What do you hate most about eating on planes?

June 27, 2013

Airline-food-Cyprus-Airwa-007

What do you hate most about eating on planes? Is it the soggy sandwiches? The murky liquid that masquerades as coffee?

Or maybe just trying to meet the logistical challenge of eating from a crammed tray without knocking over your drink or flinging your cutlery onto the floor? In a survey in the US, the quality of food ranked surprisingly low among complaints about airline food. The YouGov survey of 1000 travelers found only seven percent buy a meal onboard when travelling on a non-catered airline, but poor-quality food was not the issue.

Limited food options ranked much higher on the complaint scale, along with the cost of what was on offer. Smaller numbers complained that the portion sizes on planes were too small or that there was a lack of healthy options. Personally, I think the worst aspect of airline food, particularly on long international journeys, is the repetition.

The same old salad with strange smoked meat in the corner, the same bread roll, cheese, crackers and chocolate mousse surrounding … oh joy… chicken and rice again.

If it’s not chicken and rice, it’s beef and rice. The food up the front is much more interesting, but less than 20 per cent of passengers are eating that – and even business class passengers get chicken and rice. Having had that rant, I do think we can be rather fussy when it comes to airline food, especially when we’re flying to the other side of the world for under $1500 return.

We love to complain about what we’re served and post dodgy pictures on social media but the logistics of serving hot food to hundreds of passengers, sometimes many hours after take-off, are considerable. And we’ve all seen passengers imbibe their plane fare in ‘free’ alcohol, just because they can.

The editor of airline review website Airreview.com, Jules Lorkin, says catering is a real headache for airlines, as it is expensive to produce, adds weight on aircraft and generates the most complaints. “If you ask passengers who don’t fly regularly how their flight was, the thing that sticks most in minds is often the inflight food,” he says.

Adding to the challenges of serving food at altitude are the complications of serving dozens of different types of meal on one flight, to cover religious beliefs, medical conditions, health fads and general fussiness. Singapore Airlines, for example, now offers more than 30 special meal options; a list that makes fascinating reading.

There are six different types of vegetarian meal – who knew vegies were so complicated? – along with meals that are low fat, low fibre, low lactose, low salt or low calorie.

If you’re anti-carbohydrates, they’ve got you covered. And if you get an ulcer from trying to work out what sort of meal you need, they can handle that too. Cathay Pacific revealed recently it is now serving more than 1.7 million special meals a year. Demand for healthier meals is the biggest factor, with low calorie, low cholesterol and low salt meals in hot demand.

Gluten intolerance is also on the rise, with gluten-free meal requests jumping more than 100 per cent in four years. It’s certainly gotten more complicated, but has there been any improvement in the fare?

In the US study, which only related to short flights, 27 per cent thought airline food had decreased in quality over the past couple of years, while 20 per cent believed it was unchanged and a positive-thinking seven per cent said it had improved. Jules Lorkin believes the most noticeable change is that quantity has been reduced in a bid for better quality.

Airlines that used to serve up full meal trays are now dishing up smaller portions, perhaps with the entrée and dessert cut back but a better hot dish.

Lorkin believes airlines have split into two camps: those that use their food as a sales tactic and those that see it as a necessary evil and constantly chip away at the costs.

“Those carriers which use inflight meals for sales certainly ramp up the celebrity chef element and promise that dining at 30,000 feet will ‘never look so good’,” he says.

“However, it is hard to believe that celebrity chefs like Luke Mangan, Heston Blumenthal or Neil Perry have seen what our meal trays actually look like down the back of the plane.”

Best of a bad lot?

It’s hard not to eat out of boredom when you’re strapped into a seat, so nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin recommends ordering a low calorie meal. Eating high-fibre foods is the most important factor in avoiding digestive ails caused by sitting still, along with staying well hydrated, she says. Bingley-Pullin, of Nutritional Edge in Sydney, tells her clients to drink two litres of water before getting on the plane and to keep drinking (water, that is) throughout the flight.

Source: smh.com.au
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Etihad-Jet Airways deal likely to change business dynamics of Indian aviation

May 4, 2013

Ethad Airways

MUMBAI, India – The recent decision of UAE’s flag carrier, Etihad Airways, to buy 24% stake in Indian carrier Jet Airways Ltd, according to aviation experts, is likely to change the business dynamics of the aviation industry in India. This partnership will result in greater dominance of Middle East-based carriers in Indian skies especially on Westbound routes (see box on number of destinations and flights operated per week in India by leading carriers on pg 10) and could also result in Etihad-Jet combine grabbing the numero uno position in the Indian market, with a significant global impact.

The operational synergy between the two airlines will also enhance connectivity. Competition for Westbound traffic from India is also likely to heat up and a resultant fare war may break out with passengers enjoying lower fares, which could lead to increase in the number of passengers and overall may boost travel and tourism to and from India.

What has suprised many in the aviation industry is that while the deal was in the air for some time, the official announcement was made the same day when India and UAE signed a new air travel bilateral agreement raising the existing weekly seats of 13,300 each side to 50,000 over the next three years.

While the deal with the cash-rich Etihad will see Jet Airways slip out of the debt trap, the Middle East carrier will be eyeing the expansive domestic network of the Indian partner and leverage on it to feed its network of destinations through its hub Abu Dhabi. It is estimated that an additional half million to one million passengers will be flying through the new hub using the Jet and Etihad combined networks. Jet is also looking at setting up a hub in Abu Dhabi. Industry observers feel that the while the benefit out of this partnership for Jet Airways will be short-term, Etihad will be the long-term beneficiary.

“The strategic alliance will have a short-term benefit for Jet helping the airline to clear its debts by having secured access to world’s fastest growing markets. On the other hand, Etihad will use Jet’s domestic network to compete with other Gulf carriers. In the long-run Etihad will be benefited with this partnership and will strengthen its share in the Indian market,” stated a top official of a Middle East carrier.

“The merger is expected to help Jet Airways retire its debt and save on interest cost that goes straight to its bottomline. Besides that the deal will help Jet expand its route network in India and abroad through self-operated and code-share flights. Jet and Etihad will gain against their competitors by way of incremental passengers and some cannibalisation from other airlines. The strategic alliance could bring considerable  synergy benefits to the partners including joint procurement of aircrafts; fuel; personnel; Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) and other goods and services; cross-utilisation of aircraft; joint training of pilots and cabin crew; shared sales forces in common destinations. All this is likely to show its impact on bottomlines of both airlines in the next 12-24 months,” observed Amber Dubey, Partner and Head-Aviation at Global Consultancy, KPMG.

The two airlines that are likely to be adversely impacted because of this deal will be Emirates and Air India. According to Dubey, increasing competition for Westbound traffic from India will force other regional carriers from the Gulf to work out counter strategies. “With Jet-Etihad deal, Westbound traffic out of India to Europe and the USA is going to be impacted considerably. Etihad’s other competitors in the Gulf may have to counter that through collaboration with other Indian carriers. There could be similar thoughts in the minds of other leading carriers in South East Asia after the landmark Tata-AirAsia deal,” he informed. Dubey also foresees intense fare wars between competitors to lure traffic on these routes. He further added, “We are sure other Indian carriers will have drawn up their war strategy. The intense competition may lead to sporadic fare wars during the upcoming summer season. Unless the vexatious Aviation Turbine Fuel and MRO taxes and airport levies are rationalised, we may see some consolidation or alliances in the domestic market in the next 12-18 months.”

However, the increasing competition among carriers will work in favour of passengers, feel industry observers. “The deal will have an extremely positive impact on passengers. They can expect more competition, better regional connectivity, higher efficiency, more choices, better services and lower fares. People in Tier-II and III cities will see enhanced global connect and that may give a fillip to the trade and tourism in those locations,” said Dubey.

Etihad Airways has agreed to subscribe for 27,263,372 new shares in Jet Airways Ltd at a price of Rs 754.74 per share. The value of this equity investment is USD 379 million and will result in Etihad Airways holding 24% of the enlarged share capital of Jet Airways Ltd.

Source: travelbizmonitor.com

Air India pilots put A320 with 166 passengers on autopilot, go to sleep

May 4, 2013

air india

Two pilots have been suspended from an airline after they allegedly left an Airbus carrying 166 passengers on autopilot and air hostesses in charge while they slept in business class.

The Air India flight was travelling from Bangkok to New Delhi when both the co-pilot and the pilot left the cockpit after having spent some time instructing two flight attendants how to fly.

But the pair had to rush back and seize the controls of the A-320 after one of them accidentally turned off the autopilot setting, sources said.

On Friday, the national carrier suspended a pilot, the captain of the April 12 Airbus A-320 Bangkok- New Delhi flight, his co-pilot, and two flight attendants who had accidentally switched off the autopilot in the cockpit momentarily.

According to sources, pilot B.K. Soni and co-pilot Ravindra Nath napped in business class, leaving flight attendants Kanika Kala and J. Bhatt in charge of the plane.

A senior member of the cabin crew witnessed the entire drama and brought the matter to the notice of the airline’s management. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has started a probe into the incident.

An Air India official admits the cockpit was in air hostess control for 20 minutes, sources say 40, but Director General of Civil Aviation Arun Mishra has said that the air hostesses stayed in the cockpit for the ‘larger part of the three-hour flight’.

Air hostesses are allowed in the cockpit, but only for the amount of time it takes to serve a cup of tea or a snack.

‘It is a serious matter. We are investigating the case,’ Mr Mishra said.

The flight took off from Bangkok at 8.55 am. Half-an-hour and 33,000 feet into the flight, First Officer Ravindra Nath excused himself from the cockpit to visit the washroom. He asked flight attendant J. Bhatt to occupy the co-pilot’s seat in his absence.

Minutes after Nath exited, Captain B.K. Soni called Kanika Kala and asked her to take his seat. Soni did not leave the cockpit immediately, however.

According to a source, he spent some time teaching the two airhostesses how to operate the aircraft before joining Nath in business class.

After the flying lesson, Soni put the plane on auto-pilot, leaving the stewardesses by themselves in the cockpit for around 40 minutes.

Auto-pilot does not mean pilots can leave the cockpit. They have to be present to monitor the flight path and can turn off auto-pilot mode if required.

A statement issued by Air India on Friday stressed that ‘at no point of time was the cockpit left unattended by the cockpit crew’.

It then went to say: ‘During the incident, due to distraction the co-pilot had touched the auto pilot disconnect button momentarily. But the same was connected back.’

Captain Mohan Ranganathan, a member of Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council, a government-appointed aviation safety panel, blamed the ‘lackadaisical attitude’ of the DGCA for the increase in air safety violations.

‘The DGCA should be held responsible for the increase in such cases as they have failed time and again to effectively enforce safety guidelines,’ said Ranganathan.

Source: dailymail.co.uk

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