department – has been all about meaningful contact moments with passengers but due to COVID-19 the opposite is now what people need and want. Hygiene and disposable items go hand in hand and it is highly likely plastic wrapping is going to come back around food.

Nearly all sustainable initiatives are on hold. We cannot talk about sustainability it seems when we are hungry or need extra hygiene measures, but as we rebuild our post-Corona serivces we will need to re-think service onboard, food and packaging. The crisis will bring change.

Before COVID airlines had agreed that getting rid of 6.1 billion tonnes of cabin waste was imperative and were working towards the July 3 2021 deadline for the Single Use Plastics Law. Now there is no cabin waste.

nownewnext.nl

Social influence

Tommie Eaton, founder at BambuuBrush, believes we cannot neglect the integral role social media is increasingly playing in our daily lives. Yes, he admits, there are continuous negatives arising from the amount of time that social media consumes each day but that also shows the power social media has, he argues…

What if we could harness the power social media has over us in a positive way to change the world for the better. Approximately 45% of the world’s population uses social media for on average 144 minutes a day according to a recent study which highlights the optimistic approach, that “what if” we could grab hold of people’s attentions and inspire them to do good, be better, experience more. This is a mindset and “marketing strategy” which I believe very few companies, organisations and individuals have used correctly but one which will become a highlighted area moving forward into the 2020’s.

My company, @BambuuBrush, is a UK based eco-focused company which has one simple product for One Simple Change, a bamboo toothbrush. We have sold over 1.4 million bamboo toothbrushes within our first year of trading, and achieved that using a #1millionby2020 social media campaign. When launching in February 2019 the goal was “to use social media in a positive way to educate, inspire and empower people by showing the impact plastic pollution is having on our planet”. We worked to create an online movement whilst using the platforms to deliver educational workshops, inspire people to make simple changes away from plastic, and organise and deliver community clean-ups. The crucial part of the story is that, all of this was achieved with zero investment, zero funding and zero spending on advertising. Social media is a free consumable.

But it’s not just about my business, take another relevant story of social media being used in a positive way, by Captain Tom Moore, the 99-year-old war veteran who wanted to raise £1,000 for the NHS by walking 100 lengths of his garden. He has now hit over £28.5 million in donations + £5 million in Gift Aid. Now if that isn’t a true positive representation of the power of social media what is?

As always, there are new and more exciting technologies and in the ever changing world of social media, the most popular platforms will come and go. We have definitely seen a plateau in new users of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram over the last 12 months with the introduction of TikTok, but I personally believe that social media will become an increasingly integral part of life.

Social media will become increasingly engrained in our lifestyles like a sixth sense and there is no doubt that its power will grow because of this. So let’s encourage businesses, organisations and people to use the platforms in a positive way so we can make real, beneficial, impacts to our planet and the beautiful people on it.

bambuubrush.com

Don’t let a good crisis go to waste

Mariya Stoyanova is the director of product development at JetBlue, where she oversees the customer experience. Her team is responsible for designing new customer products, including Mint, the airline’s award-winning premium cabin offering. Speaking to Reed Exhibitions for a series of articles celebrating women in aviation Stoyanova says she believes an open mind, confidence and being “comfortable with being uncomfortable” will carry women through any challenge the corporate aviation world can throw at them.

I’ve been in the aviation industry for 15 years. I started my aviation career in operations, launching Aegean Airlines’ service in Sofia, Bulgaria, where I am originally from and I joined JetBlue as an analyst with our in-house consulting team, working on cross-functional projects, 10 years ago. I came to the industry purely by chance. An airline recruiter came across my resume and called me up. Before that call I never imagined myself working in aviation. At the time I was working at an IT services company splitting my time between France and Bulgaria. I had no idea what to expect but I was very curious about it and loved to travel so I gave it a shot. It is the most dynamic and unpredictable industry I’ve ever worked in. No day is the same or like the one before. The best part about it is that you are connecting people, bringing them to new places or home to their loved ones.

I’ve always been laser focused on being good at my job and flying above any gender bias. Keeping an eye on the prize and being a team player pays off, and most importantly opens doors for more inclusion and diversity of thought. I have definitely experienced some challenges as a young female executive, but with an open mind, confidence and a sense of humor everything can be overcome and/or course corrected. Key to success is: patience – good things don’t ever come easily; persistence – failure is a temporary state and you can only learn from it; and authenticity – staying true to yourself and being genuine is critical to establishing relationships and becoming a leader.

The biggest obstacle I have found is finding the right voice for myself or more specifically the right tone. Often women can be perceived as aggressive when being confident. It took me a while to learn how to apply the right amount and nuance of assertiveness while staying authentic and true to myself at the same time.

My career highlight was launching our award-winning Mint premium service (lie-flat seats, tapas-style artisanal dining, free entertainment and award-winning service on select coast-to-coast and Caribbean flights) and being part of its first test flight. We created a brand new and unique experience and until that very first flight we had no idea if what we had designed would ever work. It was epic!

The biggest development in the last 25 years has been accessibility. Flying is no longer a privilege reserved for the wealthy. Over the past 25 years air travel has become accessible, affordable and inclusive, reaching remote parts of the world and people from all backgrounds that never imagined they’d be able to take advantage of and experience it. Our next chapter has just begun and should be focused not only on accessibility but also on sustainability. Airlines should be connecting people and places in an environmentally-responsible way, and passengers should be able to enjoy guilt-free travel.

My most important workplace mentor was my former boss, Jamie Perry. He really pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to grow and develop interest for areas that I didn’t even know existed before I started working with him.

The best advise I ever received was ‘don’t let a good crisis go to waste’. There are always hidden opportunities when you are facing a challenging situation. It forces you to come up with creative solutions and think outside of the box and ultimately come out of it better off than initially planned. Some of the best features of our award-winning Mint product were invented as a result of some kind of “crisis” or challenge we faced.

Reinventing the airport experience post-COVID-19

Amanda Owen is health and safety director at Heathrow which handled a record 80.9 million passengers in 2019 and is now, like all airports, having to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis.

Heathrow has been reporting steady, uninterrupted record growth, but in March passenger numbers shrank by 52% compared to the same time last year, and by 90% in April following the extension of the UK’s lockdown and the FCO’s advice against all but essential travel.

The airport has stepped up cleaning routines, provided PPE (personal protective equipment) to staff, installed additional hand sanitisers, closed non-essential passenger facilities and rolled out new signage to help people socially distance. It is also focusing on technological innovations to streamline the security search process, reducing the need for person-to-person contact and rebuilding passenger confidence to travel.

Owen says: “Once this pandemic is overcome, aviation will be key to restarting the economy. This is why we are taking a number of measures to protect the business during this time and ensure Heathrow remains ready and able to play its part in the UK’s economic recovery.”

Read the full FTE story here.

Keep the travel conversation alive

The president of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), Gloria Guevara, has launched a new marketing campaign, ‘Together in Travel’, designed to galvanize the global travel and tourism community, and keep the locked down world talking about travel.

The campaign went live on Monday, and aims to show the importance of the travel and tourism sector as a part of the zest for life, and encourages travellers from around the world to share a video using the hashtag ‘Together in Travel’ simultaneously. The activity works to unite everyone across the globe in solidarity at the same moment.

The campaign has been developed by WTTC in collaboration with one of its members, marketing and communications firm MMGY Hills Balfour. It consists of three key elements, a highly visual and emotive video, the campaign hashtag and a microsite that will host the video and user-generated content and stories.

Gloria Guevara, President, and CEO, WTTC stresses the critical value of travel and tourism to the global economy, accounting for one in four of all new jobs worldwide and contributing around 10.3% to GDP. She said that the sector touches everyone and builds communities, reduces poverty and improves the social impact of everyday lives across the world.

She accepts that the sector is uniquely exposed at present, due to the coronavirus pandemic, but says dreaming is part of human beings’ ‘zest for life’. She hopes new campaign encourages thoughts of the brighter days ahead which is highly essential at the moment.

She further added that the concept for the new campaign was borne out of a desire to rally everyone who is passionate about travel, to unify those who are working hard to rebuild the sector, and to spread a message of solidarity that people across the world are one global community, and travel is the key that brings them closer, at the right time.

She added that WTTC aims to give out the message that everyone can still stay inspired with future travel ideas and bookings and can also be part of a virtual space for sharing, connecting, and collectively inspiring.

She thanked Amanda Hills, president of MMGY Hills Balfour, and her team for their efforts in building the campaign with donated time. She said the WTTC hopes that as many people as possible will share the video, as the world looks forward to a future time when they will be able to travel again.

The campaign comes at a time when new travel stories cannot be made. It arrives with the opportunity to fill all social media channels with stories, images, and videos that can keep the spirit of travel alive. It will enable the global community to reflect on their most special, inspiring travel memories and help them share it with the world from the confinement of their homes.

View the video and share.

togetherintravel.com

Sustainable futures

Onboard Hospitality Editor, Julie Baxter, talks to David Young, Qantas advisor at Qantas Future Planet and Sustainability on how our industry can and should be responding to the issue of sustainability.

The podcast was produced in association with Reed Exhibitions and was recorded prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

Listen now

Prepare now, and get set to fly

There will always be a market for great products and great suppliers. Here industry insider Marc Warde asks just what does it take to get a product onboard and how to prepare for the bounce back?

The airline world, and by that I really mean airline people, is generally run by a hardy bunch.  They cope with the annual ups and downs of seasonality, differences of creeds and cultures, terror attacks, natural disasters and many other anomalies besides with great aplomb.

This virus will change all of that and in some measure all of us.  It has been heart-warming and wonderful to see the kindness, supportiveness, care and national spirit in what is a worrying time for us all, the clapping for NHS/healthcare workers would bring a tear to the driest of eyes.

Our instinct is to get out and do something and this time in the most part we just need to stay home, keep ourselves and the wider communities safe.  The landscape of the airline world and its people will be changed by this pandemic.  Sad to say some airlines and some suppliers won’t make it, saddest of all neither will some of the people.

But I believe the resilience of the airline world and its people will ensure it rises like a phoenix to the challenge of rebuilding again. It will be different, it will be changed but with this unprecedented time to think, it will also be better. Products that are great will still be in demand and they need to be seen when standing tall when this is all over so make sure you are ready, get prepare to shine…

To get a product onboard takes resilience. Truth is, not everyone is going to like or want what you’re offering. So lesson one: develop a thick skin.

Lesson two: be prepared. Buyers will expect you to be professional and slick. They are time sensitive so be ready to shine. Some buyers expect a bit of grovelling but others will give good solid advice. Some will want to push you on price. The important thing is to be yourself, be true to your brand ethos and be prepared, be very prepared.

Know your margins too. Exactly. Don’t forget a single detail because when working at volumes pennies make pounds. Be open too. A deal has to be viable so honestly show what you are making, and if a price reduction works for the volumes on offer, be willing.

Often buyers will ask you to white label your product. This may be tempting but think about the implications/value for your business before agreeing. Volumes can aid cash-flow, but long-term recognition may be more important. Co-branding can be a good alternative option.

Think about how you want your brand to be represented. Be sure your USPs shout out from any packaging or literature, and offer crew samples and incentives – they can be your greatest asset.

Lesson three: be ready to be consistent. Airlines need to know you can deliver, that you won’t run out of product or money, that your hygiene, health and safety won’t go awry. Be ready to prove these points. Check your own suppliers won’t let you down.

Lesson four: deliver and monitor. Be ready, deliver as promised, and deliver on time. Then monitor progress. Press for sales insights in advance so you can map out the peaks and troughs and sales patterns. This will help you evolve and target your product better. Sometimes working with established players like En Route, Evertaste, Retail In Motion or Foodcase can help, but remember your relationships should be a two-way street so invest in them, make sure all the numbers really work, and you will reap the rewards.

Innovating our way out of crisis

As COVID-19 continues to have an existential impact on the global economy, Anne De Hauw, Founder of IN Air Travel Experience & Influencer, urges the onboard sector to listen to their customers and define solutions that can help them navigate these unprecedented and extremely challenging times.

More than ever is it critical to listen to your customers and define solutions to help them navigate the rough terrain, minimise damage and future-proof your relationship with them.

We are in a global crisis of a magnitude that has never been experienced before. People stop moving around, stop travelling, stop going out, stop spending: money stops circulating. All sectors are facing unparalleled disruption, but travel and hospitality are clearly on the top of the list.

Chances are that, once the virus is under control, we will be facing a new reality. We will have to reinvent the system, possibly by considering new opportunities for human creativity, a lighter environmental footprint, more conscious consumption and optimised local manufacturing.

Human engagement, health care, clear communication and transparency are critical factors for survival. More so, keeping your high-performing employees (your company’s greatest asset) close, by motivating and managing them carefully, tends to produce creativity, draw out improvisation skills and result in higher customer engagement.

During a time of disruption, a company’s top strategic priority should be to focus on and listen to their customers. Listen with empathy and emotional intelligence, try to fulfill their needs in this critical period as that usually makes the difference between whether that customer ultimately chooses to work with you or not in the longer term.

Another big benefit of really listening is stronger customer relationships and loyalty. After frequent interactions to support them as much as you can in this time of disruption, these customers start to view you as reliable partners, sometimes even friends.
And frequently, through this intense engagement, customers will discover and reveal needs they didn’t even know they had — your inspiration for future product or services.

In the midst of the current chaos, it is resilience and and the ability to adapt that are key drivers if we are to identify opportunities.

Redirecting and restarting will require a lot of insight and audacity. We will need to build a new economy with refreshed values and ways of handling production, transport, distribution and retail.

The endless manufacture of nice-to-haves will be replaced by fewer and more desirable need-to-haves: less but better!

Entrepreneurs and visionary leaders will turn their customers into innovation partners and accelerate the creation of solutions that not only solve their problems, but also provide an exceptional experience that passengers will keep coming back for.
They will be creating data-driven solutions that are cost-saving, and combine digital innovation, environmental sustainability and customer-centricity. Those that get it right, will stand out from the competition and define the new reality.

A time of crisis can be an existential threat to current efforts, or a real opportunity to create true, value-driven innovation. Listen to your customers, position your organisation to be more flexible, responsive and socially oriented, and dedicate any resources you have to accelerating customer-centric innovation. This is critical if you are to help your organisation effectively navigate this unmatched social, sanitary and economic disruption.

Braced for change

Zavier Rossinyol, chief executive officer gategroup, looks back at a turbulent year and positions the business for challenges ahead

2019 was a challenging year for the aviation industry, driven by a combination of internal and external factors. While passenger levels continued to grow – the summer peak season surpassed that of the record-breaking 2018 – declining global macro-economic KPI’s have driven IATA to reduce revenue passenger kilometers growth forecasts to 5% for 2019, below the average 7-8% growth over the last three years.

Ongoing industry consolidation is still anticipated, particularly in Europe where overcapacity remains an issue and carriers are still some distance from steady growth. US carriers have focused on partnerships to further strengthen their geographical footprint, notably Delta Air Lines with LATAM and United Airlines with Avianca.

We have also witnessed several airlines suffer severe financial difficulties in 2019, from the collapse of the world’s oldest holiday firm Thomas Cook and the bankruptcies of Germania and Wow, to the grounding of Jet Airways. The grounding of the Boeing 737 Max added to existing challenges, resulting in routes being cut or contingency measures taken to ll the lack of aircraft available to serve them. Political unrest in Hong Kong and several countries in Latin America have led to reduced travel access and demand, thus slowing down growth investment plans by airlines.

In early 2020 the world’s attention turned to COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The economic impact on the the aviation, tourism and trade industries is not yet known, but we cannot deny it will be very significant. We continue to work in close cooperation with authorities, customers and airports to assess and address the impact of COVID-19 on our industry and have implemented additional measures to protect the health and safety of our employees, customers, passengers and general public.

The industry has also come under intense scrutiny to acknowledge and address their environmental impact, ranging from reducing carbon emissions, barring single use plastics onboard to finding solutions for reducing food waste. The industry must and will reshape their overall approach to sustainability, and early adopters have already begun to embrace this change.

Changing the way people experience travel

gategroup bridges the world of culinary and aviation. When we launched our Gateway 2020 strategy in 2015, we had a clear vision: to transform our industry. With a solid focus on our core business of airline catering, our goal was to set a new industry standard. We also wanted to change the way people experience travel – through culinary and hospitality – and to do so in a sustainable manner.

Our leadership in commercial innovation has been driven by three key areas: Creating an unparalleled and distinctive culinary offering: we call it our Culinary Revolution; utilizing state-of-the-art data analytics through our Data Revolution; and becoming a leader, not a follower, in sustainability through our Green Revolution. These three revolutions are underscored by our leadership in operational excellence and standardisation, with our 13 Competence Centers around the globe that develop, test and implement innovative operational best practices and function as an academy for the rest of the network.

How exactly do we differentiate ourselves from the rest? gategroup is focused on innovating and delivering value to our customers by providing passengers with a superior culinary offering based on food trends, quality and freshness. In combination with delivering innovative products and services that address the needs of today’s discerning passenger we are changing perceptions of what airline catering can be.
This has resulted in signing a number of long-term contract extensions with some of our key customers in 2019. We were also able to renegotiate terms with several key customers, underscoring their belief that gategroup is a strong partner that delivers value through our unique offering.

Tapping trends for the curious

Jörg Hofmann, head of culinary excellence at LSG Group, talks trends, tastes and curious consumers…

Trend-watching is at the core of every business and culinary trends have never moved so fast. The world is so much more connected than it ever was before so the range of ideas feeding into trends is wider than ever. We all have to watch how the landscape is moving, and work out what’s next.

As a global community, LSG Group is lucky as we can draw on our experts in catering, retail and data right across all our operations for a fully-rounded understanding of the consumer and end producers. Together we work to define the relevant trends for ourselves and our customers, we puzzle it out with all the LSG departments – concepts creators, product developers, marketeers, sales teams, chefs – and create our annual Trends Report, launched last month.

It is clear to us that consumers now are not just buying a product, it is the story, the concept behind that product that makes the difference to them. Passengers are curious consumers and we have to create products to pique that curiousity, draw them in and give them a product with interest and story as well as a great taste.

This year we made a point of identifying some very clear headline trends to help focus development thinking: six market trends we named Shareworthy, No Plan(et) B, Mindfulness, The new NostalgiX, Food Technology, and Things to Watch.  You can read all about them here (Link Trend Report)

These are now helping our chefs and product developers innovate new ideas for our airline customers, they can now drill down deeper with understanding of what customers want, adapting their projects to suit local trends and sourcing.

It is interesting to see that consumers are more and more interested in the catering companies behind airline food and I believe all airline catering companies are brands and must be ready to respond to this consumer curiousity about their products. We are growing our brand to be a name synonomous with premium catering with 360 degree solutions.

In part we are consultants to airlines, helping them develop holistic concepts, giving them a second opinion on things, helping them see the wood from the trees. The trends report helps with that, there were no total surprises in it but the importance of technology and the digitalisation element is noticeably becoming more and more important for the next generation.

Robotics and technological solutions are becoming more important for our business too, potentially offering us ways to improve our processes while maintaining stable and consistent products. More sophisticated food sterilisation and pasteurisation processes are coming to the fore. We are curious to see what they bring and how we can work with them.

Plastic panic- don’t be hasty

Karen Lynch, ceo ethical water brand, Belu, insists the answer to your anti-plastics challenge might, in fact, be plastic

Our sector is certainly living in an ‘anti-plastics’ time but I predict the tide will turn this year on how we view plastics and all single-use items.

Brands that made knee-jerk decisions to replace plastics with other ‘single-use’ items will realise their actions may unintentionally create more harm to the environment. Swaps often undermine recycling and increase carbon emissions with little customer benefit.

Think recycled
Despite being easily recyclable, an ‘eco can’, for example, still contains about 30% new aluminium which requires strip mining and vast amounts of electricity for smelting.This contributes to further social and environmental impacts and needs shipping.

A recycled plastic bottle, by contrast, uses existing resources rather than new. This removes plastic from the waste stream and reduces environmental impacts. Recycled PET generates about 75% less emissions than aluminium and is easily recycled.

Action reductions
In 2019 Eurostar asked Belu and the Sustainable Restaurant Association for help cutting plastic by 50% by 2020. A business-wide review revealed the train operator was giving away over one million plastic water bottles a year. It wanted an environmentally-friendly water bottle and Belu ran a workshop with the team to examine their options. They ran a canned water trial but customers reported a ‘tinny’ taste and were frustrated it was not resealable once opened. The cans had to be shipped from Austria too, so Eurostar concluded plastic bottles did have their place – especially when they contained a high proportion of recycled plastic (rPET).

Pizza Hut did a similar review and decided to continue to sell Belu water in 100% rPET bottles because they calculated this offered the lightest eco touch and also helped the chain bring clean water to communities worldwide through its charitable connection.

Of course it’s important to embrace the plastics challenge but ensure you consider the recyclability before just swapping out. Use data to do the right thing, choose 100% recycled plastic (rPET), which is the lowest carbon emission option, and be sure your choice can be part of the circular economy.

Natasha’s Law – wake up to allergies

Caroline Benjamin, founder of Food Allergy Aware, runs allergy training for airline caterers and is shocked at the current lack of awareness in the sector

Travelling to the Middle East recently I was shocked at the lack of allergen details available for either standard or special meals and how uninformed the crew was.

I had pre-ordered with staff who clearly had minimal training. I’m both gluten and dairy free but the best they could offer was gluten free and non-lactose, but with no certainty it was milk free!

My meal options were confirmed but onboard I was served a chicken roll with butter and a milk yoghurt. Lunch was labelled gluten free but there was no clarity on if it was non-lactose or dairy-free on either the label or from the crew.

Be clear
New labelling regulations come into force in October 2021 affecting ‘Pre-Packed for Direct Sale’ (PPDS) food. Known as Natasha’s Law, it is named after the girl who died on a flight from a sesame flour reaction. She’d bought her baguette pre-flight and her retailer relied on a sign telling concerned customers to ask about allergens, just as most airlines also do.

Transport entering or leaving the EU and UK should already be supplying information on all food served and the FSA currently has a consultation underway on technical guidance for PPDS. Main meals are NOT classed as PPDS but information relating to the 14 specified allergens should be available. My experience shows this is not always the case. Pre-packed foods on the meal tray, such as cookies, cakes and sandwiches, could be defined as PPDS and may require full ingredient labelling going forward.

An easy fix would be for special meals to be fully labelled, and a spec sheet to be available for all standard meals. I recommend airlines remove the term non-lactose from special meals and investigate a dairy (milk) free option instead as many lactose-free products are not suitable for allergies to milk or for vegans. Dairy-free passengers may not also be vegetarian or vegan, a common myth.

Encourage development chefs to create dishes which exclude the 14 major allergens.Soya is one of them – and it is currently in over 60% of processed foods!

Ultimately your staff training is key. Allergies are serious and not a lifestyle choice. Support your crew with accurate information and be sure they know what to do when a passenger does have a reaction or goes into anaphylactic shock.

“We are developing crop management to increase tea resilience”

The onboard cuppa is an essential staple, insists Merrill J. Fernando, founder of Dilmah Tea, as he celebrates his 70th year in the industry

Emirates wanted only the best of Ceylon tea, so they started by buying bulk tea from me, then we began to supply teabags. Today, the airline brews 33 million cups for its customers from a menu of 12 Dilmah teas.

The most popular in Economy is Dilmah Ceylon Black Tea while First and Business passengers favour Moroccan Mint and Breakfast Tea. The exclusive Emirates First signature tea is a single-estate tea made from the flowery Orange Pekoe leaf from the Dombagastalawa Estate. With an increasing focus on wellness, Emirates also recently introduced a new tea in its airport lounges: Turmeric, Coconut and Vanilla, with antioxidant properties.

We also supply Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines, Malaysian, Singapore, Etihad, Qantas and Qatar, and we are looking to expand into the cruise market too as cruise ships stop regularly in Colombo.

Sustainable stories
From 2021, we are changing the composition of our teabags to make them all biodegradable and we are currently pitching a new range of products to a large Australian supermarket chain. Personally, I have always preferred loose leaf tea and this is a range of loose leaf in 2g paper sachets for a cup, 4g size for a pot.

We achieved carbon-neutral status for the Dilmah facility in 2017, by making proactive reductions and offsetting our carbon dioxide emissions. In 2018 we achieved the same status for our whole range of 2,267 products.

On the research side, we have established the One Earth Centre for Climate Change Research and Adaptation, with weather stations at Queensbury and Kalkudah. We are working with climate scientists, entrepreneurs and farmers to find innovative, concrete solutions and smart technologies to face this challenge. We are also developing crop management to increase the tea plantation resilience to climate change.

A question of taste
Personally, I drink Ceylon Supreme each morning and Uda Watte from our Boutique selection in the afternoons. In the evening it’s Ran Watte for me, from the highest altitude estate. I started growing green tea in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, in response to demand; it’s a mellower choice, good for night time.

Interview by Richard Williams

“The first thing my mum taught me was: ‘You shall waste not'”

Raymond Blanc OBE tells April Waterston how provenance and sustainability are at the heart of Eurostar’s Business dining

For the last six-and-a-half years, I have worked with Eurostar, training young people onboard. It’s important for the team to be aware of the food they are serving and to be proud of what we are doing.

Eco values
We are the first transport company to have achieved a three-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association but I have always had these values.The first thing my mum taught me was: “Raymond, you shall waste not!”

We have done a tremendous amount of work on sourcing. We have three production centres – England, France and Brussels. We have about 30 rotations a week of different food, that’s 30 different menus including meals for vegetarians, vegans, pescatarian (not forgetting the carnivorous, of course), gluten-free, halal, children – it goes on.

Focus on provenance
Each of these dishes are created for seasonality. Seasonal means close to home, and if the produce is close to home then there’s better flavours, colours and texture. If you’re using locally-sourced ingredients instead of moving it thousands of miles, you don’t have to account for transport pollution. It’s also cheaper, meaning we have been able to keep our budgets very tight whilst increasing the quality. In the past seven years customer satisfaction has gone up by about 70% – our guests appreciate what we do.

Responding to veganism
We are really responding to veganism – it’s not just a fashion. It’s a complete lifestyle choice which responds to the extraordinary abuse of food and the way it is consumed and produced. We need to eat differently for our health, and for the health of the planet.

There are some amazing things to be done with pulses, with seeds, starches, wheat, bulgar wheat and quinoa. There are ways to create a beautiful risotto with barley and herbs and spices. The plan is for all of our starters to soon be vegetarian. The modern guest is changing, and veganism is here to stay.

If you don’t respond to challenges and empower your team with knowledge, you won’t see good results. I see all of my values in Eurostar, but those values were already here. All I’ve done is help grow them with an amazing team.

Edible packaging – ready to serve?

Chris Roberts, technical director of Versaperm, asks can edible or biodegradable packaging pass the test?

As the F&B industry looks for ways to cut packaging waste, the spotlight is turning onto edible and biodegradable packaging. A nice idea but it has to be good enough to protect and preserve pack contents and that’s difficult due to the special ingredients and coatings needed for such wraps.

The biggest challenge comes from contaminants such as water vapour, oxygen or CO2 which can affect the packaging or its contents. These can accelerate chemical and biological reactions, spoil the material and limit product-life, stability as well as edibility.

Go with the flow
This vapour-flow through packaging, or vapour permeability, effects the strength, appearance, edibility and printability of packaging and the contents’ life.

Vapour permeability varies – cellulose is an excellent barrier against liquid water for example but an extremely poor one for water vapour. Seaweed proteins, polysaccharides lipids, essential oils, and emulsifiers can offer excellent mechanical, hydrophobic and structural properties for edible packaging but these are affected by the flow of oxygen and moisture as well as flavourings such as icing or chocolate. Vapour permeability is also affected by processes such as baking or cooling.

Solutions
The solutions involve using layers of materials which combine properties – one a good barrier against oxygen, another the flow of CO2, or to provide strength. This is complicated by manufacturing processes, and it is impossible to predict the precise barrier properties of a finished package, so you have to test and optimise the results to suit specific edible or biodegradable needs.

It’s complex for sure but not impossible and we’ve had years to perfect it. The earliest edible coating was probably that on a blood sausage – mentioned over 2,500 years ago in Homer’s Odyssey!

“We offer comforting, familiar dishes evolved to a higher level”

As the Rocky Mountaineer marks its 30th anniversary executive chef Daniel Stierhof gets culinary on track

Dining for the three Rocky Mountaineer trains is created by Rocky Mountaineer Catering – a separate company but one that collaborates closely with the operational team. It’s run by three French chefs.

Our brief is broadly to create high-end menu options that reflect the landscapes the train travels through and meet the luxury perceptions of this iconic journey. We also try to offer comforting dishes, familiar to our often more elderly demographic, but then we evolve those concepts to a higher level.

The train operates April to October during which time we carry 700-900 guests each day and serve them breakfast and lunch in two sittings. Gold Leaf passengers dine on freshly prepared dishes in our dedicated dining carriages; Silver Leaf meals are pre-prepared and served to seat.

The culinary team is made up of 105 staff in total – chefs, dishwashers and servers – and each carriage has its own galley. The multicultural mix of the team helps us be innovative and creative. We all bring different styles, ideas and cultural traditions to the table.

Keeping focused
We aim to offer five to seven choices – and try to ensure the menu is on trend, healthy and uses sustainable local produce. Sockeye salmon and AAA Albertan steak are among the most special, uniquely Canadian, features and are always popular. The rise of special diets has become a big consideration too. We have made everything gluten- free to cater for coeliacs, and trends in diets. The galleys are restricted in space but I’ve certainly worked in smaller kitchens. Gold Leaf galleys each have three chefs while for Silver Leaf carriages dining is prepared in advanced and loaded ready for serving to seat, so these galleys have just one chef.

The biggest challenge is onboarding the correct supplies, and keeping focused despite crew commentary, passenger activity and operational issues. The only things pre-prepared in Gold Leaf are soups and sauces as liquids are hard to handle with the movement of the train. The same is true with dishes such as pasta as the train moves the boiling water about!

Of course, once we set off on our journey, we only have what we have – if anything is forgotten we simply have to improvise!

“We have to be nimble and responsive to exceed expectations”

Avanti West Coast F&B proposition manager Julie Harper reveals how the operator is planning its future catering offer

Avanti West Coast is the new train operating partnership between First Group and Italy’s Trenitalia. Together they run Britain’s premier intercity route between London and Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Evidence based
When bidding for the West Coast route, Avanti conducted in-depth catering market research to find out what the customers really wanted. In First Class, we looked at complimentary services, particularly at weekends, whilst in Standard Class we asked what products customers wanted to buy, how they should be packaged, ordered, paid for and delivered (e.g shop or in-seat).

It was no surprise that two key expectations in Standard were easy access to good wholesome food and great coffee at all times. This reflects the trends at stations, airports and on the high-street. The message about products was also clear – familiar and branded – mirroring regional trends and sourced from along our route.

New offers
Avanti has recently welcomed back by popular demand Tilting Ale, a pale ale brewed especially for us by Red Willow Brewery, which stands alongside the West Coast route, less than half a mile south of Macclesfield station.

Additionally, we’re offering Ethical Rain Forest Alliance coffee and local products such as Wenlock Edge water and Rubies in the Rubble chutney. Going forward, we’ll continue focusing on healthy, sustainable options and nurturing our SME partnerships.

Individual service
As not everyone in First Class wants the same thing, with different needs by time of day, route and purpose of travel, a degree of flexibility in our service will be required to enable more personalisation, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

We’re also reviewing our weekend First Class service to create a more consistent seven-day-a-week offer for passengers onboard.

All these changes require strong relationships with our supply chain partners and constructive responses to customer feedback, ensuring we are entirely ready for the forthcoming introduction of the refurbished Pendolino fleet and new Hitachi fleet due online in the coming years.

Interview by Roger Williams

“Growth becomes far easier with the fire power of SATS by our side”

Monty’s Bakehouse is set to up its global profile following its acquistion by SATS. MD Matt Crane predicts an exciting future

We have been working with SATS for some time and the more we spoke, the more synergies we found between our businesses and company cultures. We saw there was a great opportunity if we came together. It was very mutual.

Global opportunities
My ambition was always, and remains, to develop Monty’s Bakehouse into a truly global business quickly, and joining with SATS ensures just that. For us it makes great sense to enter into alliance with the largest caterer in Asia – active in 16 countries, and with a multi-billion pound business behind us we are excited about the future. We also have strategic plans to enter non-airline markets and can learn from, and add value, to SATS’ expertise in these channels. We have been extending our brand into new territories for a while: UK, Europe, the Middle East and the US, and know, once the current COVID-19 difficulties are over, there is a bright future for us in Asia with SATS.

Monty’s Bakehouse will continue to operate as it always has done and nothing changes in that regard. We continue to support all our clients as we have done and at the same time have the additional opportunity of sharing all our know-how and expertise with the SATS team as we work together to open up Asia to our products and services.

Together we will build a second Innovation Centre in Singapore and are in the final stages of confirming a location. The Innovation Centre teams will then act as one team across the UK and Singapore but work from two Innovation Centre locations. In Singapore the team will focus on Asian centric product, packaging and service innovation and this work will begin in the UK and transfer to Singapore once the new Innovation Centre is open.

SATS is an Asian-centric business, ambitious and with huge capabilities. We will now play our part in its growth strategy wherever it is logical to do so.

Sustainable progress
Sustainability is becoming a big issue in Asia as the region matures, and large companies like SATS have an increasingly important role to play. We will now begin working closely with SATS driving sustainability initiatives forward as we develop new product, packaging, service concepts and supply chains.

Working together we can exploit the market, pool resources, people and finances and look to expand. Ambitions for growth become far easier when you have the fire power of a business like SATS by your side. There are exciting times ahead.

Hidden impacts – Time to change

Ariane van Mancius, of Now, New, Next insists airlines urgently need independent, unbiased ‘helicopter’ assessment of their entire supply chains

The rise of consumption rates in the West has had a tremendous impact on supply chains, and those supply chains in turn impact the planet.

Modern living standards have created an unsustainable and unevenly distributed production system in which up to 80% of the impact of an item’s production often stays hidden from view.

In her latest book, The Hidden Impact, author Babette Porcelijn explains how Western countries have moved their industries and agriculture to low-wage countries, impacting their environment, nature and communities. We import the goods and food we want but fail to recognise the impact left behind.

Power play
Ultimately consumers will pay the price for this, she insists, and as a result they have the power to insist on change. She argues many are already looking for change and are themselves changing, fuelled by public figures like Greta Thunberg. Gen Z is particularly nurtured by activism, and contemporary consumers want to be part of a solution, not part of the pollution. In the latest Global Insight Survey by PwC, 41% of consumers said they are actively avoiding products in plastic. Sustainability is becoming a pre-condition to purchases and this challenges industry, including ours, to innovate creatively. Airlines clearly recognise this and we are already advising on sustainable service design and single-use plastics.

The challenge
A more balanced, holistic approach is essential to capture every link in the supply chain from cradle to grave, or even better cradle-to-cradle. Airlines need an unbiased ‘helicopter’ view on the entire chain, as offered by independent design studios like Now, New, Next. That’s essential in understanding the hidden impacts of your buying decisions.

Circularity is the way forward. As circularity guru Ellen MacArthur says: “What if we created a system that was regenerative and restorative by design – one that reuses resources, rather than using them up? What if the model was not linear, but circular?”

If you want to be part of the solution, not part of the pollution, the time to act and invest is now.

“Maybe it’s time to ask customers what they want on sustainability”

Chet Hansra, Innovation & Insight at Evertaste, calls on airline decision-makers to be bold

The Evertaste brand was launched two years ago to source, create and deliver high- quality convenience foods for people on-the-go. It has been a very interesting and positive journey and our clients include Finnair, Air Canada, Japan Airlines, Great Western Railways, Royal Jordanian, American Airlines, Ryanair and Eurostar as well as Lufthansa

Clients all have very different expectations which is a great challenge for us, and we have developed a range of convenience meals which not only reflect customer demand, but also that of the general population, changing demographics and trends. While 95% of our time is spent creating bespoke items for our customers, the trend for vegetarian has inspired particular investment in vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian options. Airlines recognise these have long term rewards.

We have had great uptake for our halal-certified Middle Eastern hot snacks such as fatayers, and also our Bombay Burrito (corn tortillas, filled with modern Indian gluten-free flavours).

Frozen to the fore
We have seen a shift away from fresh being the priority to frozen products, mainly because you can get great quality frozen ingredients that you would never be able to find fresh. We ask our suppliers to source in season veg to get the best results.

The ‘eat local, think global’ campaign has not only made people more interested in where their food comes from, but also toughened legislation. Our chefs pay great attention to where we source raw ingredients from and the traceability laws only make this easier.

Be bold
With regard to sustainability we see it as our responsibility to provide all the options available to our customers, not only in regard to food, but also packaging and logistics. However, we are only one piece in their somewhat complicated puzzle.

This kind of decision-making is often customer-led rather than environmentally-led, which further begs the question…are consumers making it clear enough what they expect from the rail and airline industry?

Chain reactions – safety first

Fabio Gamba, managing director of Airline Caterers’ Association (ACA) & director general of Airport Services Association (ASA), puts food safety top of the agenda

Ensuring food safety in the inflight catering industry from ‘farm to fork’ is no easy feat. The process contains hurdles that have to be overcome to ensure high-quality and fresh products are grown, processed and delivered to passengers as efficiently as possible.

The challenges can be best addressed when all components of the value chain are harmonised, and take into consideration agriculture, out-sourced production, suppliers, in-house production, delivery to aircraft, service to passengers, return catering, off-loading and disposal of waste.

This value chain has to be well coordinated and this also requires training processes that are aligned for airline catering crews across the sector. Done well, the results can include a reduction in waste and lower risks of life-threatening food-related emergencies.

Knowledge is power
The ‘farm to fork’ process is extremely delicate and requires accurate knowledge to be efficient. It is crucial that key players such as food manufacturers, farmers, distribution centres and retailers monitor and control food handling within their processes for guaranteed safety and assured quality.

Collaboration
ACA is working on this following its first ‘Farm to Fork Airline Catering Workshop’ in February. Our members are conscious that standardised contracts governing responsibilities around nominated products could help establish best practice, and similarly we need a shared, defined approach for special meals and allergies. We agreed to set up dedicated task forces to tackle both these topics as well as three others: to develop best practice manuals for food served onboard; provide recommendations on improving our environmental footprint; and established industry guidelines on overnight cooling/return catering. These task forces are being established now and will aim to establish full frameworks and timelines by the end of the year. The workshop helped established clear priorities and we invite all interested parties to now get involved in the real work – finding the solutions.

Catering waste – rethink it now

Catering waste is the airline industry’s dirty little secret. Marc Warde insists it’s time to raise awareness in the campaign for change.

With sustainability now firmly on the agenda, it is surely time to tackle catering waste. When you experience this first hand it is utterly shocking and I, like many, have been appalled to see it, and bemused by the legislation that insists on incinerating it all, which doesn’t help.

We all know there has to be change but what is the solution? Buy-before-you fly and pre-ordering all food for all classes would be revolutionary if it happened. Passengers could either pick up or select at the gate or pre-order so only food certain to be consumed would be loaded. It’s already happening on some short-haul and low-cost routes and airports too are offering at-gate deliveries for their outlet sales, so it can be done.

Tell it straight
Of course in Business and First this may be a tougher sell. These passengers want choices but do they even know some choices result in food going in the bin? Controversial as it may seem, raising awareness of this would make a switch to pre-order easier. If they knew the reality, they could hardly condone the waste they are inadvertently creating unless they accepted the change. Special meal ordering systems could easily be extended to make this work.

Sustainability is now as much an issue for the priveleged in premium cabins as for the rest of us so is fine bone china and crystal glass really right any more? More sustainable rotable solutions exist and surely every facet needs attention. Clearly if most of the traffic is in the back of the aircraft it is a sensible place to start but all areas must be examined.

Make a change
There are changes buyers can make. Sourcing locally where possible, using alternative meat proteins and championing trustworthy artisan producers helps address the issue and gives kudos to your menus. Look everywhere from the rubber on the tyres to the tea and the tea cup. Small things do make a difference and every little bit helps. Promote everything you’re doing and ask your customers to invest in your sustainability initiatives too. Look at the big and but embrace small changes too. It is vital to simply start the journey towards a better way of doing things.

Find industry-wide solutions

New IFSA president, James Ball of Flying Food Group, turns the spotlight on industry collaboration.

The year ahead is going to be challenging and my goal is to continue the great work already underway at IFSA to increase membership value and promote active membership participation.

The mission is to help the industry navigate through the challenges it faces, to be the voice of the industry, grow international engagement and ensure we are strongly represented in government affairs.

It has been a long time, for example, since the industry had to face such a big issue as the ban on single-use plastics. It’s a big change and there are no easy solutions, but as the trade association, IFSA can be the focal point, pulling together expertise and helping to find answers. Initiatives were discussed in L.A and we were also pleased IFSA’s executive director, Lauren Costello, could join the sustainability debate at FTE-APEX Asia EXPO in Singapore.

The educational side to IFSA’s activities are also increasingly important as a way to share best practice among members so we can learn from each other.

Working together
The alignment of IFSA with APEX is very positive and enables us to grow our conference activities and EXPOs to provide more thought leadership and more opportunities to share best practice. While we do so much today electronically, there is still a need and great advantage to sometimes coming together face to face, especially when we are all working on similar problems and working on complex issues. On such issues competitors accept they need to get together and find industry-wide solutions to global problems that affect both airlines and suppliers.

Looking ahead
For this reason, next year in San Diego, California, the IFSA/APEX Expo will include more speaker sessions, educational presentations and targeted roundtable debates designed to encourage further understanding and debate across the industry.
This year’s sessions were of a significantly higher level and relevance to what we have done before and this will continue as we encourage more airline CEOs from beyond the region to attend as well as more key caterers. We fully understand that costs and other commitments can make it hard to attend but our role will be to help demonstrate the value of IFSA and ensure our are ‘must-attend’ events.

Airlines can lead the way

Look to new manufacturers in China and airlines can find affordable eco options available now, insists Malton Inflight’s CEO Gordon Oakley

We have reached a tipping point on eco-friendly materials which means the issue of cost can no longer be an excuse or a barrier. Prices are falling and if airlines don’t move towards eco-products now, they’re not really trying.

From my base in Shanghai, I see it clearly. Big investors are now supporting environmental change by developing the products and materials needed fast. I am personally working on a big development for an industrial park which will have 15-20 factories just outside Shanghai, all focused on producing sustainable materials and products for the aviation sector. The ultimate goal is for 50 such manufacturers across China.

Chinese momentum
The Chinese see what is coming and want to move away from plastics to eco-products fast. They are supporting technical colleges and R&D in materials because they understand the future.

It is simply false to say the Chinese are backward with regards eco-products, they are in transition but it is happening fast. Once the Chinese government commits to something it does happen fast and it has committed to this. It is now happening at every level.

Aviation led
Aviation products are being given a priority in this development because the government and the investors see that airlines are the shop window on to world of eco products, they are
a way into worldwide markets. As a result, critical mass is building to get the products flying, and the first 10-15 airlines to move this way while Chinese investors are actively supporting growth will get superb prices.

In 2003, Malton Inflight started a Back to Earth range. No one cared much, it was four or five times more expensive and airlines just said forget it. Now there is the will, consumer pressure and the business models to make it happen.

Just make a start
Airlines can play a very positive role in showing what is possible and what is out there. They just have to start, that’s the important thing. Turkish Airlines recently switched to using biodegradable bags for earphones. It sounds small but in fact, eliminated 70-80 million pieces of single-use plastic from the supply chain. That feels good for everyone. Make a start and things can change and that is truly heart-warming.