World Travel Catering & Onboard Services

World Travel Catering & Onboard Services

September 1st, 2020
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A common thing we have all heard from commercial airline passengers is that airplane food is not exactly something they look forward to during their flight, but when you are paying upwards of $8,000 an hour to charter a large-cabin private jet, bad food is something that can no longer be excused.

Serving food at 40,000 ft. introduces a number of problems. For starters, your taste buds become less perceptive, as you lose your taste of salt by up to 50 percent (although for newer private jets that have a lower atmospheric pressure, this becomes less of an issue.) Also, there is the low humidity of the cabin, which weakens your sense of smell and further diminishes your ability to taste and can cause food on board to dry up.

A skilled chef can avoid these problems by seasoning their food with sea salt, knowledgeable use of sauce and packing their recipes with rich ‘umami’ flavors, utilizing ingredients such as soy sauce, mushrooms and slow-cooked stocks. However cooking for airline and private jet passengers is not just about flavor, but more importantly about hygiene and safety.

Champagne and caviar, elaborate dishes prepared by Michelin star chefs, served to VIP’s drinking vintage wine. That might be the image you would expect about dining aboard private jets. In fact, it is by far the exception than the rule, says, experts.

“I serve champagne maybe five times a year,” says Steffany Kisling, a contract flight attendant and the founder of staffing and training company SkyAngels.

Launched in 2012 adjacent to Aircraft Interiors Expo, WTCE attracted 194 exhibitors, 971 visitors, including 330 airline & rail representatives. Michel Quissac, Servair, opened the Taste of Travel Theatre treating the audience to a taste of First-Class fine dining. The 2012 event gained industry recognition and was nominated for an AEO Exellence Award.

The show continued to grow increasing to 200+ exhibitors, attracting 1,140 visitors including 350 airline and rail operators. The introduction of the Drinks Reception proved popular with both exhibitors and visitors, giving everyone the chance to relax after a busy day at the show. The Taste of Travel Theatre expanded to include wine tasting and the popular brand comparison session.

The show attracted over 60 new suppliers, to accommodate the growth we extended into the upper hall creating a focal area for new exhibitors. With 245 exhibitors, 1,460+ visitors including 450+ airline and rail operators the show exceeded expectations. The Taste of Travel Theatre grew to include presentations alongside the popular onboard chefs, the new Networking Lunches also proved popular with visitors.

Due to the success of WTCE with exhibitors increasing to 300+ the show relocated to the A Halls of the Hamburg Messe. New features were introduced including: What’s New Onboard showcasing products newly launched to market and the Travel Retail Zone & Trail further expanding the shows content. Visitor numbers increased to 1,750+ including 600+ airline and rail representatives. WTCE will stay in the A Halls where it can showcase the very best products and services to the widest international audience possible.

The passenger experience is finally becoming reliable, seamless and connected because of the growing consumer demand for joined-up journeys, and we’ll see the aviation industry working towards this goal for the foreseeable future. Merchandising and distribution should be a focus, with airlines offering new and better ways to inform passengers about what they can purchase onboard, and the technology available with which to buy food, products or services. Informed passengers have better expectations about what they’ll find onboard the aircraft, which improves the passenger experience, so it’s important for airlines to understand this so they can compete in an increasingly competitive market.

There is still the issue of disjointed passenger experiences at airports and onboard, even between entering an airline lounge and then boarding a plane. There are barriers because of different ownerships and competing demands, so airlines need to be clear about what they want for passengers, and how they plan to work with airports, and vice versa. Changes need to come from a cooperative effort, rather than a direct demand from one party to another.

In fact, collaboration between airlines and airports is more important than ever. A recent difficulty arose between Air Asia and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), over improvement payments to 39 airports, because neither party wanted to pay for improvements. However, this limits the progress of passenger experience, ultimately damaging both reputation and revenue.

In terms of technology, free wi-fi for all passengers at all stages of their journey would be the biggest gamechanger, but that’s not always possible given differences in connectivity around the world. Air traffic delays also prevent the passenger experience from being positive, despite the additional services offered to improve their comfort and wellbeing and offset any inconveniences caused.

Having attended Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) for the last four years, it’s clear that show organisers understand the key trends and challenges in the aviation industry and provide a jam-packed week of opportunities to learn from the most sought-after experts. There is a mix of blue sky thinking and long-term future gazing seminars, but for me the real highlights are the sessions which focus on practical and actionable solutions to current issues.

In 2016 WTCE celebrated it’s 5th Anniversary, attendees at the annual drinks reception enjoyed taking part in the selfie competition and indulging in specially created celebratory cakes! Over 300 suppliers showcased a fantastic array of products for the onboard industry, which kept the 1,900 visitors including 750 airline and rail buyers very busy over the 3 days. The Taste of Travel Theatre was popular with attendees enjoying live demonstrations and sampling delicious culinary creations.

The 6th edition of the show returned 4-6 April 2017 with a new Focus on World Travel Retail. Showcasing a wide range of luxury Duty Free and Travel Retail goods for sale onboard the aircraft. Providing a one stop shop for all the airline’s onboard requirements! There was also an improved Taste of Travel programme, a spotlight on travel Apparel and the popular What’s New Onboard feature area.

2018 saw the show expand into 4 halls with over 350 international suppliers. Each hall had a New Exhibitor Village attracting over 100 suppliers new to the show. 2,000+ visitors attended including over 800 airline and rail buyers looking to source the latest new and innovative products to help differentiate their brand. The Taste of Travel Theatre returned with a great line-up of future orientated presenters and world-class chefs. There was also a new Business Meeting Hub, expanded What’s New Onboard feature and new look Spotlight on Travel Apparel.

Now in it’s 8th year the show attracted over 4000 attendees all looking to network, exchange ideas and stay up to date with industry developments. With many new and innovative products on display in 2019 airlines, rail operators and onboard  caterers attended the show with the knowledge they would find new suppliers and new products to excite and delight their customers. Education was also key at the 2019 event with many hot topics up for debate including, sustainability, free-from dining and the reduction of plastic onboard.

This year, technology and associated products are going to be huge in rail catering. This move will make our jobs easier, as well as offering a better passenger experience as it will help us deliver the service they have come to expect. We currently offer pre-ordering for standard seats as there isn’t enough food onboard to feed everyone from the trolley. I am also seeing huge advances in the quality of food onboard, with a focus on sustainable and local sourcing. As an east coast service, we look to offer customers food from the east coast with plenty of Scottish items on the menu on our Newcastle-Edinburgh service.

Gin has also become a big seller with customers often keen to consume alcohol during their journey. We are also ramping up our capability for handheld payment technology, but we are still facing some challenges here due to connectivity issues while in transit.

Overall, passengers have high demands and there is not just one product or service that would make a journey for them – the onboard industry needs to continue innovating and upgrading technology in all areas to answer customer preferences. This goes from seating upgrades to food quality, ease of ordering and payment and technological devices that allow that to happen.

Passengers expect the best of everything and the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo, which I have attended several times, is the best way to stay ahead of the competition and source the latest products and services for transitioning into the onboard industry for a forward-thinking, well-subscribed service.



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