In Conversation

How to lighten up

As governments prepare to ban plastics, onboard caterers are looking for tableware alternatives. Cutlery specialist, Sola, tells Julie Baxter it has the solution

Face facts
As the EU prepares to ban all single-use plastics onboard by 2021, suppliers are hunting alternative materials for tableware products from avocado pips to potato starch, bamboo to sugarcane, but cutlery specialist, Sola believes it has a way to help with its new range of stainless steel products.

Loose weight
The company has developed three new cutlery designs each of which can compliment onboard tray settings but in addition is uniquely light. The first, Oasis, is rounded, the second, Palm, is more square shaped while the third, Manhattan, has more of a curve to the handle. They are all produced in 0,5 mm thickness, and weigh just 7-10 grams per piece. They are produced in the same steel as normal cutlery and have been designed with strengthened necks to prevent bending. They are fully rotable.

Add style
Hans Engels explains: “The main difference in our new designs compared to the usual airline cutlery is the thickness, weight and price. We’ve reduced the thickness of the material we use so our cutlery set weighs, on average, 70% less than a regular Economy class cutlery set and it is also considerably cheaper depending on criteria volumes, design and delivery location. Using steel is also so much more stylish.”

Eco credentials
The cutlery sets can be branded if required and delivered to food hygiene standards. Manufacturing waste is cut to a minimum as the steel used comes in the exact thickness and length required to avoid any cutting loss. The final finish is done by tumbling machines that use only recycled water. Engels adds: “We believe that a replacement for plastic cutlery doesn’t necessarily have to be a dull or boring design or wait for new materials to be trialled and tested.”

Inbuilt recyclability
As to the growing demand for recycling, stainless steel ticks boxes here to. It is a natural product that ultimately returns to its original shape – ore, but in the shorter term can be taken back into Sola’s system and recycled, into new stainless steel – in a totally circular process.

Aditya Chatterjee explains tomorrow’s connectivity

Aditya Chatterjee, svp aero market segment solutions for SES, explains how the business is building tomorrow’s connectivity

Close to 80% of the inflight connectivity in commercial aviation is provided by satellites. SES provides connectivity to almost half of those aircraft, and is the biggest global satellite operator.

We have just added another four satellites to the O3b Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) network, bringing our MEO constellation to 20. Our first-generation MEO constellation has already transformed the cruise market, where we are the leading provider. The four new satellites will enhance coverage and bring greater service availability and reliability to markets such as maritime; aero is next up as we bring the ultra-low latency and ultra-high throughput of our O3b MEO constellations to market.

We currently supply the main airline service providers with connectivity: Panasonic, Gogo, Thales Avionics, and Global Eagle, plus some regional service providers. Without SES, there wouldn’t be much IFC going on.

Network building
We have over 70 satellites, which cover 99% of the world’s population. No satellite network can be considered truly global because factors such as local regulations might prevent these networks from providing services in a specific region. For these cases, or to provide increased capacity or redundancy, we are committed to collaborating with third-party operators.
We are the only satellite operator to have both geostationary (GEO) and NGSO satellites. Our O3b network of 20 MEO satellites is positioned closer to the earth than traditional satellites.

Boosting coverage
We are historically strong in Ku-band connectivity and are increasing even further our Ka-band capacity. More than 50 conventional and HTS GEO satellites make up the SES fleet with both Ku-band and Ka-band coverage.

Our latest GEO satellites SES-12 – serving Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, SES-14 – serving the Americas, the Caribbean and the North Atlantic region, and SES-15 – serving North America, Mexico and Central America, have HTS payloads that are designed to complement each other; providing comprehensive HTS Ku-band coverage.

Jeff Mabe explains wifi revolution

Jeff Mabe, senior director of Inflight Strategy and Strategic Partnerships at wireless technology and location data company iPass, explains why inflight wifi is primed for takeoff

It’s a pivotal time for inflight connectivity. Delta Airline’s recent announcement of aspirations to make onboard wifi free to passengers could set off a domino effect across the industry.
But the challenge for airlines that are forced to follow suit will be: how do we find innovative ways to create a differentiated wifi service that not only delivers for our passengers, but provides a revenue stream for the future too?

I believe the answer lies in airlines following the very same path that wifi has taken back on the ground – customers can now walk into their favourite café, store or hotel and seamlessly access the wifi network from within the company’s branded application.

Up until recently, the primary focus of inflight wifi has been getting the technology up and running as quickly as possible.

Airlines simply looked for which wifi providers could provide the fastest, most reliable service on any given route, so passengers on the same airline might have a completely different experience getting connected on one flight compared to another.

Airlines want to keep customers in their own ecosystem, and by making wifi connectivity a core component of this ecosystem they can ensure that the passenger is put at the heart of their service – they can learn more about them and use this knowledge to offer personalised recommendations and promotions.

This means shifting focus from the nuts and bolts of wifi speed and bandwidth, to positioning wifi as a core component of a much wider service offering, with consistent airline branding throughout.
In practice, a passenger could be offered the service via the airline’s own app, rather than a separate system, reducing or entirely removing the friction to access inflight wifi – no need to re-enter payment details and no confusing branding. By integrating wifi within the airline’s own app and entertainment system it is easy to offer passengers additional paid-for services, from food to movies to last-minute deals in their destination. This is an obvious way to differentiate from the competition and has the double benefit of a better passenger experience and a better way to monetise each seat – two things that are going to be increasingly important in a free-wifi future.

Marian Fagbemiro predicts tech innovation

Marian Fagbemiro, global vp gateretail, predicts how tech innovation will increasingly enable airlines to maximise their retail sales

Technology and data are at the heart of everything we do, enabling a more relevant, engaging and inspiring passenger experience whether before, during or post flight.

Our eCrew digital platform is now live with two airlines on two continents and going well. Working off an iPad or iPhone, it is highly intuitive, showcases promotions and also delivers dynamic inventory information to the crew, as well as acting as their ePOS tool.

Maximising sales
Our job is to enable cabin crew to maximise the retail sales opportunity onboard within the space-constrained environment, while also using ‘Big Data’ to deliver accurate information on what passengers are buying, when, where and how. This includes sales onboard, or via pre-order to the aircraft or elsewhere. And eCrew is just the start.

Phase two – ePAX is next, allowing passengers to access an omnichannel inflight marketplace for purchasing food and drink, online boutique shopping, tickets for onward travel or event tickets. It’s an exciting development!

Then will come eTools, phase three, a system which allows crew and crew management to perform multiple tasks in real time, automatically sending data so retail programmes evolve using both real, historic and predictive insights.

Supporting crew
Crew LMS – Learning Management System – will also be key through our Gate Crew Academy. It’s a modern industry-accredited learning resource offering flexible and modular multi-media and role play training, with certification through the European Credit Transfer System.

Future scoping
We believe a dedicated inflight category management tool will be the next big leap forward for the industry so we’re developing just that, drawing on expertise from grocery retail and FMCG (fast moving consumer goods). New technology is opening up new channels and it’s vital to be at the forefront of that work. We are working with Black Swan to use data and technology as our enabler, and we’re seeking partnerships with other players where we can create obvious advantages for our airline customers.

Fabio Gamba talks airline catering

One year on from his appointment, Fabio Gamba, managing director of the Airline Catering Association (ACA) looks to the challenges ahead for airline catering

As an industry we are all keen to serve better and tastier food while maintaining high safety and security standards. We all want the industry to be sustainable and reduce waste, but how? Increasingly it seems the answer is clear: we must avoid a race to the bottom – where there are no winners – and begin a race to the top focused on quality and high standards.

Enjoy your meal
With passenger numbers projected to double in the next 15 years, the demand for high-quality food will increase. Airline catering will always be more challenging than preparing fresh food in a restaurant. However, our industry has shown incredible adaptability, rising to this challenge and consistently outstripping tired expectations of airline food while mastering many of the logistical challenges this entails. I am convinced we can improve the passenger experience further in all cabins.

Reducing waste
Every year millions of tonnes of cabin waste are produced. Airline caterers have made significant progress towards reducing waste and single-use plastics wherever possible. We have already taken decisive steps towards recycling and reusing materials in a closed circle. Becoming truly sustainable as an industry will continue to be a big challenge over the coming years though. And in doing so, we also need to be careful that waste reduction does not lead to unintended consequences such as higher aircraft emissions, when heavier substitutes are chosen. 

A fascinating business
Serving food to billions of passengers above the clouds is a fascinating business and much more complex than it may appear. We relish this challenge and with the creation of the ACA last year, the industry is now able to speak with one voice.

Airline caterers have specialised in this exciting market and are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible at 35,000 feet. That’s why the industry wants a race to the top: it is time to raise standards and to offer every passenger a truly memorable food experience.

Robin Padgett talks culinary quality

Robin Padgett, vp dnata catering, turns the spotlight on culinary quality as the route to growth and industry-wide success

Airlines are investing in food again! Food and beverage has become a differentiator, with flying becoming an experience once more, not just a seat. There’s been a structural shift – catering is no longer just a cost, it’s part of revenue generation and of a great product.

his suits our philosophy perfectly. We love food and want customer airlines who love food too. Great culinary is the thing that gets people talking and all our developments have culinary at their heart. Asia and the Middle East always valued this approach and now it’s coming across Europe and the U.S. too.

Green-field freshness
Our Dublin kitchen was a first for us – a green-field site developed from scratch. We used the process to renew our intensive focus on culinary. As an industry we need to freshen up airline catering, and a new-build is a great way to establish priorities and test concepts really can work in truly efficient units. The same applied with our move into Canada on a green-field site at Vancouver airport – a proper fresh food kitchen staffed by proper chefs with all the culinary skills needed to create great products. The coming year will bring similar projects and more consolidation – the industry needs more of that.

We have to remember we are all in the food business and culinary has to come to the fore – that is where airlines can have the most fun and make real impact. Increasingly airlines do want a one-stop shop, one caterer worldwide who can ensure consistency and global quality. That’s certainly easier to do from green-field sites, as you can set the tone, the culture, afresh.

In the U.S we believe airlines will look to secondary airports for growth such as in Nashville where we have a new chef-led unit for British Airways with a strong culinary push.
Personalisation too, is a trend that is here to stay – it’s good for satisfaction, revenue and cutting waste.

Supporting talent
Bringing on culinary talent is essential and we now have 30 apprentice chefs across the dnata network, learning to be creative and push the boundaries. As an industry we have to give talent the chance to grow.

Roger Williams: En route to loyalty

Airline reward schemes are more than just a tag to keep valuable customers onside – they are the catalyst to drive huge revenues in both repeat travel and ancillary income.

Amazingly, eight of the top ten airlines have combined ancillary revenues of $29.7b and out of that, $13.5b (51%) is driven by loyalty schemes. That is equivalent to the total passenger revenues for all the UK railways!

Led by the big three – Star Alliance (Miles & More), One World (Avios) and Sky Team – they are hugely popular, offering customers significant added value, so why don’t we see them more often in the rail sector?

Rail rewards
Virgin Trains (with links to Virgin Atlantic) and Eurostar (with links to Nectar points), are notable exceptions but most rail rewards are limited and quite parochial. Benefits are much lower largely because unlike airlines, rail schemes do not allow passengers to share benefits across schemes. They appear disjointed too with multiple memberships required, and only really of use to very regular users of only one particular line.

Future potential
With advancements in digital technology, multi-modal and multi-geographical reward alliance schemes could however easily become a reality. If individual train companies aren’t able to organise them, others could step in and create industry wide solutions. A large caterer or EPOS provider with multiple large travel clients for example. Sooner or later someone will break the deadlock and the first to market will have a significant advantage.

Railways need to understand loyalty is not just about one scheme, but about building a deeper and wider relationship. Segregation complicates things and is not the best way to encourage customers to see rail as their first choice for travel. Large partnerships are needed to ensure customers are rewarded more effectively and that loyalty is secured.

Alyna Trotman talks retail innovation

New sales director Alyna Trotman explains why Gastro Worldwide is upping its focus on retail innovation

Product suppliers must stay on trend and respond to consumer demand. It is hard for airlines to react instantly but as suppliers we must be ready and ahead of the curve. Airlines expect us to react quickly. Currently there is a push towards vegan and cruelty free products, and recyclability but we are also very focused on engaging products which feel like an experience – such as tapas, mezze, grazing and sharing options, or afternoon tea and cocktail box experiences.

Ticking all the boxes
Products don’t just have to taste good, they need to look good, stow well and present well, and after use they have to be easy to dispose of well – products need to tick all the boxes. The key on recyclability is to ensure everything from the board to the ovenable film and securing clasps is recyclable.

Increasingly, meeting demand for a trend means offering something which will work well for many, even those not focused on that trend. For example we are working on incredible recipes using soya-based meat alternative products. These suit vegans and vegetarians of course but we are creating products with this which any traveller would enjoy – even meat eaters – shredded as an alternative to duck for wraps, or put in pies or pastry products.

Creating experiences
Similarly we have to be aware of the pressures to bring down sugar and fat content. People always want cake, they want to indulge, so the solution is to make the serving a little smaller but ensure it looks lovely and is an indulgent experience in its packaging style too. This also supports sales because passengers will happily pay a bit more for an experience. Sharing also helps justify any added expense as it becomes a treat for their travel companion.

Pre order success
Airlines want to offer good products but also need to drive revenue and we believe the buy-on-board products they offer will be key. Increasingly passengers expect to buy onboard and soon they will know to pre-order exactly what they want in advance. The key to success is for the buy-on-board menu to become more exciting and innovative.

Stephen Templeton talks culinary creations

Stephen Templeton, dnata catering’s new global head of culinary, talks grand ambitions and contemporary style

I ‘ve come from a restaurant and event hospitality background at Rhurbarb in the UK, catering for VIPs and celebrities who always expected us to be at the forefront of trends, innovation and style. Now it is time to bring that level of contemporary high-end catering to the airline world.

It’s time to move away from that chicken and beef staple and bring cool, contemporary no-fuss food onboard where simple, quality, seasonal ingredients become superstars, presented with a wow factor that makes the meal a key reason to book a specific flight.

Creating a dnata DNA
I started working with dnata Catering as a consultant six years ago, feeding the high street demands and trends we saw at Rhubarb into the operation. Now the goal is to take that a step further. With an ever-growing network of 65 catering locations across 13 countries, the biggest challenge is to create a global culture that everyone connects with and understands, plus clear goals and a way of working which every member of staff can identify with and which supports a specific dnata Catering style. We are creating a dnata DNA which will be recognised as our hallmark worldwide and the quality of the food will be at the heart of everything.

On trend
Chefs become chefs because they like to cook and want to be creative with food. They want to be proud of what they produce and that means buying great seasonal product and working with it in exciting ways. We will support them in that completely, empowering them to respond to cool culinary trends such as smoking, sousing, drying and pickling. In the wider culinary world everyone is using these techniques and airline caterers must apply modern twists to their offer too.

Special meals
The issue of special meals is massive. On a recent flight out of Dublin, over 60% of the passengers requested a special meal. For too long airlines have had this trend on the back burner and seen it as a nuisance but these lifestyle eating choices are here to stay and we have to embrace them, create libraries of dishes that work, and present special meals so they look as good as any other meal. We will draw on the undoubted talents of the team and in a cut-throat market present the most exciting and innovative choices onboard.

Daniel Kerzner talks investment

Our new A330-200s will all be retrofitted throughout with a new look and feel for all cabins – Upper Class, Premium and Economy. As well as ‘Virginising’ the new aircraft this investment allows us to open the door on future enhancements so we have been looking at and designing for the future onboard customer experience.

Always connected
These day Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) have become a permanent extension of our customers and a connection to us. The digital experience is therefore at the forefront of the work we are doing and is likely to be so on our A350 aircraft too next year.

As we think about connectivity we are also thinking about how it affects our crew. By giving them tablet computers we can provide them with more, easily-accessible information which enables them to create a more personalised service experience onboard. For us, it’s not about monetising the experience but enhancing it overall. We are constantly updating the crew apps and we are looking at what new functionalities we can add. For us though, the ‘Virgin Magic’ happens through the crew themselves so the technology has to support them.

Suite success
On redesigning the Upper Class cabins some attributes had to be there as a baseline including lie-flat seats, all-aisle access, wifi and IFE, which were then overlaid with Virgin’s own new design narratives and developments. We have, for example, created three types of suite: Love Suites, Corner Suites and Freedom Suites, so we can offer customers a seating arrangement that best suits their needs whether they are travelling with a partner or want privacy.

Onboard ‘magic’
Airlines have to differentiate their product and we’re now seeing people travel with us because they’re getting something they won’t get anywhere else. We’re looking at how people spend their time onboard, how they use their space and then we’re adapting the offer to suit those activities. When you walk onto a Virgin Atlantic aircraft, you know it’s different to other airlines. The investments go to create that unique environment – it’s a combination of elements that create the passenger experience – design, IFE, food and crew

Gerard Bertholon talks food waste and flavour

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates U.S. food waste to be about 30-40%
of the food supply. Most food ends up in landfills and much of it is fruit, vegetables, roots and tubers.

At Cuisine Solutions we are challenging this, especially the waste of the parts of fruits and vegetables that are normally thrown away. We have developed an extraction process in which we cook the peels, leaves, husks and seeds using the sous-vide technique at a low temperature, for a long time. It extracts the flavours and produces a very pure product that retains all the natural minerals and nutrients. We then cryoconcentrate.

Cryoconcentration is the process in which water and solids are separated during freezing. Dr. Bruno Goussault started experimenting with the technique several years ago and has trained numerous chefs in it worldwide including three-star Michelin chef Yannick Alleno, who is using it for 80% of his sauces. He takes a traditional French sauce and using extraction and cryoconcentration makes them tastier and healthier by using less butter, sugars and fats. You can use 100% of the cucumber. The peels, seeds and the inside all have a different taste. You can make a sauce or a dressing and add cryoconcentrate at the end to add flavour.

Most recently Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud brought their chefs to Cuisine Solutions’ Culinary Research Education Academy (CREA) in Washington D.C. for training by Dr. Goussault. We work with over 140 fruit and vegetables including corn husk and hair, onion peels, artichoke petals, mushroom caps, celery peels, carrot peels, cucumber peels, clementine, blood oranges, tomatoes, beet skins and fennel. The process creates healthy sauces because we retain/preserve minerals and nutrients through the freezing process and using it in a sauce can intensify flavour without the need to add fats or sugars, so the result is low calorie but an amazing flavour.

You can taste the freshness and can actually get more flavour from the peel than the centre. The peels and skins also hold many of the nutrients and minerals. Mixologists are starting to use the technique to add flavour to cocktails.

In the air, people say food loses its taste. We believe that with cryoconcentration it is possible to elevate the dining experience for all passengers.

Roger Williams talks high-speed rail

In America there seems to be a constant conundrum – big businesses are maintained by and rely on burning fossil fuels, including the massive air and road transport industries. But whilst many recognise that can’t continue they also don’t want to damage the economy or jobs.

That’s where Andy Kunz comes in. He’s the president and ceo of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association and has been making the case for spreading high-speed rail across the U.S. His vision for sustainable transport includes a 17,000-mile national network to be completed by 2030. Is that a pipe dream or could it really be the new American Dream?

Recently he set out his top 10 reasons for the change ranging from being carbon neutral through to safety, job creation, city and housing regeneration and using rail development as a tool for economic growth. In short, many of the things countries and communities have already benefited from with high-speed rail in Europe and many other parts of the world.

2030 is the end game but planning starts now – so my message to Andy is don’t forget the additional benefits of a great customer experience and good design in the space, and build in capabilities early on in your process.

The reduced stress and improved well-being that passengers experience when properly looked after in transit, in stations and onboard is always underestimated but makes such a difference to customer satisfaction. It’s a factor forgotten at our peril and often the distinction between commercial success and failure in any new enterprise.

The rail hospitality industry, led by members of IRCG, is well equipped to help define the best onboard service solutions, with experts in the design of retail and catering concepts, brands, supply chains, service areas, equipment, technology and logistics; so plan early for a great passenger experience and it will pay dividends for the future success of any new high-speed rail operations and the customers alike!

Peter Rebelo Coelho, LSG Group, talks rail

The rail market in Europe is set to open up in 2020. As a result, each rail operator will need to reassess and re-evaluate its strategic positioning in a decidedly more competitive marketplace. In this new environment, the customer experience, which includes both the complimentary and retail onboard catering, will undeniably become an even more important key differentiator.

Many already recognise that a new service concept can add value to the customer’s experience and see the advantages of working with catering specialists to develop these. They can draw on our capabilities in concept and menu design, catering, logistics and end-to-end IT to enrich the passenger experience in all classes, at the best value.

See you at InnoTrans
This year at InnoTrans our slogan will be: “Indulge your passengers with an enriched customer experience”. We will demonstrate our capabilities as an integrator but also showcase the new Evertaste division launched earlier this year, offering packaged products and convenience-food solutions. This range of ready-to-eat products is a way rail operators can access creative food solutions made to the highest global standards, in any temperature range.

Innovative concepts
Like airlines, rail operators are looking for new innovative onboard concepts designed to cost, and our long experience in aviation helps put us ahead of the game in terms of understanding market trends, needs and demands of travellers.
There are significant differences in the operative requirements of the rail and air sectors, but at their core both are focused on enriching their passengers’ onboard experiences.

Rail growth
We see the rail market as one of the growth areas for our business, especially in Europe. With our knowledge in this field and our expert brands for developing catering and hospitality, equipment, packaged products and onboard retail, we are well equipped to help and excited to customise concepts according to the rail operators’ needs. Increasingly it will be about that need to differentiate the offer, in an increasingly competitive market.

LSG Group will be promoting itself from Stand 324 in Hall 1.1
Onboard Hospitality will be working in partnership with the International Rail Catering Group to run the inaugural Onboard Hospitality Forum – Rail, during the InnoTrans.

Learn More

Air Catering Association gets ambitious

Following the launch of the new Air Catering Association, (ACA) we ask new md Fabio Gamba to share his aims and ambitions in the new role

For decades the airline catering sector has been somehow hidden, it has not been seen or respected as a real industry and it really is time for this to change.

My background has always been related to air transport, in assoications (airlines and air traffic management), or one of the OEMs. I was always curious why the one area in the airline value chain that had no clear trade body was catering. This astonished me. In the past catering operations belonged to the airlines so airline bodies could represent their interests to some extent. Today, catering is much more independent and the busineses that support it have to react and respond to changes in different ways. They need better ways to make their value and needs known.

Perhaps the key reason the five founding members have formed ACA now is the increasing volume and burden of legislation governing airlines. The legislation cascades down onto the caterers and they have to comply, but they have no opportunity to be involved in the formation of regulations which are often created without them in mind at all. They need ways to influence that decision making.

Best practice
For a relatively young industry, airline catering is very well consolidated and mature, especially when compared to the number of airlines it serves. It has the expertise and experience to set and impose its own standards and establish best practise from within. It needs to define the standards it is working to and can then lead and influence legislators rather than simply implementing what is being imposed from elsewhere. In areas such as food labelling, safety, security or the environment we are confident we can drive positive change, from within.

It is also true that in the 21st century the passenger expects full choice at their fingertips, and transparency in everything they do. Caterers are becoming more visible and have to take control of their own destiny. We have to show we are a key stakeholder in aviation and show the added value we bring consumers and the global economy in terms of jobs, revenue, service and experience. We have a very compelling story to tell, we have to roll up our sleeves, reveal the incredible facts about our industry and then get out there to communicate and demystify it. It is time to move out of the shadows and shine a light on the immense contribution we make to aviation.

Getting the wow factor

Gategroup is going back to its roots and focusing on food. Gottfried Menge, vp group culinary excellence, explains how people are key

We’re linking culinary excellence with operational excellence by investing in people and equipment.For example, Gate Gourmet is now working with state-of-the-art ovens from Rational and holding workshops so that our chefs really understand the potential of the technology. It’s not just about putting the food in and pressing a button, we can programme these ovens to work for different needs and we’ve even worked with Rational to develop an app which allows us to see the performance of our ovens across the world.

As proud as we are to be implementing this fast-moving technology, Gate Gourmet is still a people business and we are investing heavily in our staff. We’ve hired new chefs across all regions, even recruiting from the Michelin-star field – chefs like Dennis Pochert, the youngest ever Michelin-star chef in Switzerland, who is now working on menu development in our Zurich kitchen. As well as an executive chef in every region we now also have an operational executive chef who is responsible for managing the overall process.

Awareness through training
It’s hard to control what happens once our food is onboard but by hiring the right people and working with crew to help them understand our meals we can produce what people expect these days, a restaurant experience in the sky.

We hold crew days and workshops where chefs create and explain the food in front of them. Any waiter is proud to serve food if they are empowered by knowledge about it.
We must not punish those who cannot afford First! Don’t serve a tray with 15 items which add up to nothing – you have to create wow factors and make dining onboard an experience. At Gate Gourmet we aim to create meals with atmosphere.

Be brave
The airline industry is vulnerable so risk taking is not common but we will never be scared of making changes and moving forward. The Absolutely One concept for LATAM was uncharted territory – bringing a one plate restaurant-style concept to its long haul Economy – but this went on to win the Onboard Hospitality Awards Catering Innovation award this year.

This is just the start of a journey. We have exciting and creative management and culinary is back at the forefront of what we do – it’s in our DNA

New horizons En Route

Following the retirement of Alison Lessmann, founder of En Route, new md Robert Dalboth looks ahead to new opportunities and trends.

It’s an exciting time for our industry. The quality of everything the industry does has increased and we are seeing an upswing in requests for real innovation and choice. Airline catering budgets have become slightly bigger and suddenly price isn’t the first thing buyers talk about.

There is a new interest in regional products, provenance and sustainable packaging. This all adds complexity to onboard programmes but complexity is what we thrive on! The lines are blurring between cabins too. The Economy passenger of today may well be in Business tomorrow and wherever they sit, they increasingly expect to be surprised and entertained by the onboard offer. They want it to come with a real sense of theatre.

Can do culture
En Route is in great shape to respond to this change, largely thanks to the tremendous internal culture Alison always fostered. I believe in that too, having been a part of it for the past eight years and having seen how it enables the business to thrive.

En Route is known for its agility and a ‘no challenge too difficult’ approach, so looking ahead we will build on this, focusing more than ever on our products and on our geographical reach. We are pushing out across Europe, developing operations in the Middle East, Far East and Australasia, and building our footprint in the US.

Connecting brands
Product wise we will continue to focus most on what we are really good at – our bakery heritage, innovative cheese ranges, hot hand-held snacks and snack boxes.

Onboard retail is clearly going to grow significantly and a big part of that will be about bringing retail brands onboard. The consumer has confidence in brands they already know, and increasingly those brands are also keen to be onboard but they don’t always understand the constraints and logistical demands. This is where our expertise can help both parties and ensure that big name brands, such as Kraft Heinz and Nando’s, get onboard in a form which suits crew operations and galley requirements, maximises yield and is as environmentally-sensitive as possible. It takes time to align their needs and working practices but this is something we are keen to do more of.

We have ambitious growth plans and being part of dnata has helped us decentralise our model and accelerate our development. We are well placed to put our ‘design-deliver-delight’ mantra into effect.

Unstoppable trends with Federico Germani

Six months after becoming gategroup cco, Federico Germani tells us how the smartphone is driving catering into a new era, fast

The smartphone and the technology around it are giving passengers the power to better control their experience. That brings tremendous opportunities for airlines but also puts great pressure on the final mile of the catering journey.

Technology will be a strong driver for the industry in the coming years, transforming the passenger experience. We are investing heavily in it by partnering, for example, with technology leaders Black Swan to help unlock the potential. We believe the opportunities are very exciting, not just in food service but in onboard retail and every element of buy-on-board logistics.

Unstoppable trends
The whole airline industry is undergoing a major technological transformation with onboard wifi becoming standard and growing demand from passengers for control and information throughout their journey.

But technology is not just about the passenger, it is integral to the success of the entire global supply chain. If you are increasing passenger choice and extending pre-order options, every touchpoint along the way must have the data and technology to deliver. There is no doubt pre-ordering 30 minutes before departure will be with us very soon for both Economy and Business. We will deliver on that thanks to our investment in data analytics which ensure accurate load predictions. The food won’t be made in that last half an hour but the data will tell us long before what will be required.

Reality check
Having spent much of my career on the other side of the fence, within airlines (most recently LATAM), I did not fully appreciate until now the true complexity of airline catering. I’d visited kitchens and airport units of course but seeing the scale, performance, efficiency, consistency and true complexity of that last mile of the operation was eye-opening. The importance of a caterer being a true partner with an airline, sharing the same objectives, systems and integrated technology is absolutely fundamental to the passenger experience.

The opportunities available through true partnerships are immense. Now I fully realise the investment caterers such as gategroup make in their people, their world-class chefs, efficiencies and technology. These investments are all designed to support the airlines’ passenger experience. Airlines should be very reassured at how advanced the thinking and investment is, it is this that will help them leap frog ahead and achieve the vision so many talk about of the personalised, connected passenger experience.

In Air Travel Experience takes off

Former gate group executive Anne De Hauw has launched IN Air Travel Experience and is looking to shake up the passenger journey. Here she explains how…

Until now, there has been a gap in the market for a neutral, independent company that analyses the passenger journey and identifies and improves the touch points.

At IN Air Travel Experience we look at the full travel experience, from booking to arrival. As specialists in air travel we can design end-to-end travel experiences which boost customer satisfaction, increase loyalty and generate savings.

How do we do it? By really listening to what passengers and airlines want. But we offer more than ideation and consulting – we want to be an accelerator of change for airlines and an incubator for start-ups.

Trust & transparency
We take a soft approach but we want to get our hands dirty! We research, analyse, interview and experience the journey before coming up with a solution which embraces the customer, the airline’s strategy, data analytics and technology.

We consult the crew as well as the executives. They are the touch point between the passenger and the airline so they must be engaged in order to improve the overall journey. We are aiming for a cultural change in the organisations who recruit us and people have to believe in it for it to work.

One way we achieve change is through innovation workshops which we organise, manage and moderate for airlines.
Airlines often have people working in silos and as a consequence have different providers for different products which they have to bring together in a cohesive passenger experience – we can do that.

IN Air Travel Experience is building a network of disruptive, specialised start-ups which we can match-make with airlines. Their combined and niche expertise can transform the passenger journey.

Thinking differently
Together, we will design and implement an end-to-end experience using our expertise in food concepts, brands, sustainability, comfort, technology, inflight entertainment and loyalty programmes. We share our know-how!

Not only can we save airlines money, through reducing costs and weight, we can save them time and save the planet.

I love this industry, I love to travel and I’m passionate about people. With trust and transparency, team work and thinking differently we can make big changes to the passenger journey and have fun!

All change

Change is coming. Jan-Peter Gaense, Lufthansa Systems, predicts tech consolidations and the need for supportive partnerships

Consolidation is coming to the industry. There are too many providers doing the same thing for a market that is not limitless.

In the wireless IFE space, for example, in order to survive, you need something special. We’ve got great technology, lots of customers, and both Retail inMotion and Lufthansa Technik behind us to support our customers. In the past, we’ve lowered our prices to compete. I think that was wrong. With our resources, we can offer something special to customers in terms of strong technology and solid support.

As for the connectivity providers, looking at the statements they all publish it does not appear there are any profits to show so far. So I also believe we will see a consolidation in that area too.

Connectivity is the future of IFE, because onboard internet is the prerequisite for real-time communication, streaming live events and additional services from external partners. Connectivity remains our focal point and we are currently working with partners Inmarsat and Lufthansa Technik to install broadband internet on the short- and medium-haul fleets of Lufthansa, Eurowings and Austrian Airlines.

The BoardConnect suite: Portable, Classic and Plus won Best Use of Onboard Technology in this year’s Onboard Hospitality Awards. The latest version 5.0 has a new user interface and open platform architecture which enables airlines to run their own applications and those of external partners through it.

Award winning
Passengers simply connect to the onboard wifi to access all of the connected services via a standardised user interface that can reflect the corporate design of each airline. Airlines have numerous options for integrating new offers and generating additional revenues because the suite is designed for fast and easy technical integration.

New customers for BoardConnect Portable include Virgin Australia, which is installing the boxes on its smaller regional aircraft. The airline was one of our first customers for BoardConnect in 2013, and is now upgrading its Classic systems with Gogo connectivity. We are also retrofitting 50 of Indonesian airline Citilink’s A320s with BoardConnect, with connectivity by Inmarsat’s GX Aviation. •

Is the trolley dead?

At any moment, 700,000 passengers are flying above our heads,
and with inflight connectivity we are now able to interact in real time with this population offering brands, services and targetted offers onboard. Shopping becomes part of inflight entertainment.

Passenger personalisation
But passengers won’t buy products or services just because they have the time to browse online catalogues.
To be successful, the deals being offered must be attractive, exclusive and personalised to the passenger’s profile as well as being available at a very competitive price. The challenge is how to achieve the best personalisation of the offers using the data airlines have.

Our solution is Inflight Shoppertainment.Any time passengers connect they find new, fun and exciting offers including: deals on products and services related to the zone, region or country the plane is flying over, a ‘Group Buying’ scheme, where the more passengers that buy the deal on the same flight, the better the offer and ‘Flash Sales’ available for short 15 minute time periods. The technology allows airlines to offer special offers over the duration of the flight in an engaging interactive way that a trolley service never could achieve.

Win win
Shoppertainment is a source of new revenue for airlines and accelerates the return on investment. And at the same time it’s a great platform for brands and services to reach millions of passengers while onboard. It’s fun for passengers and offers them great deals and exclusive products so it is a win, win.

It is futile to waste time on broad catalogues or large offers – airlines will never compete with Amazon or pure players, but instead they can invest on animations, commercial offers, exclusivity and merchandising. Inflight e-commerce must be thought of as inflight entertainment, it has to be interesting, dedicated and frequently renewed. You should have a different selection at every flight, every month and even every day.

SKYdeals is already deploying in Europe, the US and in the Asian airlines as well as working on cruise, rail and autonomous car solutions. Shoppertainment has a bright future.


In Conversation with Thomas Berti

Our target is to achieve global growth and make Spiriant a core player in the equipment sector, and we are well on our way.

This year has seen us implement a strategic new structure, where we now have game-changing product segment experts in each core area: Premium Experience, Crew & Service, Leisure & Smart Solutions, Onboard Comfort and Amenity Kits. The effect on our offering is incredibly exciting and transformative.

We have also been running cooperative workshops to better understand client needs and challenges, and engaging in an open forum to find solutions, even ahead of a specific demand fully emerging.

We don’t know an airline’s passengers better than they do but we do have the expertise in materials, technology, catering and design to bring new solutions.

A new dawn
The airline industry is being transformed with the growth of low cost carriers and new business models. Old paradigms are shifting and airlines are open to change and new suggestions – which is exciting!

A big trend is an intuitive retail model onboard and it’s not just low cost carriers that want this, it’s also premium carriers who are realising it is a necessity. As with any trend, it’s crucial to get it right. Retail success means attractive products that are well-packaged and add value, this is essential if retail is going to work and really enhance the passenger experience.

Shifting concepts
The development of Premium Economy is another one of those shifts in concepts that is changing the industry. We can help airlines easily adapt to this by using smart materials and designs to create modular products which work across classes, building as you go further up the aircraft. We see a growing role for these pick and mix style solutions, they can save airlines rushing to develop a brand new Premium Economy line. For example, harmonising a tableware range to work from lounge to Economy to premium cabins could simplify processes, create cohesion and bring huge savings.

We also have to get wiser with technology. For example, our SkyTrack and SkyLoad solutions greatly help both the airline and crew. They help by defining the location of the products both on the ground and onboard to make life easier. At the end of the day, our aim is the airline’s aim: to enhance the passenger experience.

In Conversation with Robin Padgett

Aviation is currently on a decent upswing, airlines are back and investing in product. There is new money coming into the market, lots of exciting change and some great opportunities.

At dnata we are excited about the future. There is a very strong desire to see culinary expertise lead in product development, especially in the U.S, and this is exactly at the heart of what we do. Our ethos is to build and develop facilities that fully cater all halal and Asian requirements as well as standard catering too. These are the niches we understand well and where we see key growth.

Aussie rules
Australia is currently a dynamic and exciting market. We opened our new Melbourne facilities late last year, combining three units into one, and now cater some 49 airlines across Australia. We are also in the process of rebranding all the Alpha in Australia facilities to the dnata name. We want to keep things simple. Everything we do, from culinary to retail, will be under the dnata Catering name.

Irish eyes
Our new Dublin kitchen opened in January. We’re catering TUI and will add a major Middle East long-haul carrier there in May. We have had interest from six or seven other carriers too and see Dublin fast becoming a major base. The airport will hit 30 million passengers a year this year, it’s an increasingly significant location. Our 400sqm facility is built around our halal and Asian cuisine specialism which we expect to be in demand from Chinese carriers in particular.

American dreams
We have been interested in North America for a while and are delighted to have won the license for Vancouver International Airport. We weren’t particularly thinking of Canada but Vancouver has a strong Asian market and when we looked into it, it was a 
no brainer. Next will be JFK, for which 
we already have customers pre-signed, and then we’ll look to further U.S. locations.

Asian ambitions
We are great fans of the Asian region. Asians love to travel and they love 
food – so do we, so we will definitely look to do more in Asia. We just have to ensure we extend our network at a sustainable pace. It’s certainly an exciting time.

Drink it in

Air Canada’s sommelier, Véronique Rivest, explains how to ensure your onboard drinks menu keeps up with changing tastes

Numerous studies have pointed to how our senses can be affected by the aircraft cabin environment. The altitude, drier air and noise can make wines taste less fruity, sharper and more tannic so it’s important to look for wines with great balance.

Wines that are well made and harmonious tend to taste better in the air. I also avoid wines that are too high in alcohol which increases dehydration. Balanced wines, without too much oak, overripe fruit or excessive alcohol, are also less tiring and more food-friendly.

For every new Air Canada wine list I seek inspiration from Chef Hawksworth’s menus. Overall food friendliness is a key factor in all wine choices and, wherever possible, the specific traits of a wine are matched to individual menu items. But the wines have to be versatile as menu and wine list changes do not always coincide.

I also seek variety so our five International Business Class wines are all from different countries and different varieties. Air Canada serves more than 200 airports on six continents so it’s only right we reflect that. The world of wine is so vast and part of the fun is exploring and discovering new flavours.

Authenticity is key
Guests are not only more knowledgeable about wine but curious and willing to explore so I aim for a balance of classic and lesser-known wines and of course to include one of our great Canadian wines.

Authenticity and respect for the environment also play a major role so my preference is for wines that are a reflection of terroir rather than of very manipulative winemaking. Right now, we are featuring a chardonnay from Tawse winery in Ontario. It’s one of Canada’s top wineries, promoting organic and biodynamic farming, and produces quintessentially Canadian wines that we love to showcase.

And from the traditional southern French region of Cahors, the birth place of the malbec grape, we are featuring Le Combal from the highly-regarded Cosse-Maisonneuve, a leader in biodynamics.

Wine is increasingly important in the onboard offer, as guests’ interest in wine is increasing. They ask more questions now and give more feedback. An airline cannot just offer a list of ho-hum wines. Consumers have become very discerning and we plan on keeping their interest piqued with a selection of high quality, authentic and diverse wines, which taste great onboard!

Focus on TRE³

Newrest has expanded its expertise beyond catering with a new retail, equipment and technology subsidary, TRE³. Julie Baxter talks to ceo, Pep Manich, to discover more

After more than 10 years as Air Europa’s inflight service director and an extensive airline career in inflight service and customer experience roles, Pep Manich has hit the ground running as the head of new business TRE³.

The company’s name is an acronym designed to define its activity: TRE³ is for TR (Travel Retail) and E3 (Equipment, Entertainment & Experience), and its mission is to bring onboard products, services, solutions and innovation to airlines and rail operators in support of established caterer Newrest and on its
own account.

Formed early in 2017, as an independent operation vertically integrated into the Newrest group, TRE³’s role is to add value through cost savings and business revenues, and to provide a 360º service to customers. It currently has three European bases: France, Spain and Netherlands, and a number of worldwide collaborations.

TRE³ will collaborate with Newrest to provide product development and innovation, and oversee the manufacturing of onboard equipment, new concepts and solutions. Its specialisms include buy-on-board products for retail, technology and digital products, media and training, with the option of a one-stop shop service.

Manich says: “We don’t plan to wait for the customer to come to us, our goal is to anticipate the changing demands of the passenger and offer new and exciting solutions to meet that demand. Key to this will be our technology solutions which we will use in creative ways to support new initiatives and efficiency.”

TRE³ is already advising on, defining and implementing new sales concepts for retail onboard, supporting airline BoB product management, sales analysis, crew training, marketing, digital delivery, media and POS tools.

TRE³ also brings expertise in rotable and disposable plastics, paper and carton packaging, chinaware, textiles, glassware, amenity kits, galley equipment, stainless steel and comfort equipment. It supplies all Newrest’s catering consumables, packaging design and development and handling services.

Manich adds: “One of the key benefits of the group’s structure is that our travel retail division can negotiate more strongly in the market and hence offer more competitive prices to customers. It is in the TRE³ DNA to conquer every challenge with a positive attitude, aptitude, ambition and skills.”

Newrest sees TRE³ as the answer to future challenges, and TRE³ is determined to be just that.”

IFSA backs Air Catering Association

US based trade organization, IFSA has been quick to give its approval to the newly formed Brussels based Air Catering Association (ACA) with parallel interests, founded by dnata, DO & CO, gategroup, the LSG Group and Newrest. Here Joe Leader, ceo IFSA responds to the launch.

As one of the most highly-regulated prepared foods in the world food supply, onboard food and beverage safety continues to be a matter of utmost importance for the global inflight industry. Thus, the presence of another organisation with common goals will only result in greater support for issues, regulations and interests impacting our members, and the advancement of the inflight food, beverage and service industry worldwide.

IFSA applauds the executive-level participation of the giants of airline catering within the Airline Catering Association, as it advances the industry’s mission, and we welcome the opportunity to work with the ACA to further advance those goals. For over 50 years, IFSA has been focused on furthering the airline onboard and catering industry through our work with the European Union and deep relationships with other government institutions worldwide. It continues to be IFSA’s duty to lead, develop, and represent the global business interests of the onboard services market.

Acting for more than five decades as the leading global onboard and catering organisation, IFSA works to identify challenges, and is committed to providing solutions for members and the industry as a whole. Through the work and dedication of IFSA’s Government Affairs & Education Committee and European Union (EU) Task Force, IFSA has served as the voice for airline and onboard companies with regulators and stakeholders worldwide, assuring that the industry’s voice is heard as new and revised regulations impact airline, catering, and passengers. IFSA’s European office in Brussels continues work to address issues specific to Europe.

IFSA is always looking to extend its presence worldwide, and strengthen its working relationships with other industry associations, publications and groups.

Erdmann Rauer explains the launch of ACA

Following last week’s launch of the new Airline Catering Association, its first president, Erdmann Rauer, discusses the association’s aims and ambitions with Onboard Hospitality’s Julie Baxter

Erdmann Rauer, ceo of the LSG Group, has been championing the idea of an industry association for some years. He admits: “It’s been a long journey to get here,” but as the wraps come off the new Airline Catering Association (ACA), it is clear his vision of a global organisation for the industry is now shared with the leaders of businesses which together represent around 85% of the onboard catering market.

Five leading airline catering companies: dnata, DO & CO, gategroup, LSG Group and Newrest, have stepped forward to launch ACA with a ‘significant’ but undisclosed investment committed to get the ball rolling. A non-profit international organisation, based in Brussels, Belgium, ACA will have its own managing director, Fabio Gamba, and aims to drive and develop strategic progress for the industry.

Rauer says: “Ours is a unique industry but has never really been organised like other industries in terms of having an industry body representing it for legal, regulatory or development purposes. From the front end perspective we are all dealing with the same type of customers and have the same challenges, so we have common interests on how our industry should look. This is something I have felt strongly about for some years and once the ceo of gategroup and other key partners became supportive, we came together in Madrid to discuss and progress the association in December.”

ACA will hold its first Strategic Committee meeting on April 8, during WTCE when it will draw up its priorities. Rauer anticipates these will initially revolve around regulatory, taxation and security issues and joint operational concerns such as food labeling, invoicing and the like.

He adds: “The key point is that ACA will be a global association. We want to attract new members – but we also want to have a tight enough structure to ensure we have an efficient decision-making process.

“There will be a membership threshold of around 500m euros in global revenue but we will keep under review how we can add new members, both from airline-owned catering operations and associated industries covering tableware and amenities and the like.”

The global aspirations of the association, will also see it reaching out to other established organisations such as IFSA. Rauer says: “We see a very big opportunity to work with the people of IFSA too with their obvious standing in the US market. The response so far has been good.”

The association will seek to provide direction and leadership for the industry and Rauer concludes: “Yes, we are competitors and that won’t change but we have to learn to work together on some levels as an industry. This is about leadership and it is in no way contradictory of competitors to come together for the greater good of their airline customers and the passengers.

“Just as I have long seen the importance of bringing all the big five businesses plus other entrepreneurs together at an annual show (WTCE), so too is it important that industry leaders have a vision and do something for the industry to give it shape. This has benefits for the whole sector, in particular for our customers, in the longer term.”

Creative solutions

Stefan Patermann, ceo Retail inMotion, looks to the future as he tells us how his team designs retail and tech solutions for over 40 airlines

Retail inMotion has seen tremendous growth as a 360° onboard retail provider in the past two years. We are a young, agile company full of creative, ambitious, problem solvers striving to change how this industry works.

We manage fully-outsourced onboard retail programmes for some of the world’s largest airlines. We are especially strong in Europe, where we work with over 50% of the continent’s airlines, but we’re moving into the Americas and Asia too.

In the short-term, we’re focused on rolling out our software solutions and aim to stay ahead of the curve by creating game-changing technology, products and services which drive ancillary revenue.

One of our biggest challenges has been scaling up to meet the growth in onboard retail. Five years ago, we had only one customer, today, we’re working with airlines on five continents. Our integration into the LSG Group has certainly helped.

Our key goal is to anticipate and meet the needs of the industry by combining strong, reliable solutions with agile and innovative software. We aim to solve problems in creative ways.

While there will always be a strong market for airline catering and culinary excellence for long-haul operations, we see a clear trend towards significant and steady growth in onboard retail in mid- and long-haul operation. In Europe, 67% of all air travellers receive an onboard retail service. Other markets globally are moving in this direction too, especially Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

We focus on technology and product solutions that give airlines complete control over their ancillary scheme and reach passengers when and where they want to be reached. I firmly believe that the way airlines interact with customers will fundamentally change in the next decade. That’s why we have started to deliver our end-to-end retail platform, connecting passengers throughout the entire travel chain to ancillary services.

We have also developed solutions like mobile payments, IFE/retail integration, comprehensive pre-ordering and reliable data collection that take the guesswork out of product selection.

It’s impossible to deny the financial benefits of a well-developed, well-functioning onboard retail programme and I think that across the travel retail market, managers see that. Add in the personalisation and choice these programmes bring passengers and it’s a win-win all round.