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Waste not: What happens to leftover airline food?

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Written by editor

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

Have you ever wondered what happens to unused or unconsumed food on airlines, as sometimes nearly-full food trays go back into the food carts? Do the airlines distribute it to the poor? “Unfortuantely we can’t do that,” says Jane Zdrojewski, Operations Manager, Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC), near the Dubai airport. If the food has spoilt or become contaminated, it would be too much of a risk to take. “But what we will use are unopened biscuits which have not been distributed to the passengers and are kept in storage. We give these to the staff in the canteen,” she adds.

Handle with care

As we move through the sprawling facility with four huge kitchens where about 135,000 meals are prepared daily, there are questions on the breakage of the equipment made of glass or porcelain. In flights in the Japanese sector, for example, lots of porcelain tea pots would be used. Zdrojewski explains that a lot of old porcelain that once served Emirates passengers in Business and First Class is now at the bottom of the Jebal Ali Sea. When asked if that would not lead to pollution, she says, “It’s an environmental initiative from our side. We are helping grow oysters. This sea was all sand. Marine researchers from New Zealand said that porcelain on the seabed helps oysters propagate. So, we’ve taken this initiative.”

Drink it up

She also gives us some interesting info on the manner in which wine is procured by major airlines. Naturally all leading wine companies would like to give an exposure of their product to customers, particular in the premier classes.

So airlines get many labels from different wine makers at a rate “much less than you’d pay in supermarkets overseas, but it’s only a certain percentage of their wine stock,” she adds. With this “rationing” it becomes imperative for airlines to keep changing their wine list, as what is available on board has to match the list.

Executive Chef at EKFC Ravi Nage, in charge of the menus for the Indian sub-continent region, explains that costing of passenger meals is carefully worked out, as well as the actual weight. The meals on Emirates flights cost from 50 to 200 AED depending on the class of travel.

As space is limited, particularly in Economy, there is constant effort to see how the size of the tray, which has to carry a meal of 280 gm, can be reduced. But then passengers tend to be testy when it comes to food, not only on taste but also the quantity.

Less is more

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

India is an important sector for the carrier, which has five daily flights out of Mumbai, four from Delhi, three each from Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore and two from Kochi. . “India is a very important sector for us. Just from one Indian city – Mumbai – last year we flew 170,000 economy passengers in just one direction,” adds Nage.