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Table of Contents

Quality In-Flight Catering: Emirates Flight Catering - Part 4

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Chapter 4 Findings

4.1 Introduction

This chapter is about the derivations of the interview answers that were collected in context of the quality maintenance of food in-flight. All these answers are offered by airline flight kitchen associates of Emirates Flight Catering, who are already in the profession and are facing concerns and issues on a day to day basis. The approach is to collect genuine and authentic data without any partial comment or ideas bestowed upon the interviews. All the respondents are practical professional people and are much aware of the kind of importance of their interviews. The core aspects of investigations are based on Importance of In-flight Kitchens, Quality Maintenance, Concern of Hygiene, Food Making Process, In-flight Kitchen Issues and Management and Audit, in context of Emirates Flight Catering.

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4.2 Importance of In-flight Kitchens

The interviewees mentioned about the provisions of having a kitchen in the flight by the airline itself and also declared that there is also the provision for offering contracts to the professionals from Emirates Flight Catering, for the quality oriented food to the passengers. The core emphasis is that a kitchen in the flight must be well handled by professionals from Emirates Flight Catering.   For any airline there are issues of budget and tendency to incur more profit by offering somewhat mediocre food. However, if the airline decides to have professionals then there is every possibility of getting better food items for the passengers.

About the requirements for the maintenance of quality in the catering service, an interviewee states,

“If I were to choose a flight kitchen, I would choose a company that serves ten flights rather than a company that serves to around 30 flights. This is due to the attention and accurate measure in which their operations will be performed.”

According to this declaration, the interviewee means that if the contract of in-flight catering should be offered to professionals from Emirates Flight Catering, but at the same time, it is important that the catering company handles lesser clients to check right quality of the food offered.

4.3 Quality Maintenance

In reference to the maintenance of quality of in-flight catering, the interviewees are of the views that the whole approach depends as per the production process, added by the means to collect raw materials. There is also the emphasis on the personal visits led by the flight kitchen representatives, even to the butchery to check quality product.  According to a interviewee,

“Good flight kitchens are involved with developing the vendor; personally speaking we have been involved a lot with developing our vendors. Developing the vendor means strengthening your supply chain. Training is one of the most important aspects of flight kitchen.”

Moreover, from the interviews, it has been noted that the matter of quality in case of in-flight catering depends a lot in the process of managing hygiene and the price of the food. The taste and availability of different kinds of food, especially related to low cholesterol food, diabetic food, high fibre food, no seafood, vegetarian meal, Hindu meal, glutton free meal, etc; adds an additional edge to the quality standard of the food. It is important for the in-flight catering to offer the passengers with fresher food items, though in many cases meeting the same criteria is not possible, particularly for long-haul flights; there should be enough provisions of both cold and maintained temperature storages in the flight to prevent any trouble to the quality of the food.

4.4 Concern of Hygiene

Issues related to the maintenance of hygiene in case of in-flight catering starts from the collection of raw materials to the production, storage, distribution and presentation process. Under the strict rules of consumer rights and consumer demands followed on global basis, the airlines must remain very particular about the hygiene of the food. Any instance of food poisoning in the flight can cause serious scandal and loss to the company. It is necessary to check the manufacturing and expirations dates in this matter.

Moreover, the maintenance of hygiene has been much specifically noted by an interviewee, in terms of handling clean and well washed kitchen equipment. It is mandatory for every airline to have the provision of cleaning the kitchen equipment by chemicals, effective soap solutions, cold and hot water to make them germ free and free of any harmful effect in the process of in-flight catering. For all the interviewees, the maintenance of hygiene is very important as a simple lack of the same can create negative association with the customer and thereby creating serious damage to the reputation of the company. It is sometimes hard to manage the kitchen equipment, if proper maintenance is not observed; yet the same is integral part of the catering process and should be under strict surveillance.

4.5 Food Making Process

The process of making food for the in-flight catering business is very important it is like the backbone of the entire catering provision. Participation of the professionals from Emirates Flight Catering, in this matter is very important and the same is necessary for the maintenance of quality and hygiene in the entire process of catering.  The interviewees declared that there were instances of pre-preparation of food “two days in advance”. The reason for this is that, it is not possible for the catering group to “cook the meals and produce it as fast as it is required”. This is a definite common practice that is maintained under “clock precise mechanism” of catering for all kinds of in-flight catering services. However, in doing so the company are much chained by the regulations under the maintenance of highest standards quality like ISO9000 or the ISO2001. Concerns related to HACCP (or the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) emphasises a lot over the process of food preparation and thus the quality check at every step. The interviewees also stated that the entire process of making food for in-flight purposes undergoes in-house checking process too. In the words of a participant,

All flight kitchens nowadays have their own in-house lab. If they are small time kitchens, then they go to an outside agency and get their food tested microbiologically. Microbiology is important because lot of food looks good to the eyes but you never know how contaminated it is with bacteria. Microbiology helps you determine the state of the food after a certain number of hours.

4.6 In-flight Kitchen Issues

The concern of in-flight kitchen is a severe matter as there are clashes of cuisine seemed common among the passengers of Emirates Airline. There are some dominant issues of restricting pork (for the Muslims) and beef (for the Hindus) in the same kitchen. Further there are issues like halal and non-halal meat that offends most of the passengers in case of in-flight kitchen.  For any catering company, it is a definite task to make separate arrangement in the same in-flight kitchen, due to space constrain. This is the reason that the basic approach of in-flight concentrates in offering European and American cuisine, with a specification over food items related to chicken and sea food.

4.7 Management and Audit

There are various scientifically upgraded provisions for the maintenance of food quality in the flight. It is a great concern to the entire crew of catering to maintain good food condition for passengers of all type. The very common approach is to maintain the right kind of temperature for the food and the same is managed as,

“For the right temperature we use dry ice slabs. These slabs do not cool the thing, it maintains the temperature. Many airlines now have their gullies or wheel carts which are plugged in by AHU power supply from the aircraft to chill the food when kept there.”

Special care gets bestowed upon long-haul flights. In context of flights with longer durations, an interviewee states,

“...because no amount of dry ice will last for such a long time. So for the safety of the food, it is drilled around 200 times.”

These are though general practices on ground, but when it comes to in-flight catering such provisions are maintained to offer the customers with the beat possible food and services. This is the reason that all the interviewees were laying serious emphasis on the recruitment of professional people from Emirates Flight Catering, in the catering service. These professionals are well trained and understand the need and management of right food in the right condition.

In case of auditing the food items in-flight, the airlines must remain open to all kinds of queries.

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4.8 Conclusion

Eventually, it can be stated that the business of in-flight catering is a difficult job as it need pure professional training and exclusive knowledge about the food quality maintenance, as in Emirates Flight Catering. Considering the in-flight catering as an integral part of any airline business it is an absolute need to have all kinds of facilities and provisions for the storage of the food.  Specialised machines and storage systems for cold kitchen, hot kitchen, bakery and confectionary are mandatory requirements. As a whole there cannot be any room for comprising with quality of the food as the same is going to affect the reputation of the airline directly. The in-flight catering company thus must have well trained and well educated professionals to meet the legal and ethical norms of the business and thereby offering long term sustainability and consumer satisfaction, to the airlines in particular.

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